Imagine Cup Junior AI for Good Challenge 2020: Envisioning a world where AI can give a voice to the mute

 |   Singapore News Center

Imagine a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) can recognize facial movements and gestures and convert these actions into text and commands – allowing the mute to communicate seamlessly with the rest of the world.

This was the winning idea created by a team of three 13-year-old students from Singapore in the Imagine Cup Junior AI for Good Challenge 2020, a global competition designed to empower students to learn about AI and its responsible use in creating a positive change in the world.

This year’s challenge introduced students to Microsoft’s AI for Good initiatives: AI for Accessibility; AI for Earth; AI for Cultural Heritage; and AI for Humanitarian action, and encouraged them to come up with solutions to solve real-world problems with the power of AI.

Hailing from Singapore’s Raffles Institution, the winning “Team 7” submitted a proposal that was inspired by one of the students’ personal experiences with a grandparent, who underwent a tracheotomy and was experiencing difficulties communicating with people. Titled ‘A Mute’s Voice’, the idea involved creating an application using mobile-assistive technology that leverages facial and gesture recognition, to provide means of communication for people with speech impairment. The students sought to leverage the power of AI to equip people with disabilities with tools that support independence and productivity, and empower them to live, work and play like anyone else.Imagine Cup Junior 2020_Team 7

Team 7 from Raffles Institution emerged as one of the winners of Imagine Cup Junior 2020, under the Asia Category

Cultivating and celebrating young talent

The challenge provided an opportunity for students across the globe to learn about AI regardless of their technological knowledge or capabilities. To support them in their learning, Microsoft created a host of materials, including templates and AI resource guides, that encouraged educators and students to participate in the challenge. In Singapore, Microsoft collaborated with technology and education company Tinkercademy in a series of online workshops to help students kickstart their projects.

Despite the challenges of a global pandemic and adjusting to remote learning, Singapore emerged as the country with the highest number of submissions in Asia, garnering a total of 210 participating students from 15 schools island wide. Team 7 from Raffles Institution emerged as one of the three winners in the Asia category, which saw more than 200 submissions from seven countries.

To recognize the great work and innovation by students, three winning teams were also identified from the pool of local submissions:

  • In third place: Blank X from Anglo Chinese School (Independent) aims to solve the unpredictability of haze by leveraging AI and machine learning to predict haze conditions and disseminate real-time haze information to the public.
  • In second place: The Vectors from the School of Science and Technology sought to address online racism by developing a browser extension that utilizes AI to detect discrimination and identify subtly racist comments in social media posts.
  • In first place: Team BrITE from the Institute of Technical Education developed a proposal focused on tackling dementia among the elderly by integrating AI, machine learning, NFC and IoT wearables to support people with dementia in their daily living.

Equipping students with relevant skills and enabling them to be future-ready

As technology continues to evolve, we are faced with an incredible opportunity to leverage the power of new solutions and human expertise to unlock some of the biggest challenges we face in society today. This is why Microsoft invests in AI for Good initiatives, which support and empower those working to address humanitarian, environmental and cultural challenges by creating a more sustainable and accessible world.

Imagine Cup Junior 2020 served as a great opportunity to inspire students around the world to develop and practice 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Given the rise of the digital economy, it has also become increasingly important to equip students with technology skills that will allow them to navigate unprecedented changes in society and the workplace.Imagine Cup Junior 2020_Training session by Tinkercademy

Students participating in a training session organised by Tinkercademy

Today’s students are the innovators and inventors of the future who are driven by a sense of purpose and can use technology as a bedrock to find solutions to the problems we are facing today. Educators are key enablers of this ability, and that is why Microsoft is committed to providing opportunities and resources for educators to teach technical skills aimed at supporting students to continue learning during this pandemic and beyond.

Kevin Wo, Managing Director of Microsoft Singapore, gave an opening speech at the virtual prize giving ceremony in Singapore – which showcased projects from the winning teams and gathered all students and teachers who participated in the challenge. “Thank you to all students and teachers for your participation in this year’s Imagine Cup Junior AI for Good challenge. This challenge has reinforced our aim to teach our young learners about the use of AI, and enabling them to apply what they have learnt into real-world applications. I hope that this has been a great learning experience for everyone, and we look forward to continue empowering our students with future-ready skills and to help them achieve more with the power of technology,” Kevin shared.

Following the success of the inaugural Imagine Cup Junior 2020, Microsoft has also announced the launch of Imagine Cup Junior 2021. Starting from November 2020, students will attend a series of webinars to learn more about AI. They will then be invited to participate in a virtual hackathon in March and April 2021 to build out their projects and witness how technology can be used to positively impact the world by solving social, cultural and environmental issues.

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