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Students: 7 reasons why you should register for the 2020 Imagine Cup

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For nearly two decades, students from around the world have competed in the Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s global technology competition just for students, for the chance to win travel, mentoring, cash, and prizes, not to mention the coveted trophy. But the Imagine Cup is more than just a tech competition. It’s a chance to work with friends, network with professionals, gain new skills, showcases your work on a global stage, and meet other students who want to make a difference.

The Imagine Cup is looking for innovative and passion-driven tech solutions from students who want to share their purpose to improve the world around us. If you’ve been dreaming about a solution that shapes how we live, work, and play, this competition is for you. Here are 7 reasons why you should sign up for the 18th year of Imagine Cup:

1. Shape our world

Driven by inspiration and a growing sense of purpose, students have created applications tackling some of the world’s biggest social, environmental, and health challenges ––one user at a time. From a machine learning algorithm that detects wildfires to a HoloLens app that helps children with dyslexia to improve their reading skills, anything is possible when you blend passion and purpose.

2. Get help from mentors and network with industry pros

With the goal to empower everyone to achieve more, we have the tools, resources, learning materials, and mentors to help you bring your project to life. Whether you’re hoping to accelerate with artificial intelligence, create with cognitive services, invent with intelligent systems, or master machine learning, Imagine Cup is the place to start for beginning coders and developer pros alike. All you need is an idea (and a few smart friends).

 

“The experience, the learning, is priceless. You can’t get…the mentorship that Microsoft provides anywhere else in the world.” – Team Ekko, 2019 regional finalists

3. Win travel opportunities and other prizes

Teams selected to advance in the competition will travel across the globe to regional finals in Singapore, Amsterdam, and Mexico City to pitch their projects live, courtesy of Microsoft! Plus, the Imagine Cup Regional Finals are co-located with Microsoft Ignite | The Tour, where Microsoft shares the latest in cloud technologies and developer tools – providing additional opportunity for finalists to showcase their passion and network with industry professionals. 

4. Enhance your technology portfolio

Get hands-on with the latest and greatest in developer tools and resources while creating a project you can showcase in your personal portfolio. With advanced Microsoft Azure technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual machines, big data processing, computer vision, and more, almost anything is possible.

5. Meet new friends

From Sydney to Sao Paolo and everywhere in between, the Imagine Cup brings together students just like you who want to learn and innovate for the future. Get started with a team and meet likeminded peers along the competition journey. You could find future business partners, meet friends for life, and get inspired by others’ solutions.

“It’s a game-changing experience to know and interact with diverse people and their ideas.” – Team Odd Pack, 2019 regional finalists 

6. Develop a business framework to advance your career

Develop a project pitch, build entrepreneurship skills, and get feedback on your business model from industry experts to help propel you forward.

 

“This is an amazing opportunity…as students, we don’t really get the opportunity hack together a project and then show it off to a bunch of people, especially industry professionals.” – Team SpeakEasy, 2019 regional finalists

7. Dream it. Build it. Live it.

For some students, the chance to travel and pitch to industry leaders will create standout moments. For others, pursuing an idea that could change the world (even a little) will stretch their skills and boost their confidence. Whatever your motivation, we want to encourage you to take the next step–and join a like-minded community of passionate, purpose-driven tech enthusiasts who are ready to grow together.

Make your dreams a reality through creativity, collaboration, and competition. Register for Imagine Cup today.

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Meet team EasyGlucose, the 2019 Imagine Cup World Champion

The 17th annual Imagine Cup brought together thousands of students from across the globe over eight months of coding, collaboration, and competition. Through hackathons, online semifinals, and in-person Regional Final events, the 2019 competition season all built up to one moment—the World Championship stage live from Microsoft Build. For the first time, our finalist teams pitched their projects to kick off Microsoft’s premier developer conference.

Congratulations to team EasyGlucose from the United States, who took home the 2019 Imagine Cup trophy for his deep learning, low-cost, and non-invasive blood glucose level monitor for diabetics. He won USD100,000, a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, USD50,000 in Azure grants, and ongoing mentoring from M12.

Imagine Cup aims to empower future innovators with the tools and resources to bring their technology solutions to life with Azure. This year’s competition saw many teams developing inspiring and game-changing projects focused on solving key business and societal issues. Teams Caeli from Asia, Finderr from the UK, and EasyGlucose from the USA each won their Regional Final round to advance to the final stage of the competition. They gave a live pitch of their original Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Machine projects encompassing solutions in healthcare and accessibility to a panel of three expert judges at Microsoft Build, who selected the most comprehensive idea.

Watch the show and relive the moment of Team EasyGlucose winning the trophy:

Meet the top 3 teams and recap their journey to the World Championship:

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2019 Imagine Cup World Champion: Team EasyGlucose, United States

EasyGlucose is a cloud-powered, non-invasive, and cost-effective method of blood glucose monitoring for diabetic patients. A deep learning computer vision framework using convolutional neural networks developed with Azure Virtual Machines analyzes iris morphological variation in an eye image to predict a patient’s blood glucose level. Recap their journey through the Americas Regional Final.

“I want to make cost-effective and painless blood glucose monitoring to all diabetic patients around the globe, and Imagine Cup enables me not only to share my idea and get invaluable public feedback, but also to obtain funding and keep validating and improving EasyGlucose.” – Bryan, EasyGlucose 

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2nd place: Team Caeli, India

Caeli is a smart automated anti-pollution and drug delivery mask specifically designed for asthmatic and chronic respiratory patients.  It implements breakthrough features and Azure Machine Learning in a portable format to improve the quality of life for respiratory patients living in polluted areas. Recap their journey through the Asia Regional Final.

