Students imagine top tech prize

After a tense Dragon’s Den-style face-off, four IT Sligo students were yesterday declared the winners in the Irish finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup.

Now in its 11th year, the world’s premier student technology competition provides an opportunity for student technologists, developers, and aspiring entrepreneurs to develop anything from software to video games to help improve education, healthcare, the environment, and more.

A total of 18 teams made it to the final stages of the competition with each team comprising four students. Of these, three were picked to battle it out in a Dragon’s Den-type battle at the National App and Gaming Conference in he Aviva Stadium yesterday.

IT Sligo students Killian McCormack, Damien Fee, Linzi Ryan, and Gabriel Cioflica took the Irish title with their innovative solution to support the physical and social needs of older people in their homes through technology.

The system they designed uses a Windows Phone, Skype, and Xbox’s Kinect technology to add an extra layer to the TV. As a result, by just using voice and gestures, older people can engage in physical fitness classes through their TV.

To combat loneliness, they created a concept called Tag TV, which allows the person to invite family and friends to watch TV remotely and interact with them as the show is playing.

The system includes a system which can send an alert from the person’s home to family or a carer should they encounter a problem or difficulty — like missing an appointment or not taking their medication.

Damien Fee said the team was hoping to form a company and bring the system to market in 2014.

“We have four months to develop the system further in preparation for the world finals,” he said.

“We were confident in the sense that we knew we had a good idea, but it was a huge shock to win so we are delighted.”

Irish students have had a great track record in the Imagine Cup. In 2011 students from IT Sligo won the Irish competition and continued their success by winning the global Imagine Cup title in New York.

Known as Team Hermes, the students had designed a device that plugs into a car and monitors dangerous driving behaviour and road conditions, providing instant feedback to both the driver and the car owner.

To encourage a wider variety of aspiring innovators to participate, this year Microsoft has redesigned the Imagine Cup around three new core competitions — world citizenship, games, and innovation — and more than doubled the prize money to $300,000 (€230,000).

The overall Imagine Cup will culminate in a worldwide finals event, to take place in St Petersburg, Russia, on Jul 8 to 11.

Worldwide finalists will also have the chance to apply for Microsoft Imagine Cup grants as part of a three-year, $3m investment by Microsoft.

The winners

- Winner: IT Sligo (Team Ruok): The team came up with an innovative solution to support the physical and social needs of older people in their homes through technology.

The system uses a Windows phone, Skype, and Kinect to add an extra layer to the TV system.

This provides online physical fitness classes as well as ‘TAG TV’, which allows a person to watch TV and interact remotely with friends and family.

- Runners-up: Dundalk IT (Team ClockinRock) — Liminal Magibrawl: A two-player Kinect-based magical fighting game using full body motion.

- Third place: NUI Maynooth (Team Ninja Turtles) — Project Spotter: An innovative app using near field communication. Users can very easily choose what to send to each other using a “High 5” or “Hand Shake” gesture with no need for internet access.

Picture: IT Sligo students Gabriel Cioflica, Romania; Killian McCormack, Sligo; and Damien Fee, Fermanagh; who along with their colleague Linzi Ryan, not pictured, were crowned winners of the Irish finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup. Picture: Maxwells


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