Earlier, we brought you the five coolest technologies invented by high schoolers at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair. These solo projects wowed us and made us rethink what high school students are capable of. Now, witness what students can accomplish when they work in teams as you browse the winners of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.
Each year Microsoft hosts Imagine Cup, an international skill-based competition that challenges high school and university students to create innovative and original software applications. Students compete in three competitions, including Games, Innovation, and World Citizenship, and multiple challenges. For the past year, students have been forming groups of no more than four, creating proposals, and competing at the local and regional levels. The teams with the best projects were flown to the WorldWide Finals, hosted in Russia this year. Up for grabs were top prizes of $50,000 in each category.
Among steep competition, it took thinking far, far outside the box to win at this year’s event. Here are seven of the most surprising apps created by this year’s student teams, ranging from a camera app that can tell you if you’re high or sober to a hearing aid that uses a phone app to provide hearing more versatile than any alternative currently on the market.
1. Omni-Hearing Solution
When the Omni-Hearing Solution team embarked on their project, they learned just how widespread hearing loss is around the world. A quarter of a million babies are born with hearing problems every year, they found. Even 30% of those born with healthy ears will face some degree of hearing loss as they age. “We hate to see that friends and family are forced to either yell at them in order to get the message across or stop talking to them,” the team wrote. “Soon it was a decision of whether to not talk to out grandparents again, and we decided that we are not ready to face that yet. The existing hearing aids cannot solve our problem, so we thought to ourselves, we might as well be the solution we so long for.”
Hearing aids available today try to solve a diverse set of hearing problems through just one method: amplifying sounds. For example, though it’s common that the elderly are unable to hear high frequencies, traditional hearing aids will amplify high-pitched noises instead of lowering them to pitches audible to their users. For this reason, today’s hearing aids only work in limited situations, and many users grow so frustrated they stop wearing their hearing aids completely.
To form a better solution for people’s manifold hearing disabilities, a team of students from Taiwan created Omni-Hearing Solution. Omni-Hearing Solution is an app-centric hearing aid for the modern world that provides users full hearing ability. The Solution is comprised of three parts: a phone app to replace your traditional hearing aid, a cloud service that can identify your potential hearing problem, and sound processing technology that enhances the quality of all forms of vocal communication. The Solution is used through an earpiece similar in appearance to a Bluetooth headset that you hook over your ear. While on the phone, you can also use the Solution directly through your smartphone’s speaker. Using the phone app, you can adjust settings for better hearing and set different scenes optimized hearing in various situations.
The Omni-Hearing Solution team won second place in the World Citizenship competition, a $10,000 prize, and took home the Women’s Empowerment Award.
Imagine this scene: you’re at a party and someone wants to play music. For whatever reason, the host doesn’t have speakers available, or her speakers just aren’t loud enough. Undoubtedly, everyone at the party is carrying a smartphone, and you know combining the power of everyone’s speakers could make loud enough sounds to start your dance party. But how do you play the music in sync?
soundSYNK, the first place winner of the Innovation Competition, is a mobile phone app that allows multiple mobile devices to play the same song in perfect sync (hence the app’s name). The app creates impromptu social networks by connecting phones through bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi direct connections. To harmonize sounds and play music in sync, the app works through known delays and pre-determined time intervals and adjusts for variations in transmission rates. The app will work seamlessly on all devices, regardless of platform, device, or environmental effects. The team members, hailing from the U.K., took home a $50,000 for their project.
What if a pair of high tech glasses could help the visually impaired lead more normal lives? i-Chum, developed by a team from Sri Lanka, is just that. Using a pair of glasses equipped with a combination of sensors, including microphones, i-Chum can detect nearby objects such as street benches and bus stops. By connecting the device to a Windows 8 smartphone or tablet, users interact with their environments more fully and lead more normal, productive lives. i-Chum can help the visually impaired perform tasks such as avoiding obstacles, navigating, and reading and writing. i-Chum won Imagine Cup’s Samsung Digital Native award.
Do you ever worry about the health problems associated with working at your computer all day? While working at your desk and staring into your computer screen for hours on end, SANO can monitor your body’s health indicators and alert you when it’s time to pause your work and do some exercise. The app’s 3D virtual trainer will appear on your screen and ask you to mimic his movements, helping make sure your health doesn’t decrease during your long hours at work. SANO’s exercise library is expandable, as you can program your own exercises into the app using SANO’s exercise builder, and share them with friends.
The SANO team, from Canada, designed the app as a solution to a problem they face every day: being stuck in front of their computers for hours on end. The app, however, also addresses a need of many trainers and physiotherapists; many of these experts would like to track their clients’ health remotely, but currently have no efficient way to do so. “They want to monitor them remotely and give them tasks!” team member Omar Zaarour said. The SANO team won the KFC Russia Award.
Matibabu is a Windows Phone application that quickly diagnoses for malaria without pricking the body to collect a blood sample. To use Matibabu, connect a custom piece of hardware, the matiscope, to the Windows phone. By placing their fingers inside the matiscope, users will send information to the app to help Matibabu determine if they have malaria.
The team, from Uganda, realized how painful, costly, and inefficient the process of detecting and treating malaria can be. Before the competition, one team member contracted the disease and was subjected to a series of prickings.
While treatment may be available, the current process of detection does not allow for effective treatment. “With this solution, Matibabu, we are able to diagnose for malaria in its early stages which will help reduce malaria by more than 75% in 2015 as by World Health Organisation,” said team member Simon Fred Lubambo. The Matibabu won the Cup’s Women’s Empowerment Award.
6. For a Better World
For a Better World automates and shortens the process of determining blood type. Developed by Ana Ferraz, of Portugal, the technology will enable emergency responders to determine, in five minutes, which type of blood to use for a transfusion in the field. The technology is low-cost and portable and can be used on any Windows 8 device, including phones and tablets. According to Ferraz, the technology will will help save lives by creating a fast solution for emergency blood tranfusion and eliminating blood transfusion issues involving universal donors. Ferraz won first place in the World Citizenship competition, a $50,000 prize.
7. Modern Drug Test
This team from Poland wants to drug test you using their Windows phones. Using their Modern Drug Test app, hold your phone to a person’s eye and, based on scientific research on how drugs affect the eyes, the app will tell you if he person if under the influence of drugs. Modern Drug Test is a quick, cheap, and portable field test for drug use, if a little invasive. Can you imagine your friends testing your sobriety each time you enter their house?
The Modern Drug Test team won second place in the Windows Phone Challenge.
Images via Microsoft Imagine Cup
What’s your favorite new technology created for the Innovation Cup?