Caeli wanted to build something that could help our society in surviving…here in Imagine Cup we found it suitable to showcase the possibilities and draw industry attention towards this global issue.” – Team Caeli

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3rd place: Team Finderr, United Kingdom

The team won the Azure Champ Challenge at OxfordHack, which inspired them to submit their project to Imagine Cup. They created an app solution which uses Cognitive Services and Virtual Machines to help make finding lost objects accessible to visually impaired individuals through their phones. Recap their journey through the EMEA Regional Final.

“We’re  really, really excited to have the chance to be able to bring our project to fruition to help the visually impaired users.” – Team Finderr

 

Registration for the 2020 competition is now open. Join over two million student competitors worldwide in creating purpose from your passion and sign up for Imagine Cup today!

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Introducing the 2019 Imagine Cup Americas Regional Final judges

Our 12 recently announced Imagine Cup Americas Regional Finalists are advancing to the in-person Regional Final in just less than a week to compete for over USD20,000 in prizes and the last spot in the 2019 World Championship.

Student teams will travel to Seattle, Washington and present a live demo of their projects in front of a panel of four expert judges. Coming from varied backgrounds in technology, industry, and management, judges’ professional experience will allow them to evaluate if a team’s solution uses innovative technology and presents an original idea built on Azure.

Judges for each Regional Final have the opportunity to ask questions and review each project hands-on before ultimately deciding who will move forward. Each team is judged on the same criteria: project technology, innovation, feasibility to take to market, and concept. The Americas Regional winner will advance to compete against teams Caeli from Asia and Finderr from the UK at the 2019 World Championship at Microsoft Build on May 6. Follow the action live on Twitter and Instagram as our Americas regional finalists and judges head to Seattle!

Meet our Americas Regional Final Judges

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Donovan Brown
Principal Cloud Advocate, Microsoft

Donovan Brown is the Principal DevOps Manager of the League. The League is a team of Cloud Developer Advocates, focusing on Azure and DevOps. Before joining Microsoft, Donovan spent seven years as a Process Consultant and a Certified Scrum Master. Donovan has traveled the globe helping companies develop solutions using agile practices in many industries. Donovan is an avid programmer, often finding ways to integrate software into his other hobbies and activities.

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Rebecca Lovell
Director at Create33

Mission-driven leader with over 20 years of operating and management experience in public and private sectors, within for-profit and non-profit organizations. Experienced in strategy and program development and implementation, mentorship, and team-building. Accomplished public speaker committed to race and social justice, gender equity, education, and entrepreneurship.

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Paul Maher
GM Industry Experiences, Microsoft

Paul has over 20 years in the IT industry across a variety of technology focused roles. He was asked to return to Microsoft by Scott Guthrie to build a new team in Azure engineering called Industry Experiences. The team is focused on helping industry customers and partners with their move to the cloud. Paul lives with his wife and two children in Seattle and holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Sheffield University.

ic19-shana-matthews-180x240-63e07e777db9.jpgShana Matthews
Program Manager, Microsoft

Shana Matthews is a Program Manager at Microsoft focused on learning content, strategies, and tools for student developers. She strives to make cloud computing intuitive for young programmers through improving products, documentation, and learning resources. Previously, Shana was a software engineer on the Windows Mixed Reality team where she created geospatial APIs for 3rd party developers. Shana holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Iowa State University.

Don’t miss out on the chance to see which student developer team will take home USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Save the date for May 6 at 8:00am PT to watch the 2019 Imagine Cup World Championship live at Microsoft Build.

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Building for the future: Imagine Cup competition helping students become global innovators

Every year, professionals from around the globe join us at Build, our premier developer conference, to learn about new technologies, gain hands-on experience, and level-up their development skills. It’s one of my favorite events, and this year, it’s getting even better as we extend these opportunities to students.

For the first time, Build attendees are invited to bring up to two family members aged 14-21 to participate with them—for free. We’ll also bring in local Seattle-area high school students to participate in some of these learning opportunities. The newly created Student Zone at Build is designed to provide an immersive educational experience for the students and attendees, with access to a Surface-equipped lab, on-site experts, a career center, workshops, tech talks and live co-coding opportunities. Naturally, there will be Minecraft—and so much more. Students can talk to cloud engineers, explore data with Azure Cognitive Services, learn about how to code on GitHub and use Visual Studio Code. There will be opportunities to learn more about AI and explore the most important technologies and skills developers of tomorrow will need.

Microsoft is committed to empowering the next generation of creators to pursue their dreams through access to technology, resources and learning opportunities. One way we encourage students to break boundaries and address real problems is through the Imagine Cup, which has seen students from around the world continually raise the innovation bar through teamwork. Now in its 17th year, the competition empowers tomorrow’s talent to use their creativity, passion and diverse perspectives to solve the world’s most pressing issues.

Momentum for the Imagine Cup continues to grow—more than 2 million students from 190 countries have competed in Imagine Cup since it started—and this year, I’m excited the World Championship will be held during Build. In fact, the Imagine Cup champion will be announced to kick off Day One of the event and will be immediately followed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote.

Returning host, Corey Sanders, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Solutions, is especially fitting for the Imagine Cup—he holds four patents and was the creator of the Infrastructure-as-a-service offering for Azure, so he’s deeply familiar with the innovation cycle on many dimensions. Last year’s MC, Kate Yeager, is also making a return appearance to call the action.

