Solving the world's toughest problems with technology has inspired 19 student teams to battle it out to take the 2012 Microsoft Imagine Cup title.
The top 19 teams have been announced to compete for the supreme spot, with the winning team going on to represent New Zealand at the Worldwide Finals in Sydney in July.
“As always, it was difficult to whittle down the submissions we received to just 19 teams – there were so many innovative, high quality entries to choose from,” says Scott Wylie, Director of Developer and Platform Group for Microsoft New Zealand.
“It is great to see the future leaders in technology and science step up to the challenge we have set them, of solving the world’s toughest problems. There are so many talented, creative students out there, which makes it much harder each year to pick just one winner.”
The 19 teams were chosen from the 400 submissions from university and polytechnic students around the country.
The Microsoft Imagine Cup is designed to challenge students to develop technology to solve some of the world’s toughest problems by applying their imagination, passion and creativity to technology innovations to help make a difference in the world. The Microsoft Imagine Cup is in its tenth year, and is a truly global competition. Last year more than 358,000 students from 183 countries participated in the competition. For New Zealand, the 2011 competition was the most successful one to date – with more than 300 team entries and 1,500 competitors.
“It is a great pleasure and privilege to be able to mentor 2RTF throughout the competition as they develop their ideas, and work on presentations and marketing plans in preparation for presenting to industry experts,” says Kerry Topp, General Manager – Microsoft Enterprise & Mid-Market Solutions at Datacom who has mentored teams for the past two years.
“Microsoft has enabled these students to really think outside the square and focus their talents on something that could make a difference to the world – and could also lead to positive career prospects. The competition opens doors for all the students and offers them opportunities in a way that no other programme can. It is also good to get students focused on helping those less fortunate than themselves.”
Each team will present to a panel of four judges on Sunday 29 April at the University of Auckland to determine the final four teams. These final four will be announced at the Imagine Cup Festival on Monday 30 April at the Auckland Town Hall, and will present to a panel of industry experts before the winning team is announced that evening.
The top 19 teams for the Imagine Cup 2012 are:
• Team MATx from Lincoln University – Kinect Rehabilitator
Using Microsoft Kinect technology can help medical centres/physiotherapist and individuals during post-stroke rehabilitation, saving more lives. It can help keep patients fit, active and feeling lively. This will lead to a reduction of rehab session costs, flexibility of times, reduce added injuries during transportation, allow for live chat access to medical assistance anytime and the ability to monitor of patient progress, as well as making rehab sessions more fun. In addition, it could be as a networking tool for people suffering from stroke to share their experiences.
• Team 2RTF from the University of Auckland – SAS
This project aims to optimise aid distribution in disaster stricken areas. The programme is supplied with information on aid distribution, supplies, infrastructure and population density levels, and will compute where aid needs to be and where it isn’t needed. In addition, it can also be used to deploy aid on a case by case basis.
• Team United from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) – World United
Project Silver Bullet aims to indirectly reduce poverty by tackling unemployment through streamlining current governmental and loan or microcredit initiatives using a single software product. It also aims to support and foster a sense of empowerment among employment hunters to ensure that the work cycle is sustainable and eventually evolves into a self-driven machine. We are also working on a unique algorithm that predicts if a person would be successful in any chosen business.
• Team Dawn Phenomena from Unitech – Mission Diabetes
We are creating an educational diabetes system that is targeted at children aged 7-14, in particular those with type 1 or 2 diabetes. The system will be used to educate children, particularly newly diagnosed children, about all things related to the condition and how they can go about living a long and fruitful life with the condition. All the components of our solution will be based on exploiting interactive features of computer games to deliver educational knowledge through immersive and situational learning. The system consists of three major components – a video game, a mobile phone application and a web application.
• Team BackUp from the University of Auckland – InVestMe
Back pain affects at least 80 percent of all people at some point in their lives and is easily preventable with good posture. However, a sedentary lifestyle coupled with increasing computer use for work and entertainment and little motivation to maintain posture means that this problem can become severely debilitating for chronic sufferers. National back pain payout costs are over $500 million p.a. Our idea is a simple, lightweight vest/singlet to be worn by all-aged members of the population. This senses the spine's alignment in 3D and relays this to a smartphone, which then signals an alert if poor posture is maintained for a length of time. This is also used to update pain specialists' medical records electronically and as a research tool to give insight into common postural problems across particular subsets of the population.
• Team Get Lost from the University of Auckland – Get lost – wireless leash proposal
Our 'find me' smartphone application communicates with a wireless transmitter that can be worn by a child to allow parents to monitor where they are at all times. This application makes it easy for parents to find lost children and can be also used as a tool to prevent losing children.
• Team Dunyati from the University of Auckland – Coffee2Go
We are dedicated to getting farmers in third world countries a fair price for their coffee. Our idea utilises cheap technology that is both effective and easily deployed. We aim to partner with fair-trade as well as a few other NPO's and utilise pre-built infrastructure to help us attain our goals. Phase two of our plan is to setup micro-lending to African farmers that will be paid back once they harvest their crops, ensuring a higher quality crop and a higher quality of life for the farmers.
• Team Zooks from the University of Otago – Change for Charity
Charities do great things, but the sad fact is the majority of these organisations need to raise funds to allow them to carry on doing what they do. ‘Change for Charity’ is a service that provides revenue gathering for charities and distributes collected donations allowing charities to provide feedback to users where their donations are spent. The way the revenue is collected is by a piece of software that is installed on store payment systems that with the user’s agreement rounds their purchase up to the nearest 10cents and then donates the rounding to a charity. Feedback to contributors would be sent back to them to their mobiles letting them know what difference their contribution has provided.
