Imagining things that could change the world
A team of Irish students competed with the best at the Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s version of the Olympics for students with a talent for technology
WHEN ATHLETES dream, they dream of the Olympics. When computer science students, brimming with ideas and an idealistic view of changing the world, need a place to flex their frontal cortexes, they can find it at the Imagine Cup.
Now in its 10th year, the Imagine Cup is Microsoft’s version of the Olympics for students with a talent for the technological. The cup dares students to imagine that they make a difference.
Using Microsoft technologies, students are invited to design software and create apps that can change the world for the better. This year, the Imagine Cup was hosted in Sydney, Australia, a country where many have come to try and carve out a future for themselves and a fitting choice for the future Bill Gateses to showcase their ideas.
The Imagine Cup is everything it sounds like it should be: it’s imagination run riot. Students gather in groups around computer screens, brandishing phones and using interactive games to showcase their projects.
The philanthropic nature of the competition filtered into the various ideas each team displayed. Students were given free rein to indulge their ideals and make their world a better place, with the help of state-of- the-art technology.
The winning team, Quadsquad from Ukraine, used specially designed sensory gloves to transmit sign language to a smartphone, which can then play the sounds of the signs – essentially talking for the signer.
From the US, the Arizona State University team had a unique solution to food shortages in cities. Their application, FlashFood, made use of leftover food from restaurants with an easy-to-use messaging service.
With a few clicks of a smartphone, a restaurant can send out an alert saying how much food it has to give away at the end of the night. This alert is then sent to community organisations which can pick up the food and distribute it to those in need.
“Restaurants who use this service can use the FlashFood seal of approval on menus and merchandise,” explains Eric Lehnhardt explained.
The Australian team, from the University of Melbourne, had aspirations to help children with pneumonia in developing countries.
Using a Windows phone application, they built a digital stethoscope accessory which transmits clinical data and breath sounds to the Windows Azure cloud platform.
The result is StethoCloud, an application which automates the diagnosis of pneumonia, something that is notoriously difficult to do. Pneumonia leads to the deaths of two million children every year.
During the showcase, various mobile devices moved around the room. One in particular caught the eye as a Portuguese student, using a wheelchair, was followed around by a mobile shopping cart.