Corey SandersKate Yeager

To get to the World Championship, teams must win their highly competitive regional competitions, which are wrapping up soon. These finalists have developed truly life- and world-changing ideas, like last year’s winning concept, smartARM, a robotic hand that uses a camera embedded in the palm to recognize objects and calculate the most appropriate grip for the object.

This year’s champion will take home $100,000 USD, $50,000 USD in Azure credits, mentorship from the team at M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures) and a mentoring session with Satya Nadella. A team of business and technology professionals will collectively decide the 2019 winning team, and you can watch the championship via live stream on the Build site on Monday, May 6 at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. If you are interested in attending Build and haven’t signed up, there is still time to register.

Judges include:

  • Amy Hood, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, who leads Microsoft’s worldwide finance operations, including acquisitions, treasury activities, tax planning, accounting and reporting, and internal audit and investor relations.

Amy Hood

  • Arlan Hamilton, Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, who built a venture capital fund from the ground up, while homeless. Her firm is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or LGBTQ.

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  • Amjad Masad, CEO and founder of it, who has dedicated his career to making programming more accessible. A founding engineer of Codecademy, he helped build the platform that introduced tens of millions of people to coding. He later joined Facebook to lead the JavaScript Infrastructure team to build and maintain developer tools like React.js. With Repl.it, he’s focused on building collaborative developer tools that lower the barriers to entry for building and shipping software.

Amjad Masad

Each year, I’m more and more impressed by the solutions created by Imagine Cup students. And I’m thrilled that hundreds of students will be joining us at Build this year to form lifelong memories while exploring what could become a future career in tech. The future is in their hands, and I’m confident they’re up for the challenge!

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Meet the 2019 Imagine Cup Americas regional finalists

Our last group of finalists competing in 2019 Imagine Cup Regional events have been announced! 12 student developer teams from countries across the Americas have been selected to travel to Seattle this May and pitch their projects at the Americas Regional Final. They will compete for USD15,000 and the chance to win the last spot in the World Championship at Microsoft Build.

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup empowers student developers with the tools and resources to turn their technology ideas into reality. We believe that the next great thing could come from anyone, at any time. Now in its 17th year with nearly 2 million competitors across the globe, Imagine Cup combines the chance to develop key business and technology skills through hands-on competition, plus the opportunity to win mentoring, travel, cash, and more.

Students this year were challenged to develop an original idea built on Azure in teams of up to three and submit a project proposal and video pitch for the chance to advance in the competition. Hundreds of students submitted projects to the Americas Online Semifinal, and we are excited to introduce the teams who will be moving forward to the Americas Regional Finals in Seattle this May! Follow along with their competition journey on Twitter and Instagram.

Meet our Americas Finalists!

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Easy2Pet

Brazil

Easy 2 Pet – Share Love, Sow Life: Easy 2 Pet is an IoT project which, through the partnership of socially responsible companies, aims to feed street animals using a system of Convolutional Neural Network and Azure Storage Services.

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Brazil

Speex: The team’s project helps the user improve their presentations through mixed reality. The user can empower themselves, while acquiring experience and confidence in speaking to their audience.

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SafeTrip

Canada

SafeTrip: SafeTrip is a reactive car-accident app that tracks the eyes of a driver to monitor if they are impaired; alerting first responders of the exact location of the driver if they are deemed inattentive.

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Accutrack

Canada

AccuTrack: The team created an IoT device for tracking and improving the ergonomic efficiency of blue-collar workers.

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nekoTap

Canada

nekoTap: nekoTap is an easy-to-use solution to help patients better engage their medication therapy. Pharmacists can record counselling sessions and attach them to the prescription bottles through NFC tags. At home, patients can review the recordings.

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Smart Eyes

Canada

Smart Eyes: Smart Eyes is a mobile application that uses video processing and object detection to inform the visually impaired or legally blind users of their surroundings using audio feedback.

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United States

EasyGlucose: EasyGlucose is a low-cost, non-invasive, painless blood glucose level monitor for diabetics using deep learning and smartphone-based ophthalmic imaging.

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EcoSort

United States

EcoSort: EcoSort is a smart waste-disposal container. The hardware uses Microsoft cloud tools to predict which item is tossed into the bin. Based on the response, the machine knows how to sort the item.

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Packop

United States

Packop: Packop is developed for solving package theft issues. Packop is a service that not only monitors suspicious activities outside the home, but also actively engages in monitored situations by detecting and recognizing people and packages.

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Solar fund/strong>

United States

Solar Fund: Built on blockchain and IoT, the team’s project showcases a new and innovative financial model. Built ground up for financing rooftop solar power projects, it not only makes the investment in solar projects more viable, but also more flexible.

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United States

SpeakEasy: SpeakEasy is an intelligent and personalized public speaking trainer. SpeakEasy takes advantage of speech and gesture recognition to provide detailed feedback on each user’s presentation skills.

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United States

Vocapture: The team developed a mobile application that enables users to identify objects around them, quickly and intuitively see the objects’ translations, and practice their foreign language skills with handwriting recognition.

Don’t miss the chance to see who will move forward to the World Championship at Microsoft Build to compete against Team Caeli from India and Team Finderr from the UK. Who will take home the trophy and USD100,000? Sign up for updates to follow the 2019 competition action.

