In many ways, it was like Valentine’s Day every day this week at Microsoft. That’s because it was //oneweek, an annual event that includes an employee Hackathon. This year, more than 15,000 worldwide poured their hearts and souls into creating new projects to solve problems and to help other people. It was also the finale of the worldwide Imagine Cup student competition, with the students’ projects aiming to do the same kind of good in the world. Let’s get to it:
Taking on big challenges: The refugee crisis worldwide has separated families in many countries. To help family members find each other, Microsoft employees on several continents created the Family Finder app, one of the many projects during the //oneweek Hackathon. The app uses cloud technology to help refugees locate missing loved ones. A related Hackathon project involves working with an international medical relief organization that is also helping refugees.
Another Hackathon project is using Microsoft HoloLens to try and help people with neurological disorders by retraining the brain to learn new firing connections. Yet another project involved building an app called Coding Unbarred for prison inmates. The app helps prepare inmates for being out in the work world after prison, and is a self-guided programming course and coding environment that works offline on prison tablets, which do not have internet access. Some of these projects were done through Hack for Good, a Microsoft Philanthropies program that connected many local nonprofits with Hackathon teams this year.
Students from around the globe competed for more than $200,000 in cash and prizes in the Imagine Cup World Finals in Redmond. Thirty-five teams presented their projects Thursday in Microsoft’s annual competition, which gives students a way to acquire new technical, business and design skills to help them turn their creative ideas into reality. Three student teams took first place in the Games, Innovation and World Citizenship competitions Thursday, securing their spots for the final round with each team winning $50,000. A stealth game with an unusual storyline and gameplay system, a high-tech wearable device that tracks posture and a virtual reality-based approach to combat bullying were the three projects that students presented Friday as they vied for the title of World Champion of Imagine Cup 2016.
The top winner, Team ENTy of Romania, created a high-tech wearable device the size of a door key that tracks the balance of the internal ear and checks the spine posture in real time. The device can detect inner ear problems and other data that can be useful to doctors in diagnosing patients. Team ENTy members will receive a private mentoring session with CEO Satya Nadella.
Steve Gleason’s story on film: “GLEASON” a documentary about former NFL player Steve Gleason, is now showing in select theaters across the U.S. It tells the incredibly powerful story of Gleason’s life leading up to, and after, his diagnosis in 2011 with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Microsoft’s work with Team Gleason started in the 2014 //oneweek Hackathon. “Steve had issued a challenge to Microsoft to develop technology to help people with ALS, specifically to help him communicate more easily, play with his son and move his wheelchair independently,” writes Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer. The Ability EyeGaze hackathon team tackled that challenge and won that year’s competition. Gleason continues to work on these goals with the Microsoft Enable team in Microsoft Technology and Research, producing technology that enables people to move their wheelchairs and communicate through their keyboards using nothing more than the movement of their eyes, Flurrie says. “The passion and dedication of everyone that has touched this project has been overwhelming,” she says.
Oculus Rift coming to “Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta”: It’s the first anniversary of “Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta,” and Team Minecraft says in the next few weeks it will add support for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset in a free update as a thank you for fans’ continued support over the past year. “If you own Windows 10 Edition and an Oculus Rift you can jump right in and experience ‘Minecraft’ in a whole new way,” says Jesse Merriam, “Minecraft” executive producer.
Coldplay’s new Mojis for Skype: Skype has joined forces with Coldplay to create an exclusive new set of Mojis – short, sharable clips you can use in your Skype chats. The Mojis celebrate Coldplay’s latest album and world tour, “A Head Full Of Dreams.” Each Moji is based on a track from the album, exclusively re-worked by the band’s multi Grammy Award-winning producer, Rik Simpson. The result is a beautiful and shareable set of video clips to add color to your Skype chats, designed to express a wide range of feelings and sentiments.
Microsoft Pix gives iPhone camera an artificial brain: The Computational Photography Group within Microsoft’s research organization released an iPhone app that puts the skill of a professional photographer in your pocket. Microsoft Pix captures a burst of 10 frames with each shutter click – some from before the tap – and uses artificial intelligence to select up to three of the best, unique shots. Before the remaining frames are deleted, the app uses data from the entire burst to remove noise, and then intelligently brightens faces, beautifies skin and adjusts the picture’s color and tone. These best, enhanced images are ready in about a second.
This week on the Microsoft Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels, we introduced the 2016 Imagine Cup finalists including Mohamed Zied Cherif, who was born unable to use his right hand. Using Microsoft technology, he and his team created Smart Hand, a programmable electronic prosthetic device that doesn’t require surgery.
It was a week to remember, //oneweek we’ll never forget. So, rest up this weekend. We’ll see you back here next week.
Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff