One of the best parts of my job as Microsoft’s chief evangelist is the opportunity it affords me to interact with students. They represent the next generation of innovators, makers and builders, and it is their creativity and hunger to drive change that will help shape what our tomorrow will look like.
With that in mind, I am excited to announce the launch of the 2017 Imagine Cup – now celebrating its 15th year as Microsoft’s marquee global student technology competition. This is a big milestone for Imagine Cup, and I’m proud of how we’ve positively impacted the lives of young developers all over the world.
To celebrate this special anniversary and match the passion student developers have shown us over the last 15 years, we’ve decided to up the ante and double the top prize to $100,000 for the team that is crowned the next Imagine Cup Champion. Student commitment to Imagine Cup has been nothing short of amazing over the years, and we want to reward that commitment with an equally incredible prize experience.
Since the first year of Imagine Cup in 2003, the competition has provided an international stage for students to show us the power of their technological innovations. Some, such as CliniCloud of Australia, which built an easy-to-use diagnostic device to help parents decide when to take their children to the doctor, have gone on to achieve commercial success. Last year, CliniCloud nabbed $5 million in seed funding and a distribution partnership with mega-electronics retailer Best Buy.
Other teams have taken their Imagine Cup projects to the next level by collaborating with global partners. Team Virtual Dementia, which created a high-tech way to help caregivers better understand the perspective of people living with dementia, is now bringing its technology to a whole new frontier – outer space – through a partnership with NASA. Earlier this year, the team – now called Opaque Media Group – built a game called “Earthlight” that combines Microsoft’s Kinect technology and a virtual reality headset to allow users to experience the feeling of being an astronaut on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station.
Then there’s Team Tactile – a group of six female student developers from MIT – that built a device that will allow people with low or no vision to read everything from textbooks to menus by converting words into Braille on a display roughly the size of a candy bar. Tactile made it all the way to the Imagine Cup U.S. Finals in the spring of 2016, and was one of just four groups of innovators that were accepted into the new Microsoft #MakeWhatsNext Patent Program. Team AMANDA of Greece, which created a gamified virtual reality app to combat bullying and made it all the way to the 2016 Imagine Cup Championship round, was also accepted into the Patent Program.
In turn, the Imagine Cup has helped shape the lives of student developers from all corners of the globe and helped them to take their ideas from the concept stage to reality. Take Juliana Pirani, a member of Team eFitFashion, which won the Imagine Cup Championship in 2015. Just a little more than a year after achieving victory, Juliana is getting ready in the next few months to launch Clothes For Me, an online marketplace for custom-made clothing.
“Before Imagine Cup, I wasn’t so sure I would be a businesswoman and open my own company. But after all the opportunities and things that have happened, it was like a path I had to pursue,” Pirani said.
And so, I invite student developers from all corners of the world to follow in Juliana’s footsteps and create the next game-changing innovation. If that sounds as exciting to you as it does to me, I encourage you to learn more about Imagine Cup today.
I can’t wait to see where your imaginations take you this year!