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UK’s Team Finderr wins Imagine Cup EMEA for smartphone app that helps find lost objects

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The Imagine Cup 2019 competition is well underway with our second Regional Final wrapping up in Amsterdam, the Netherlands this week. Team Finderr from the United Kingdom took home the first-place title and a spot in the World Championship for their app solution to find lost objects with a smartphone. Congratulations!

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup aims to empower student developers around the globe to develop the next great technology solutions. “We understand that today’s students are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. They will also become technology decision makes. Whatever we can do to help make them better for tomorrow, we want to invest in that,” shares Jennifer Ritzinger, our Senior Director of Academic Ecosystems.

Students are given the opportunity to travel, receive one on one mentorship, develop business and technology skills, and network with like-minded peers to bring their ideas to life. Out of hundreds of EMEA submissions, 12 finalists from 10 countries were selected to travel to Amsterdam and compete at the Regional Final, hosted at Microsoft Ignite | The Tour. The first-place prize  up for grabs? USD15,000 and a trip to the 2019 World Championship. Challenged with creating an original technology solution, finalist projects ranged from tackling issues in healthcare, agriculture, accessibility and education, among others, and utilized a variety of Microsoft technologies including Azure Virtual Machines, Mixed Reality, and AI. “Imagine Cup is amazing, we feel empowered to do more,” said Ian Kamau from team iCropal of his competition experience. “For us, this is not only a competition, but also a way to exchange opinions with colleagues in order to develop ourselves and our product,” elaborated team AirCloud on their decision to enter.

Over three days of competition, teams had the opportunity participate in an Entrepreneur Day and Ignite | The Tour activities to learn how to perfect their pitches and integrate the latest and greatest technologies into their solutions. The Regional Final culminated with each team giving a live demo of their projects to a panel of judges, and the top three were chosen.

The competition doesn’t end here! On April 1 we will announce the Americas Regional finalists competing for the final spot in the World Championship. Team Finderr and our Asia Regional Final winners, Team Caeli from India, will travel to Seattle this May for the chance at the 2019 trophy. Who will go home with USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella? Follow the action on Twitter and Instagram to find out.

Meet the top 3 EMEA Teams

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1st place – Finderr, United Kingdom

Prize: USD15,000 and a spot in the 2019 World Championship

The team created an app solution which uses Cognitive Services and Virtual Machines to help make finding lost objects accessible to everyone through their phones, including visually impaired individuals.

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2nd place – Athena-IO, Tunisia

The team created a cross-platform solution enabling content creation and visualization on Mixed Reality devices to help corporations train their workforce and make technology more accessible to everyone. 

Prize: USD5,000

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3rd place – π-project, Russia

The team developed a low-cost and non-invasive solution for everyday health monitoring using Artificial Intelligence to analyze the urine transmission spectra.

Prize: USD1,000

Congratulations to all our EMEA Regional Finalists for their incredible projects and hard work. The competition doesn’t end here! Sign up for updates to follow this year’s competition and see who’ll take home the 2019 Imagine Cup trophy.

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Imagine Cup: From students to technology’s next superheroes

Imagine this: A problem impacts you, or maybe your family, your friends, your community, your country, or even the whole world. You and your student peers form a smart and passionate team that not only thinks up a great solution – it also accesses amazing new technologies to make that fix a reality.

You work hard, collaboratively, and creatively for months. Along the way, you get high-powered technical and practical advice on how to refine your solution, start a business, win over investors, and bring in customers. Having learned and achieved much along the way, you come together and compete with other great teams from around the world and face expert judges who are eager to hear about the next big thing.

Welcome to Imagine Cup: an annual global student competition akin to a youth Olympics of technology. It’s prestigious, innovative, entrepreneurial, and impactful as a first step toward changing the world.

More than 2 million students from around 190 countries have competed in Imagine Cup since it started in 2003, including hundreds of thousands from across Asia Pacific. Using the latest technologies – which nowadays include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), and cloud computing – they have taken on some of society’s toughest challenges.

Team RailinNova’s Nan Wang presenting his team’s Rail Component Inspection Robot

With the contest now in its 17th year, 12 teams of impressive young women and men from 10 countries converged on Sydney for its Asia regional finals. To qualify, they had to move through a series of online competitions and national playoffs that ran from late last year.

Annie Parker, Global Head of Microsoft for Startups

“You are all superheroes. You have done amazing work to get here,” Annie Parker, the Global Head of Microsoft for Startups, said in a welcome address made just before each team pitched their solutions to a panel of five judges.

“These are young people wanting to solve the world’s problems, wanting to take on the big issues, and they are not afraid of that at all,” says Jennifer Ritzinger, Senior Director of Microsoft’s Academic Ecosystems and Reactors, whose team manages the competition. “They understand it is about having the right idea, and the dream, and the passion.”

Underscoring the importance of Imagine Cup’s mission, the Asia finals in Sydney were held just before Ignite the Tour – a premier Microsoft event for tech professionals and developers.

What surfaced through a day of presentations and demonstrations by the students was a sophisticated, inspirational, and eclectic mix of solutions for all sorts of sectors from the environment to disabilities, business, transport, security and more.

Team SUFECS explaining their Smart Urban Farming with Automated Environmental Controlled System to Judge Mark Pesce, Author, Inventor & Futurist

Among the entries were: an augmented reality solution for wheelchair users to navigate city streets (Singapore’s Team InclusiveAR); a social media sales tool to empower small businesses (Indonesia’s Team CodeSell); and a better way for people with dyslexia to use the internet (New Zealand’s Team LookUP).