• Team Vcom from Victoria University of Wellington – Language Translator
Replacing the traditional way of communicating between the UNICEF authorities and victims, by a translator that translates the vocal English to the respective local language. The project will be based on a hand held device for translating language verbally.
• Team Cloud Solutions from Victoria University of Wellington – Cloud Save
Tsunami's are one of the world's largest natural disasters, one that cannot be averted. Over the last few years prediction systems have been built to predict tsunamis but due to lack of processing power they have been unable to really make a difference. It takes about 5 to 7 minutes to get a prediction of a tsunami's details like direction, height, etc. This time can be reduced to staggering 20 to 30 seconds which could save thousands of lives. This can be achieved by offloading this compute intensive workload to the Windows Azure Cloud.
• Team Decarbonators from Unitech – Carbon Footprint Indicator (C.F.I) – a Mobile Phone Application
We are developing a creative technology solution that addresses a real-world challenge to help alleviate climate change and pollution problems caused by carbon emission. CFI can be installed on an individual’s mobile phone with pre-set profiles to choose from, enabling every individual to get an estimate of their Carbon Footprint while they commute to work etc. by different means of transport. Our system will award users with DeCarbon Points e.g. earn more snapper points every X times they make use of a public transport instead of driving or while they do carpooling etc. DeCarbon points can be used to claim discounts on food or at any other commercial organisations that are tied up with CFI.
• Team Silver Pass from the University of Auckland – School reporting
Traditionally in schools the only mechanisms in place for information transfer are the report cards and infrequent parent-teacher interviews. For a relationship as important as the one between student, parent and teacher, this is simply insufficient, and good education is being compromised. Our solution replaces the traditional report with much more frequent, shorter updates throughout the year, both keeping parents involved and spreading out teacher workload. This would be done through a cloud based computer system that also facilitates parental discussion and learning suggestions. We hope this will improve the quality of both education and life of primary school children.
• Team D.E.S from the University of Auckland – Improving Mental Health Recovery
Disability Employment Service (DES) is an online information system allowing the health industry to allocate employment opportunities to competent individuals who are recovering from a mental illness or a disability. The DES website can provide a networking system between businesses and health departments and will facilitate the sharing of information such as work performance and recovery process of the employed.
• Team Doctor Pepper from the University of Otago – River Pollution NZ
Our project is a tool for aid agencies to allocate resources to provide quality water all over the world where it is most needed. We will do this by creating a phone app which allows agencies to input information about water quality and ask for resources at their current location. This Information will be stored in a database and accessible by a website.
• Team YouMark from Auckland University of Technology – YouMark – Transform Education
Team YouMark seek to revolutionise the current education system by bringing the classroom experience into the home of millions, focusing on self-paced learning. The tools being developed by Team YouMark will enable creation of next generation interactive content with teacher collaboration.
• Team Mobile Eye from Auckland University of Technology – Mobye
Visual impairment is a significant health problem across the globe. Every 5 seconds one person in the world goes blind. Although 80 percent of visual impairment is preventable, for the 45 million blind people across the globe, prevention is no longer the cure. In New Zealand, the number of blind people is projected to grow from 12,000 today, to as much as 18,000 in 2020. Vision loss robs people of their well-being and presents a significant economic cost.
We have developed software designed to provide assistance to blind New Zealanders. The application, MobileEye, is designed to provide the user with an added richness of information. It can take on a multitude of uses simply based on the needs of the user. It is the team’s intention that this technology will assist the individual in the areas of navigation, shopping and even simple day to day activities that can benefit from a greater awareness of surroundings.
• Team Connect from the University of Auckland – Transparent Communication Network (TCN)
Christchurch earthquake, Japan tsunami, Thailand flooding. 2011 was known as the year of disasters – what do they have in common? Immediate communication failure.
If you’re in a disaster zone, the first thing you’ll want to do is connect with loved ones; and that goes for everyone else around you. High traffic causes massive congestion to any remaining cell towers and telcos often struggle to keep communication up and running for days, or even weeks. As the first 72 hours are crucial, any downtime can be catastrophic.
We are developing a communication system that, unlike traditional solutions, will respond immediately in the critical hours following a disaster. Our solution will keep you connected to loved ones when you need them the most.
• Team Aura from the University of Auckland – A non-invasive Infrared Imaging solution to detect abnormalities in breathing
Team Aura is set to revolutionise the diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA affects 1.2 billion people worldwide, and an Aura module consists of an advanced algorithm that detects breathing patterns of a patient through innovative monitoring technology. This information can then be easily accessed by medical professionals and patients alike through the Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform, allowing the improved efficient diagnosis of OSA.
• Team Thought-Wired from the University of Auckland – NOUS
Thought-Wired NOUS is an integrated solution designed to restore abilities to those who lack them. Its primary function is to empower individuals with severe physical disabilities in communication and interaction capacities. It allows people who are unable to speak to communicate with anybody using the mind alone. Using NOUS individuals with disabilities can communicate with their family and friends offline in their place of residence or anywhere else as well as online over the Internet. Besides communication, NOUS opens unlimited possibilities for our users via extensible platform. Additional capabilities can be anything from controlling simple devices at home to education, mobility and entertainment applications.