Microsoft revamps Imagine Cup, adds worldwide semifinals and new challenges

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup is one of the world’s largest software development competitions aimed at students, TechCrunch reports. Since its launch 11 years ago, more than 1.7 million students have participated in it in some form and this year, there are $1 million in prizes up for grabs. In an effort to make the competition closer aligned to what students need to know to get jobs later on (or start their own companies), the company today announced a number to the competition. Until now, for example, the competition’s national finals were the only stepping stone to the global finals. A country’s Microsoft subsidiary would pick the winning teams in one of the three main competitions (games, innovation and world citizenship) and they would go on to the finals. Now, the team is moving away from this Olympics-style model and has added an online semifinal where the entries from 200 teams will be scrutinized by a group of judges from around the world…

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High-tech gloves translate sign language into speech

Four Ukrainian tech whizzes have done the seemingly impossible, TIME reports: They’ve given a voice to the voiceless. Calling themselves QuadSquad, they created a product called “Enable Talk”—gloves that translate sign language into spoken words, giving a voice to the 40 million people who live every day with speech and hearing impairments.

QuadSquad invented their sensory gloves as part of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition, nabbing this year’s top prize for their innovation. The tech tournament challenges young scientists to create something that takes on one of “the world’s toughest problems.” Although it might sound like simply an international science fair, that baking soda and vinegar volcano definitely won’t cut it.

Most of the projects focused on the environment or healthcare. But QuadSquad tackled a much more basic problem: communication. The Enable Talk gloves work by translating the gestures of the user’s hands through a text-to-talk engine connected to a smart phone. The runners-up also deserve commendation: A team from Japan created a software program featuring lights that “talk to each other,” saving energy by dimming lights when they aren’t being used; and the third-place team from Portugal made a shopping cart capable of following disabled customers through a grocery store.…Read More

Student programmers solve real-world challenges

Team Skeek from Thiland took home the grand prize at this years Imagine Cup.
Team Skeek from Thailand took home the grand prize at this years Imagine Cup.

An interface that allows hearing-impaired people to communicate with others using an augmented-reality environment took home the grand prize of $25,000 in the eighth annual Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in Poland, a prestigious international programming contest for high school and college students.

Team Skeek, a team of university students from Thailand, was responsible for the project, which also took first place in the software design category.

The winning project, eyeFeel, allows hearing-impaired people to communicate with others using an augmented-reality environment that combines speech and face recognition, converts it to English from text, and generates virtual conversation text balloons and sign language animation in real time.…Read More

Microsoft adds Windows Phone 7 awards to student competition

Microsoft has added a “Windows Phone 7 Rockstar Award” to the list of other competitions in its annual Imagine Cup programming competition for students, reports WindowsforDevices.com. Prizes include up to $15,000 in cash, a Windows Phone 7 device for each team member, and an expenses-paid trip to the finals, scheduled for July 3-8 in Warsaw. The Imagine Cup is billed by Microsoft as “the world’s premier student technology competition,” challenging students “to apply their imagination, their passion, and their creativity to bring to life technology innovations that can make a difference in the world.” Replacing a Windows Embedded Student Challenge run by Microsoft in the past, the Imagine Cup’s key “Embedded Development” category asks teams of three or four competitors and a faculty mentor to develop an entry addressing the 2010 competition theme, “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” Up to 15 winning teams will receive a free trip to Warsaw, where they’ll present their devices, competing for a $25,000 first place prize, $10,000 second place prize, and $5,000 third place prize. The Windows Phone 7 Rockstar Award challenges contestants to create Windows Phone 7 apps using either Silverlight or XNA. The applications “need to be designed with the consumer in mind and should be as visually compelling as possible,” Microsoft says. The five other special Imagine Cup rewards are Envisioning 2020, Internet Explorer 8, Interoperability, Next-generation Web, and Touch and Tablet Accessibility…

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