READ more about each of the Asia Finalists here

Sri Lanka’s Team Straw Hats had a solution that reads the brain waves of people with debilitating neural disorders to help them communicate. Team Alpha-India created an augmented reality solution that discerns ingredients in packages foods while compatriots RVSAFE developed a one-stop communications and management solution to cope with natural disasters. Thailand’s Team Maker Playground came up with a software package to create IoT products.

“They all sat in a sweet spot where the technology, the application, and the thoughtfulness came together,” said futurist and entrepreneur Mark Pesce, who was on the jury.

Team Fisherman presenting their application, FishingPhishing

Some teams had personal reasons for deciding to tackle specific problems. For instance, the distress of friends and relatives losing money to phone scammers prompted South Korea’s Team Fisherman to create an app that has machine-learned voice analysis capabilities to detect suspicious cold calls.

Team SUFECS from Malaysia won the “People’s Choice Award” for developing a smart urban farming system that monitors and controls artificial environments best suited for growing crops in crowded cities.

Third-placed Team AidUSC from the Philippines wanted to help poor rural communities when they created an app that uses Azure Custom Vision to check the safety levels of water samples via a smartphone camera. Second-placed Team RalinNova of China came up with a robotic solution to automatically inspect train lines for defects with multi-sensor fusion capabilities.

The eventual winners, India’s Team Caeli, pulled their idea out of thin, or rather, polluted, air. Tired of choking on traffic fumes and industrial smog on their daily commute to their college in Delhi, they asked a simple question: If they were finding it hard to breathe, how were people with asthma and other chronic conditions coping?

At first, they launched a research project on air pollution, but soon decided “to develop a product to help all those patients who are suffering from respiratory issues and need it the most,” said team member Aakash Bhadana. They came up with #breathefreely – an AI and data-driven personal anti-pollution system that dispenses medications with the use of a smart face mask. They hope to launch their product to market by the end of this year.

Members of Team Caeli celebrate after they are named winners of the Asia Finals.

Team Caeli will represent Asia at the World Final at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, near Seattle, in May. They will compete against the winners of two other soon-to-be-held regional finals for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and the Americas.

READ MORE: Imagine Cup Asia champs take on the world with Azure-driven anti-pollution mask

Ritzinger regards the global nature of Imagine Cup as one of its most valuable attributes. As well as bringing forward new ideas in the application of technology, the experience of competing internationally at such a high-level also changes the lives of participants who come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. Everyone is exposed to new ideas, viewpoints, and experiences that open new lines of communication and collaboration. “Some students have never been on a plane before. They have never had a passport before. They never thought that they could be so empowered.”

Jennifer Ritzinger, Senior Director of Microsoft’s Academic Ecosystems and Reactors

She and colleague, Keith Loeber, Director in Academic Ecosystems, work at the forefront of Microsoft’s investment in emerging talent through a series of student programs and initiatives. “We are really all about preparing students for the future,” Loeber says. “Imagine Cup gives them an opportunity to innovate on their own and to showcase that innovation. It is about empowering students to make that next great technology.

“We understand that today’s students are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. They will also become technology decision makers. Whatever we can do to help make them better for tomorrow, we want to invest in that.”

Parker, who is also a former Imagine Cup judge, regards the competition as a wise long-term bet for the not-too-distant future. “If you invest in smart people – and give them the skills and the knowledge they need to build and innovate for themselves – they will become the startups of tomorrow,” she explains.

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Introducing the Imagine Cup Asia Regional Champions: Team Caeli from India

We are excited to introduce the winners of the Asia Regional Final! Team Caeli won top honors for their automated anti-pollution and drug delivery mask which utilizes Azure Machine Learning to improve quality of life for respiratory patients living in polluted areas. 
 

At its core, Microsoft Imagine Cup has a mission to empower student developers to achieve more and create the next great technology solutions for the chance to win cash, prizes, mentoring, and travel. We believe that with student innovation and creativity, partnered with Microsoft technologies and Azure cloud resources, the possibilities are endless.

The first out of three Regional Final events kicked off this weekend at Ignite | The Tour. Asia regional competitors were challenged to submit an original technology project utilizing Azure, and hundreds of teams were evaluated in the preliminary Online Semifinals round. 12 finalists were selected to move forward to the in-person Asia Regional Finals. The finalist teams traveled to Sydney, Australia on February 11 and participated in an Entrepreneurship Day and Ignite | The Tour activities to learn how to take their project to the next level and integrate the latest and greatest technologies into their solutions. Their experience culminated in giving a live demo of their Imagine Cup projects to a panel of judges and the top three were selected.   

Team Caeli will advance to the Imagine Cup World Championship this May, where they will compete against the winners of the EMEA and Americas Regional finals for a chance at USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Follow the action on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with the competition.

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1st placeCaeli, India

Caeli is a smart automated anti-pollution and drug delivery mask specifically designed for asthmatic and chronic respiratory patients. Caeli implements breakthrough features and Azure Machine Learning in a portable format to improve the quality of life for respiratory patients living in polluted areas.

Prize: USD15,000 and a spot in the Imagine Cup World Championship

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2nd placeRailinNova, China

The team developed a Rail Component Inspection Robot which operates through automatic positioning using AI and IoT, and identifies various railroad defects through multi-sensor fusion in order to replace the number of workers needed in a rail inspection project. The results can be processed in real-time to identify possible defect areas.

