As Microsoft outlines in its A Cloud for Global Good policy roadmap, technology can empower us all, helping to improve our world in countless ways.
From environmental sustainability, protecting human rights, empowering the disabled and disadvantaged, driving up literacy rates and much more, technological innovation has the power to make our world a better place.
That’s where initiatives like Microsoft’s Imagine Cup come in – helping to encourage the brightest and best students to develop world-changing technology projects by unlocking their creativity.
Founded in 2003, it’s now the world’s biggest student technology competition. This year, over 350,000 competitors from more than 180 countries took part, whittled down to just 54 teams who’ll be travelling to the World Finals in Seattle in next week.
The winners will be awarded $100,000, a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, a $120,000 Azure Grant and a trip to next year’s Build developer conference.
The Europeans are coming
Europe has long been a hotbed of computing talent. From “father of AI”, Alan Turing, to World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Nikola Tesla, the Lumière brothers and more, leading figures from the region have contributed to some of history’s most thrilling technology innovations. Now it’s time for the next generation to step out of the shadows.
So, who’s competing from Europe? Let’s take a look at the 17 teams travelling to Seattle and the projects they’ll be hoping to wow the judges with.
Scrawlless is a platform designed to help children with cerebral palsy and others with motor skills to more easily complete the tasks set for them by teachers. It features virtual keyboards for different subjects, interactive modules for non-linear counting, and a special tool for geometry. The project was inspired by a meeting one member of the team had in hospital with a child with cerebral palsy. The 14-year-old claimed they couldn’t complete homework by hand and that current computer keyboards and text editors were not suitable.
The team consists of: Dzmitry Kuzmitch, a student at the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics, and founder and front-end developer of the project; Denis Glebov, a student at the same university and back-end developer; and Yauhenia Krauchanka, student at the Belarusian National Technical University, who is marketing and PR manager at Scrawlless.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Knowlead is a peer-to-peer knowledge exchange platform where the currency is users’ time. Every member has 100 minutes, which they can use to get help from others. To acquire more, they can help others in a field in which they are an expert, or obtain them through referrals. A comment- and star-based system measures the accuracy of an individual’s “knowledge” and how helpful they are. It’s all about decentralising education, putting it in the hands of the students.
The team consists of Ekrem Nurovic, a masters student at International Burch University; Haris Botic, a developer who got his first job whilst still in fourth grade; and Amer Zavlan, who has been programming since he was 12.
X.GLU is a system designed to help patients with diabetes adjust more easily to life with the disease. Focused initially on Type 1 diabetic children, it consists of a smartphone app, cloud-based app and blood sugar meter prototype which together help patients to monitor their blood sugar levels and in so doing better manage the disease. The monitor is durable, lightweight and the size of a credit card, making it highly user-friendly, and the team plan to introduce gamification elements to help patients maintain discipline over their diet and lifestyle.
The developers behind X.GLU are Marek Novak, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in radio-electronics and optoelectronics at the Czech Technical University in Prague (CVUT); Tomas Pikous, a graduate of software engineering at the same university; and Barbora Suchanova, who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in software engineering there.
OverSkill is an app designed to stimulate physical and mental development simultaneously by training mind and body through mixed reality. The project is based around Microsoft’s Hololens platform and is focused on seven core abilities including speed, agility and memory.
Alexandre Brenellière, Maxime Bourliatoux and Thomas Galeon are three Ecole Polytechnic students with a passion for sport and innovation. They’re currently studying engineering and hope their self-improvement app will help users develop cognitive and physical abilities they never knew they had.
1) SmartCase features a multi-platform application and an attachment which is fitted to the user’s luggage. If the SmartCase tag moves out of range a warning light blinks red and a notification is sent to the user’s smartphone. It’s hoped this will not only help users keep their luggage safe and secure but also improve security in crowded places, because the flashing red light will show passers-by if a bag has been stolen or abandoned.
Andreas Mai, Jessica Ochs, Lennard Sommer, are computer science students at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The genesis of SmartCase came when a friend told the group that his case was stolen while he was distracted using his smartphone.
2) koicode is a web-based platform which provides visual scripting and code visualisation for beginners. It’s designed to help users learn how to program in an intuitive manner through a unique visualisation process.
Christian Diemers, Tobias Klesel and Yannick Stachelscheid are three computer science students at the Technical University of Munich.
OsteoMentor is designed to help osteoporosis sufferers improve their quality of life. The team behind it claim that in the region of one in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime, despite the condition being treatable with the right combination of lifestyle changes and medical care. OsteoMentor features a Kinect game designed to collect data about patients’ movement while they practice and have fun.
George Tsoumalis, Zafeirios Bampos and Theofilos Spyrou are three undergraduate students at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on a mission to help sufferers of osteoporosis.
GlovEye utilises Microsoft AI technology to help blind and partially sighted people perceive printed text as Braille via a specially designed glove. The solution features a “Braille cell” under the index finger connected via Bluetooth to a reader app, which uses the camera of a smart device to track text and the finger of the user.
