A crowdsourced solution to assist blind Kiwis created by students from AUT and the University of Auckland has won the 2012 Microsoft Imagine Cup, impressing judges with its creativity and imagination.
Team Mobile Eye was one of 16 in action at the Auckland Town Hall last night, and will represent New Zealand at the worldwide finals in Sydney this July.
New Zealand has performed well in previous years, with teams from the University of Auckland finishing in the top six globally the last two years running, with Team One Beep coming third internationally in 2010.
The Mobile Eye team's idea consists of an app that enables blind people to take photos of their surroundings and send them to Facebook or Skype so family and friends can describe the environment to them in audio.
Team leader Aakash Porla told Computerworld they ditched the original plan of using artificial intelligence to identify objects in the images, and settled on a crowdsourced system because it would lead to more situationally aware results in context.
"This year was an extremely exciting and intense competition with more than 400 entries – the most New Zealand entries to date," says
Scott Wylie, director of the developer and platform group for Microsoft New Zealand, said: "Team Mobile Eye stood out with their imagination, passion, creativity and a well thought out solution to address the issues faced by people who are blind."
Now in its 10th year, the Microsoft Imagine Cup is the world’s largest technology competition, challenging students from around the globe to develop technologies that help solve the world’s toughest problems. More than 358,000 students from 183 countries take part.
The other top three finishing teams were:
Team Thought-Wired from the University of Auckland with
their solution NOUS, which empowers individuals with severe physical
disabilities to communicate and interact.
Team Aura from the University of Auckland with their
modular solution that detects abnormal breathing patterns and could
revolutionise the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea.
Team Connect from the University of Auckland with a
communication system that responds immediately following a disaster,
keeping you connected to loved ones.