Prize: USD5,000

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3rd placeAidUSC, Philippines 

The team developed Aqua Check, which utilizes Microsoft Azure’s Custom Vision to empower anyone to analyze for contamination by taking a photo of a water sample through a microscope. Using Azure Web and Azure Maps, the project can map contamination locations.

Prize: USD1,000

Congratulations to all the Asia Regional Finalists for all their incredible innovations this year. Do you want to build the skills necessary to bring your technology solution to the next Imagine Cup? Get started learning Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Mixed Reality and more with Azure for Students.

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Imagine Cup 2018: AI inspires next generation of developers

This post is authored by Nile Wilson, Software Engineer Intern at Microsoft.


Imagine Cup 2018 winning teams: smartARM (first place, front and center),
iCry2Talk (second place, attired in pink), and Mediated Ear (third place, at the right).

Every year, Microsoft hosts the Imagine Cup, a global competition bringing together creative, bright, and motivated students to develop technologies that will shape how we live, work, and play. This year, tens of thousands of students from across the world registered for the competition, but only 49 teams were selected to compete in the World Finals. In addition to the first, second and third place winners, this year’s competition also awarded the top projects in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, and Mixed Reality.

Of the 49 finalists, team smartARM won the competition with their innovative, inexpensive, AI-enabled prosthetic hand. The team was comprised of Samin Khan from the University of Toronto and Hamayal Choudhry from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Although smartARM took home the top prize, all teams in the finals impressed the judges with their creativity and drive to have a positive impact on the world.

One other thing most all the winning teams had in common – they used AI as a core part of their solutions.

Recent developments have accelerated the application of machine learning technologies across a wide variety of fields, from self-driving cars to AI-guided disease detection. There was a palpable sense of excitement around the profound and untapped capabilities of AI among the teams that participated at this year’s Imagine Cup.

“AI is empowerment.”
Joseph Sirosh, Corporate Vice President and CTO of AI, Microsoft

Winning AI Solutions

From helping farmers manage diseased plants to helping new parents identify the meaning of their babies’ cries, the Imagine Cup 2018 winners tackled a broad spectrum of problems. Although these solutions addressed different problems, their paths to success have a similar underlying structure – each team began by identifying a problem they were passionate about. Next, they carefully considered the resources available to them, including AI, and cleverly used those resources to build prototypes and solutions with potentially outsized impact. AI is truly in the mainstream now, empowering motivated individuals to turn their great ideas into reality and have impact on the world.

smartARM

Team SmartARM from Canada won the first place with their AI-infused robotic prosthetic arm, which is designed to provide users with a low-cost, multi-grip prosthesis. When individuals with upper-limb amputations decide whether they want to use a functional prosthesis, they are typically faced with the choice of purchasing a simple, single-grip arm or spending tens of thousands of dollars on a more advanced myoelectric arm. The high cost of advanced prostheses prevents many from having access to a device that could greatly aid in their day-to-day life. smartARM reduces this barrier by providing multi-grip functionality for approximately $100.


The smartARM on the stage of the Imagine Cup 2018 World Finals.

The trick to the low price achieved by SmartARM is the use of 3D printing and readily accessible low-cost cloud technology. The camera in the palm of the smartARM captures a video of whatever is in view of the arm. Once the user points the palm towards an object of interest, the video frames are sent to the Azure cloud where the Cognitive Services Custom Vision model helps to identify the object and returns most appropriate grip, based on the object’s size and shape. The grip determined by the model is then actuated on the smartARM once the user sends the activation signal.

This allows users to interact with a variety of objects, ranging from picking up house keys to holding a cup.

It’s a truly intriguing solution, the notion of integrating a camera and vision into a prosthetic arm. In a companion blog post, we plan to big a bit deeper into the smartARM story and the underlying technology. Meanwhile, to learn more about smartARM, you can visit their Imagine Cup team page and LinkedIn company page.

iCry2Talk

Team iCry2Talk from Greece won second place with their mobile app, which is designed to aid parents in identifying the needs of their crying baby. New parents and especially parents with hearing-impairments or mothers with postpartum depression often have difficulties when it comes to immediately identifying the needs of their crying baby. This result is unwanted stress for both the parents and the child, typically multiple times each day.

Promptly responding to the cry is essential for the healthy physiological and psychosocial development of the infant. Although babies cannot articulate their needs through the use of language, they do give hints through their cries and body language. The cries themselves contain information that could help parents identify what the baby’s immediate needs are, but these cues can be hard for untrained ears to pick up.

Team iCry2Talk strives to improve the quality of the communication and the relationship between parents and babies by helping parents understand their child’s cries.


Mother and child looking at the iCry2Talk app. Photo courtesy of the iCry2Talk team.

How does the app work? The parent records the cry of their baby through the app using a smart phone or a digital assistant, like Alexa or Cortana. This audio clip is then sent to the cloud, processed, and classified using their custom Deep Learning models. The result is then sent back to the phone or digital assistant within seconds, and the parent is notified of the meaning of the cry through text, image, voice feedback, and sign language.

The team takes a holistic approach by not only focusing on the technology, but by also building and engaging with a community consisting of parents and doctors, in addition to designing for inclusivity, accessibility, and personalization.

iCry2Talk continues to collect donated audio clips of cries from parents involved in their community effort and is constantly improving their models. Parents with babies up to 12 months old who wish to contribute to the database and join the community can contact iCry2Talk through their Facebook page or e-mail them directly at icry2talkinfo@gmail.com.

