The amount of innovation and creativity in this event is just amazing! I haven’t seen anything at this magnitude before. Two weeks ago, I was in the Opera House in Poland looking forward to see the finalists who were selected as the top projects in the Imagine Cup 2010. There were no less than 325,000 students (!) that submitted their projects from the entire world and only 400 came to Poland eventually. You can think of it as if each competitor that made it to Poland was chosen from almost 1000 other students. This is why everyone in the event is a winner by definition. In the picture on the left, you can see the group photo of the competitors on the first day. The Israeli team Yoav Kantor, Keren Gorinshtein and Amit Gil are sitting in first row in the middle.
The idea of the entire competition is to solve the world’s most challenging issues through innovative technology. The ideas that I’ve seen here were so amazing and I believe each and every one is a winner on its own, but at the end only three were selected to the first places in each category: Software Design, Embedded Development and some more. In this post, I will share my impressions on some of the projects in the different categories.
In the Software Design competition, I’d like to talk about the three winning projects a bit:
Skeek, Thailand won the first prize of 25,000$! They created a system that automatically translates speech into the sign language through facial and speech recognition, all in real time. This is an great idea with an amazing implementation. Their system is meant to help the hearing impaired to view someone speaking and have an automatic animation of a sign language that translates their partners in real time. Amazing!
TFZR, Serbia won the 2nd place in the Software Design competition. TFZR enables patients with extreme disabilities to communicate by using speech synthesis, SMS or Windows Live Messenger. Using a Brain Computer Interface (also known as the mind reader) device to control our application, the application is hands-free and character input is enabled. The Book Reader feature is also implemented, listing the books on a remote server that are read to a patient by speech synthesis. In the pictures below you can see the Brain Computer Interface on the forehead of the guy with the glasses while on the left picture you can see how he chooses buttons and navigates in an application.
One Beep, New Zeeland (Third place in Software Design) – A system that connects computers by using only radio AM/FM when there is no Internet connectivity. The team developed a way to translate documents and software packages into audio that can be broadcasted using available radio channels. The computers are able to receive the files by connecting a radio device to the computer and translate the audio stream back into the original document or software package. The motivation that inspired the team to come up with this simple, yet brilliant idea was that there are places in the world where Internet connectivity is not available, while radio connectivity is available there. The team is already in relations with governments in Africa and other places to help connect the existing laptops in classrooms and allowing central educational content publishers to reach them.
The Embedded Track was amazing as well since the ideas included hardware as well. Let me describe the 5 I’ve seen:
SmarterME from Taiwn took the first place in the Embedded Development category. The project provides detailed power consumption information to users. At a glance, homeowners can see what appliances consume power when and which ones are responsible for the bulk of their electricity bill.
Robo Nanny, Russia - A semi autonomous robot that takes care of children by speaking, moving and acting like a nanny. The parents can use to activate the nanny from a far and see their children from the eyes of the nanny robot. Later, I learned that they made it to the 2nd place in the embedded track.
GERAS, France – An invisible system to help elderly people that might fall in their homes. There is an invisible carpet with a customized OS of Win CE. If someone falls, this carpet knows it and can send alert to emergencies. It is possible to industrialize it since the tiles in the carpet are of less costs.
“R U Gentle”, Korea - A system that helps drivers prevent accidents by calming the driver with his family’s voice recording and tapping on his shoulder with an embedded device that looks like a hand. The demonstration was so funny since you see a driver speeding up, and then a hand massages his shoulder telling him in his wife’s voice: “Calm down, baby, calm down”
Eyesight, UK – A system that logs into one’s FaceBook account to help with facial recognition for blind sighted people. The scenario start when a blind sighted man uses some special sunglasses as an embedded device with camera and audio. When the system is activated, it is able to identify who is in front of it by the camera and by recognizing the face from FaceBook. Then it is able to tell the blind sighted person who is around by making a sound in the audio device. A challenge I see is that the blind sighted people might not be using FaceBook and they would need others to maintain it for them. Another possibility is to use additional face recognition mechanisms too.
To summarize, in Poland, I have seen the true ROI for Imagine Cup. Inspiring students to come up with such creative ideas is a mission I’m proud to have been part of. Good luck to the teams next year too!
For more information on the Imagine Cup 2010 WW Finals event, press this link.