The team behind GlovEye are based in Budapest: project manager Boglarka Zemko is studying international business; Adam Fulop is studying computer engineering and did the coding work on the project; and Krisztian Klinko, who is studying electrical engineering, is the man behind the GlovEye who focuses on the hardware side.
Elephant features a combination of smart clothing, mobile app, integrator unit and cloud-based analytics to monitor the health of babies. Biomedical sensors integrated into the clothing monitor heartbeat, perspiration, muscle movement and other data, which is then fed through the analytics back-end and displayed via the app in an intuitive UI. The team behind it hope it will be able to reduce sudden infant death syndrome and help maximise paediatric health.
The Idea_hunters team is comprised of three students at Warsaw’s Military University of Technology. Magdalena Lebiedziewicz is chief medical analyst and translator and founder of the project; Bartosz Dudziński is responsible for the hardware and algorithms; and Paweł Pieczonka develops the software.
Detpression is an innovative cloud-based device which has been developed to help detect and monitor depression on an ongoing basis. Two powerful algorithms monitor voice and facial movements, extract key data and send it the cloud for analysis. It comes as a small box containing a Raspberry Pi, an external battery, camera and microphone which can be set up in the corner of a room, while a user-friendly, web-based UI helps visualise what’s happening to the medical professional.
The team behind Detpression all study at the Politehnica University of Bucharest: Niculescu Vlad is also an embedded software engineer with Microchip Technology; Isac Andrei is studying computer science; and Alexandra Ciobîcă specialises in user design.
1) Boremeter is an application designed to improve the quality of online and offline learning courses by monitoring lectures and presentations. It uses video monitoring, neural networks and smart algorithms to deduce the interest and involvement of an audience during an event, highlighting the parts of a presentation students found most boring and those with the biggest impact.
Boremeter was developed by a team of students specialising in machine learning and applications at the National Research University’s Higher School of Economics.
2) MeetArticles by UTV was developed to help students and researchers search in a smarter way for articles to help with their studies. It features natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to return more accurate results and displays them not just in plain text but in innovative visual formats to maximise productivity.
MeetArticles was developed by students at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology keen to simplify the analysis and presentation of large volumes of unstructured data.
3) Soberider is a cloud-based service and app with a laudable aim: to prevent unnecessary drink-driving deaths. The neural network-powered system uses Microsoft’s Face APIs and a mobile device camera to work out within a minute whether a user is capable of driving or not.
EverMind is the team behind Soberider: three students from Moscow State University hoping to change the world through technology.
1) SEAT is an online dashboard and Visual Studio Code extension designed to improve both the learning and teaching experience in programming courses. Designed first as a Proof of Concept to support the Haskell language, the dashboard provides teachers with stats on student performance while the Visual Studio element automatically provides feedback to students on how good their coding is.
SEAT was developed by three computing students at London’s UCL: Janos Potecki, originally from Berlin; Marco Concetto Rudilosso from Sicily; and Marti Serra from Barcelona.
2) Donaco, meaning “donation” in Esperanto, is the name of a for-profit company and platform designed to bring charities and donors closer together. It aims to overcome current challenges in the industry around trustworthiness and complexity by offering a non-obstructive banner embedded in the website of news agencies, bringing charities direct to those reading relevant content. It aims to develop a trusted charity network and transparent donation tracking service, and offers a single account for all donations with integrated payments.
Creator and founder Michael Moses is an Imperial University Electrical and Electronic Engineering graduate who has already worked as a funding and strategy advisor for tech start-up Pre.sense. Monika Shrestha is an Msc Management student at the Imperial Business School with a passion for comms, while fellow Imperial student Philippe Torbey has experience working in data analytics at BT.
3) ROOT is an interactive agri-tech platform which allows urban users to immerse themselves in the world of farming. Based around a mobile app, it utilises time lapse photography, live views, VR and gamification to bring the great outdoors closer to home and help educate city-dwellers about farming techniques.
ROOT is the brainchild of Japanese farmer and Oxford MBA candidate Keisuke Kishi, whose start-up KSF.LLC is trying to pioneer a new field of agribusiness.
4) Honeypot Espionage is a Virtual Reality multiplayer stealth shooter developed for the HTC Vive with players taking on the role of spies, pitted against each other. Players are invisible when still but become visible to their opponents once they move, which they have to do in order to top up invisibility. The title is aimed at the freemium market, with in-game purchases providing the revenue, and takes advantage of the latest VR technology.
The game has been developed by Pocket Sized Hands, a trio of VR fanatics and students at Abertay University. Alan Yeats is a Computer Games Technology student and the technical lead on the project; Rory Thomson is studying the same and takes on inverse kinematics, audio implementation, game programming and other tasks; and Gary McCartan is studying Computer Games Application Development, where he’s received a distinction two years in a row.
We wish all candidates the very best of luck in Seattle. Tune in next week for the announcement of the winners.
Tags: Imagine Cup