To learn more about iCry2Talk you can visit their Imagine Cup team page or their website.

Mediated Ear

Team Mediated Ear from Japan took the third place with their mobile app designed to help the hearing-impaired clearly hear the voice of specific persons in noisy environments. Individuals with hearing loss may use hearing aids to amplify sound, but often find it difficult to isolate single speakers in noisy environments. This can make conversations in public settings and meetings difficult as multiple people may be speaking at once. The team began to develop Mediated Ear when a friend of theirs with hearing loss talked about their challenges when communicating in noisy, multi-speaker environments.

Speaker registering their voice to be recognized by the Mediated Ear mobile app. Image courtesy of the Mediated Ear team.

Clearly isolating individual speakers from each other and from background noises is not a simple task. The team had to work hard to develop an approach that would reliably isolate individual speakers from a mixed audio source. Mediated Ear works as a smartphone application that listens to the current conversation and allows the user to adjust the volume for individual speakers played through their earphones.

To isolate a given speaker’s voice from other voices and background noise, the user hands the phone over to the speaker of interest and asks them to speak into the phone for one minute. After the speaker reads the passage displayed through the app, the audio file of the voice is sent into the cloud, where it is processed and fed into a modified WaveNet deep learning model. Once the model learns the speaker’s voice, the app allows the user to pick up on the speaker’s voice and selectively amplify it, making it easier for the user to understand what is being said and confidently engage in the conversation.

With Mediated Ear, people with hearing impairments have control over who they hear and have an easier time focusing on the people they want to listen to in noisy environments.

Want to learn more about Mediated Ear? Visit their Imagine Cup team page or their website.

SochWare

Team SochWare from Nepal won the AI Award for their mobile app to help farmers identify plant diseases and take steps to mitigate crop damage. Agriculture plays a critical role in the livelihood of Nepal and its people, but difficulties in farming have led to a decline in agriculture. When farmers notice a diseased plant, it is often difficult to recognize what kind of disease the plant is inflicted with. The challenge of disease identification makes it hard to properly address the situation. Farmers often suffer losses when they either do not treat crops or apply improper chemicals to handle disease. There are also situations where excessive chemical use on crops leads to negative health effects on consumers.


Local farmer checking plant disease status with the E-Agrovet mobile app. Photo courtesy of the SochWare team.

Understanding the vitality of agriculture to their country and their families, Team SochWare decided to focus their efforts on developing a solution for this problem. Their solution takes the form of E-Agrovet, a mobile app that uses computer vision to help farmers identify plant disease and learn the proper next-steps for treatment.

How does E-Agrovet work? The farmer takes a photo of the plant of interest through the app. This photo is then sent to the cloud, processed, and fed into their Cognitive Services Custom Vision model. A report is generated based on the results of the Deep Learning image classification model and is sent back to the notification hub on the mobile phone. This report informs the farmer of what the disease is, how to mitigate it, and may also connect the farmer with experts to allow them to act.

Through E-Agrovet, SochWare strives to aid farmers and reduce the use of unnecessary chemicals on crops, improving the quality of life for everyone.

Want to learn more about SochWare? Visit their Imagine Cup team page or their website.

DrugSafe

Team DrugSafe from India won the Big Data Award for their consumer-side and vendor-side apps that help fight the consumption and distribution of counterfeit drugs. The development all began when a friend was suddenly in a lot of pain. The team was surprised to find that their friend had unknowingly taken counterfeit drugs for his diabetes and suffering as a result. Upon further investigation, the team became aware of widespread drug counterfeiting, estimated to be a $75 billion industry in 2010, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Realizing the widespread prevalence and severity of fake medicine, and its role in the unnecessary spread of disease and suffering, the team sought to develop a solution. Because this is such a large-scale problem – one that affects both consumers and legitimate drug vendors – the DrugSafe team decided to develop both a consumer-side and vendor-side solution via mobile apps and an online dashboard.


The Drugsafe mobile app (consumer side). Image courtesy of the DrugSafe team.

What do these apps do?

The mobile app consists of a simple interface that allows users to take photos of drug labels to check for anomalies in the text and label color. The app sends the photo through a custom pipeline involving Azure Cosmos DB and Cognitive Services and notifies the user of the validity of the drug. Users have the option of reporting the drug if it is found to be illegitimate. Selecting to report the issue will take the user to the built-in chatbot to expedite the reporting process. The app also has a community component and can warn users about pharmacies that are seeing an increase in counterfeit drug selling.

The vendor app allows drug vendors to monitor the conditions of their deliveries using an MXChip IoT Board, to ensure that their drugs are delivered safely. The IoT board records information such as temperature, pressure, humidity, and acceleration, which can help vendors monitor the condition of their shipments.

Through the adoption and use of the DrugSafe app, the team hopes to reduce the spread of disease and help individuals gain access to authentic safe medication.

To learn more about DrugSafe you can visit their Imagine Cup team page.

The Impact of AI

The number and quality of AI-centric entries at this year’s Imagine Cup tells us that the next generation of developers recognize AI’s game-changing potential. Although each of these student projects addressed very different needs, teams took a holistic approach and appropriately infused their solutions with AI.

We are inspired by the boldness of these young innovators. Their work reinforces our own mission, to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”. We couldn’t be more excited to support the next generation of developers at future Imagine Cups and to see how their ideas – coupled with AI – will move and shake the world.

