I was lucky enough to attend the Microsoft Imagine Cup last night on behalf of Geekzone (with fellow moderator Stu Taylor, BigHammer, later joined by Paul Spain the NZ Tech Podcast-er), held at the Auckland Town Hall.
The Imagine Cup is a global software competition aimed at tertiary students - they create projects which answer the theme of:
Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems
The winner this year was Mobile Eye, with software designed to help the blind. Their promotional handout states that there are 40 million blind people across the world, with one person going blind every 5 seconds - truly mind boggling numbers for something we all take for granted every day.
It's all based around a mobile app (WP7 or Java for S60). Once the app is turned on it goes straight to camera mode. To take a picture tap anywhere in the screen. Swipe to the right and the picture is sent to their crowd sourced servers, and within 30 seconds an answer is returned and read out to the user. Swipe to the left and the picture is sent to an algorithm (most blind people know what object they are holding, they just need to know basic things like colour). The app gives out nice clear audible prompts throughout the whole process.
The most impressive part of the demonstration was when the team took a photo of a half full Coke bottle, and within ten seconds, the phone read out what the photo was. While it seems basic, the ramifications for someone without sight is life changing.
The other teams who participated should also be commended - some very impressive world changing ideas and unique implementations of technology to achieve them. We have some very smart up and coming students in ICT.
My congratulations to Aakash, In-Hwan and Jade of team Mobile Eye for their well deserved win. Also thanks to Microsoft for the invite.
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