EuroHack: innovative technologies to make the Eurovision more accessible

Beyond the theatrics, huge variety of songs and memorable performances, the most exciting part of any Eurovision experience for fans is the voting. With over 40 countries delivering their votes as the evening progresses. however, it can be tricky to keep up with the latest scores. For people with visual disabilities, the challenge is even greater.

Shmueliz – a team of five brothers and their father – have come up with a solution at a recent hackathon by designing a system to help people with sight disabilities to more easily keep track of scoring.

Using Microsoft’s Cognitive Services tools, their solution analyses the voting table in real-time, before providing information verbally based on voice commands from viewers. Asking who received a certain number of points, or keeping track of countries rankings, are just some examples of the commands available.

The family were part of hundreds of people who came together at Microsoft’s new Developer Hub – Reactor in Tel Aviv for EuroHack – an event which saw 150 entrepreneurs, coders, designers and Eurovision fans work to not only upgrade the Eurovision viewing experience, but also to make the competition more accessible for people with disabilities.

Presented by MyHeritage and sponsored by the European Broadcasting Union, the event’s Accessibility Challenge participants had a host of Microsoft technology mentors and resources to help bring their visions to fruition.

These resources included Azure passes and access to Microsoft’s Cognitive Services tools, which allow apps and websites to be infused with bots which can see, hear, speak and understand users through natural methods of communication.

Shmueliz’s solution will be considered for a pilot by the European Broadcasting Union and the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, in addition to being awarded five tickets to the grand finale.

Merav Davidson, GM Engineering & Ecosystem at Microsoft states that “we at Microsoft believe in innovation, and in the power of technology, such as Cloud and AI, to make this world a better place, helping people around the world bridge gaps and collaborate.”

“Therefore, we are happy to take a significant part in the first Eurovision Hackathon as the leading technology partner and to make our AI technologies accessible for developers and Israeli start-ups who’ve worked on new solutions for the EBU, making the Eurovision broadcast more accessible to the general public.”

Group of finalists at EuroHack Hackathon

Photographery/videography credits: BLEE Hackathons, Kaplan Creative Solutions Photography, Hanan Bar Assouline, Igor Fabriv

Meet the finalists
While Schmueliz’s took the top accessibility prize, the competition was packed with other innovative ideas from other teams. Here’s a summary of all of the ten finalists:

  1. Pyrohack: While not dealing with the viewers at home, Pyrohack’s solution turns the Eurovision viewers in the stadium into a huge screen. Each viewer’s phone becomes a pixel in the big picture, and a smart algorithm determines the phone’s location based on its distance from the stage. Pyrohack is a team of teenagers, some of which have academic degrees.
  2. ProWatchers: An app that allows Eurovision watchers to choose between thousands of commentators around the world. Viewers can get comentators’ analysis and point of view on their TV screen and enrich their experience – all LIVE!
  3. Unique Real-ity: Never watch Eurovision alone! With a click of a button join live broadcast from people’s living rooms, bars, open watch parties. Cheer and enjoy the competition with people from all over the world from your own living room.
  4. Viewbix: Viewbix developed an interactive video player, that scrapes and adds interesting data on top of the live broadcast. Learn about the singer, the country, get the lyrics or interesting statistics while watching the live entry. Viewbix is a startup company that developed this feature specially for the hackathon.
  5. Fireworks: With this app, viewers can send emojis while watching the live performances, and then see what Europe is feeling about the song. You can see what each country is feeling, or different demographics, or even your groups of friends. Fireworks is a team of Eurovision fans.
  6. Eurovision4all: A fun platform that enables interactions with the live broadcast – share your opinion, chat, answer trivia questions – and is also accessible for people with cognitive disabilities, enabling them to be part of the interactive fun.
  7. Ta’al Carmel 6000: People with cognitive disabilities often have trouble determining which country to vote for out of 20+ performances. The system collects the viewer’s support level during the song, uses the breaks to make choices, and in the end – provides a list of countries the viewer can vote for. Carmel 6000 is a national service body that develops solutions for health, education and welfare.
  8. Zazim: Cognitive disabilities sometimes mean not being able to discern different emotions conveyed while a song is performed. ZAZIM’s solution adds emojis on screen while the song is performed to help people with cognitive disabilities understand whether the song is happy, sad, angry, etc. Zazim consists of members with hearing impairments.
  9. Shmueliz: The most dramatic part of each Eurovision competition is the scoring – over 40 countries deliver their judging scores live, followed by the points from the audience. However, for people with sight disabilities, it might prove hard to follow. The Shmueliz developed a system that analyzes the voting table and can provide information based on voice commands – who is in 5th place? Who just got the 7 points? Etc. Shmueliz are 5 brothers and their father, all in high tech.
  10. The Musketeers: The Musketeers’ solution turns the live music into animated shapes, with movement and color, to help people with hearing impairments get and enjoy the music even without hearing.

The Eurovision semi-finals will take place on 14 May, with the finals taking place on 18 May.

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