If you are interested to build your own intelligent solutions, we recommend getting started with the AI School – we have free tutorials that provide step-by-step instructions on how to build real world solutions on the Microsoft AI platform.

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GeekWire: ‘Teleporting holograms, a belt for fetal health, and more at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup student contest’

Team Pengram. From left to right: Bill Zhou, Will Huang, Vedant Saran. (Microsoft Photo)

Bill Zhou wanted to be able to help his mom fix the WiFi router when she called. The only problem? He was at school in Berkeley, Calif., and she was not.

“So I try to send her links online or send her videos or try to do a phone call with her, but it’s not really clear,” Zhou said. “And sometimes I wish I could just teleport my presence back home just for five minutes, show her what’s going on, and then teleport back to Berkeley to do whatever I’m doing.”

That personal desire was part of the inspiration for Pengram, an augmented reality tool for remotely assisting and collaborating on projects such as fixing equipment or assembling furniture. The Pengram team, made up of University of California, Berkeley graduate students Zhou, Vedant Saran, and Will Huang, will be one of 49 teams competing in the world finals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup student competition starting Monday in the Seattle region. Imagine Cup brings together high school and college students who are “innovating and addressing some of humanity’s biggest problems.”

Pengram uses both augmented and virtual reality to “holographically teleport” an expert to assist on a task involving a physical object in another location. The expert, wearing a virtual reality device, can work in the virtual world on a virtual model of the object that needs fixing, such an engine. Whatever the expert does to that virtual engine will be reflected on the other person’s side, except in augmented reality, with an avatar representing the expert demonstrating on the physical object.

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“The operator will be able to see the expert as if he was actually there,” Zhou said.

Saran said the platform uses Microsoft Azure to deliver the content via the HoloLens device. Pengram allows users to watch experts in real-time or in previously recorded videos.

Though personal use was one part of the team’s vision for Pengram, inspiration also came from what the team noticed businesses needed. Companies worked with much more complicated machines, like wind turbines or locomotive engines. Zhou said that often, to repair the machines, they would have to fly out an expert because field technicians wouldn’t know how to fix them.

“So what they’re looking for is actually a remote assistance solution where the expert can teleport their presence to the field to assist their technicians anywhere in the world,” Zhou said.

Pengram has worked with companies like smartphone maker HTC to explore the possible uses for the platform. Zhou explained that any company could use Pengram’s capabilities in a unique way suited to their needs. HTC, which supports trade schools in China, finds pre-recorded assistance helpful in training students.

Flashes of Pengram’s capability can be seen in Microsoft’s own Holoportation project, which Microsoft revealed in 2016. Holoportation, like Pengram, uses the HoloLens as a tool to holographically transport 3D models into a physical space in real time, as if all participants were in the same space. In another demonstration, Microsoft showed how someone using a tablet in one location could annotate the real world for someone using a HoloLens in another, such as a plumber showing a homeowner how to fix a sink.

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The Pengram team, who have known each other for three years and met through the VR@Berkeley club when they were undergraduates, began the project at a Cal Hacks hackathon a year-and-a-half ago. Pengram won the Microsoft Imagine Cup U.S. Finals to advance to the world finals.

On the other side of the world in Pakistan, Iqra Irfan, Areeba Kamil, and Sami Ullah are developing a wearable belt that monitors fetal health. The team, named Fe Amaan, consists of three undergraduates in their last year at the National University of Sciences and Technology. They wanted to tackle Pakistan’s miscarriage and stillbirth problem, which they described as one of their home country’s biggest issues.

“One of the major issues we found in the healthcare facilities in our country is that there is not enough access to facilities for expecting women,” Kamil said. “And the women who have to suffer the most are women in rural areas, and then they become the target of stillbirths. Later on we also realized that this problem is not just confined to Pakistan, but it’s also a worldwide issue.”

Fe Amaan works as a remote fetal monitoring device, helping ease the consequences of a lack of access to medical facilities. The belt and corresponding Internet of Things sensor device, which sits on the mother’s abdomen, can monitor fetal movements and heart rate. It sends the data to a mobile app, which analyzes it and generate alerts if it detects any anomalies. The device uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to host its applications and to predict the state of the fetus in advance, based on the data gathered.

The Fe Amaan team. From left to right: Areeba Kamil, Sami Ullah, and Iqra Irfan. (Microsoft Photo)

The hope is that precautionary measures can then be taken before it’s too late.

“We believe it’s the right of every woman to have good medical facilities and we want to make sure it’s our aim to eliminate the risk of having a stillbirth,” Irfan said.

The three have were friends prior to the project, and decided to work on Fe Amaan as part of their senior projects for university. Fe Amaan has gone through clinical trials, which the team cites as the most difficult part of the process. The team participated in the Pakistan national finals and won the Middle East and Africa finals to advance to the world finals.

The Microsoft Imagine Cup World Finals will take place in Seattle next week, from July 23 to 25. The annual student technology and innovation competition requires participants to submit their software, instructions, and give live presentations on the team, the project, the target market, and how the team plans to bring the project to market.

Forty-nine teams, including Pengram and Fe Amaan, will compete on the world stage after winning national and regional competitions throughout the year. The winning team will get $100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

This year’s Imagine Cup, the 16th annual competition, includes awards for projects in artificial intelligence, big data, and mixed reality. The judges include Microsoft executive vice president of business development Peggy Johnson, coding community Glitch CEO Anil Dash, and software package management company Bitnami co-founder and COO Erica Bresica. Snowboarder and Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim will also be a special invited guest at the competition.