Sep 23, 2007

Microsoft's 'Imagine Cup'

Microsoft organises an annual event, The Imagine Cup that aims to bring together the best of technology innovation amongst students onto a global forum. This year's theme was 'Imagine a world where technology enables better education for all' and the nine categories ranged from software design to embedded development, algorithm, web development, photography and short film. For Microsoft the benefits are huge - locate some of the brightest global talent many of whom may go onto join them, and also leverage their innovations into its products.

I had an opportunity to get a peek into this thanks to my cousin Chintalapati Arun Sharma whose Team Acumen was one of the contestants. It was heartening to see Arun and his team first qualify among 100,000 participants and then make it to the finals (only 8 teams in his category did so). It was very impressive to see this bright young man slog hard and put in several night outs on the project. On the final day of the project report submission, he was zipping around the city coordinating things, even though there was a major bomb blast just the previous day.

Their project titled TWIST (The Way I See Things) created a device that can help the visually challenged perceive images through touch. From the device's memory any requested image is translated to a set of 36x36 pixels which are then projected onto a tactile pad. This pad consists of pins which vary their height to create the perception of depth making it a Braille like language for pictures. The Hyderabadis happily travelled to Seoul all paid for by Microsoft of course! The kind of exposure they got was tremendous interacting with teams from across the world. I was reminded of my own horizon-broadening experiences (though much smaller in scale) when I first visited New Delhi for the KV National Games as a Class IX student, and later for my first interview for an IIM. For the generation of youth today, the opportunities to network and play on a global canvas are much more than ever before.

Eventually the six winning teams came from Thailand, Korea and Jamaica in software design and Brazil, Romania and China in embedded development. India could have perhaps done more considering that these winners were also not from Western nations.

Check out The Week's coverage of the event here and the Imagine Cup website.

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