KinTrans & Microsoft — Hands Can Talk

Many of you reading this post hear and speak as one of your basic senses that help you to effortlessly talk to a pharmacist about your prescription, or to talk to your friendly mobile phone representative about the latest options for upgrading. These benign interactions that come so naturally for you are a totally different experience for people who cannot hear or use spoken language, or who have lost their hearing. Many deaf people learn sign language – another language equally recognized in cognitive brain function as spoken language. It’s a visual language unto itself. For as many spoken languages in the world, there are the same sign languages. Both are rooted in legacy cultures and vary from region to region.

Think about this: technology today allows us to automatically translate spoken language decently. There are ear-buds, for example, that allow for translation between people having face to face conversations in different languages, or translation technology for websites in other languages. Advancements in automating natural language processing and using artificial intelligence technologies make this happen.

Solutions for recognizing sign language, however, have relied on human resources in various forms: physical interpreters, interpreters through video, and other types of use of humans to recognize and translate sign language. Dependency on professional interpreters or family and friends is a tough way to have a conversation about your medical condition with your pharmacist, or buying a new phone and maybe adding other family members to your plan. Simply, we humans are not scalable. Sure, texting has taken on its own value in replacing pen & paper, but these types of conversations are hard to have with typing, or writing.  

KinTrans Inc. has created a technology platform that facilitates these types of conversations by using artificial intelligence in a new way to recognize this full body movement language, and any sign language in the world. KinTrans’ chat solution is designed for the business environment in the immediate term to improve communication with Deaf customers at points of sale and service areas. The chat solution translates signs into voice and voice into signs in real time. This functionality allows the Deaf to realize independence and businesses to realize new value creating opportunities from this large market segment.

KinTrans and Microsoft: Joining Forces for Inclusion

Microsoft has been an integral part of KinTrans’ development, embedded at various steps along the way. From using the Microsoft Kinect 3D depth camera to providing hosting credits on Azure through BizSpark Plus, Microsoft has been a vehicle of support to this early technology startup.

Microsoft Gulf, headquartered in Dubai, UAE discovered KinTrans in a local incubator in 2015. KinTrans was one of 5 startups selected to meet Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, during a visit to Dubai in January 2016. Mr. Nadella spoke with KinTrans about the future of Microsoft Azure and the Microsoft platform at large to bring about inclusion of all people, to digitally transform how the global community works together. Since that time, Microsoft Gulf sponsored KinTrans at the 2016 GITEX technology conference in Dubai, the QITCOM technology conference in Doha, Qatar, has made Developer Experience team resources available, and hosted KinTrans in the Dubai Microsoft Technology Center.

Today, Microsoft New England continues supporting KinTrans Inc., through civic engagement opportunities in Boston and working side-by-side with them in the MassChallenge accelerator. The goal together is to demonstrate how a deep technology platform, combined with innovative machine learning applications can open new, scalable opportunities for communication with Deaf in the marketplace, in the workplace, in schools, healthcare centers and civic institutions.   

For more information, contact or visit

Boston Startup Rejjee Uses Cloud Services to Recover Stolen Bikes

003Lucy is an MIT Graduate student and member of the school’s bicycle racing team.

One day her shed in Allston, MA was broken into and four of her bikes were stolen. One of the bikes was an expensive Trek mountain bike and another one held significant personal value. In addition to contacting the police and filling out a report, she also posted her bikes on Rejjee, a bike registry service.

Four days later, the thief posted the Trek bike for sale on Craigslist – a $2,000 bike for sale for just $700. She called the police, who set up a sting operation.

More than two million bikes are stolen each year in the U.S. and fewer than two percent are recovered by the rightful owner because so few bikes are registered. Rejjee is a free mobile app that lets users register valuables, including bikes, and report loss/theft from a phone in real-time. Participants upload photos, serial numbers and descriptions of their bikes into the system and report information on loss/thefts. User reports populate a crowd-sourced lost and found service where friends, neighbors and used goods dealers can be on the lookout and share information. Reports are also accessible by local law enforcement.

Rejjee, a member of Microsoft’s BizSpark program for startups, recently launched “Rejjee your Ride,” creating the largest regionally integrated anti-bike theft program in the country. Rejjee teamed up with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) Police, Boston Police Department, Somerville Police Department, Arlington Police Department, Northeastern University, Boston University, and several bicycle associations, including MassBike, MassCommute, Boston Bikes, RI Bike Assocociation, FL Bike Association, and NY Bike Association. 

To manage the high volume of information collected, Rejjee uses Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud computing service. This allows them to easily scale their business of protecting bikes and other valuables, as the startup grows their service in cities across the country and around the world.

“Rejjee your Ride” is already helping reunite riders with their bikes. Michael had his bike stolen more than seven months ago, but when the MBTA Police posted his bike ‘found’ on Rejjee, he was able to claim his $1,000 road bike and get it back. Police departments plan to use the service as a way to help reunite bikes with their owners through a unified database of serial numbers. 

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans says his department “…continues to work diligently to return stolen and recovered bikes to their rightful owners. We believe this bike program is a great tool that will connect the BPD, other Boston area police departments, and members of the community, so we encourage the public to register their bicycles and use the collaborative program to their advantage.”

Thanks to the great work of the Boston Police, and Lucy’s quick thinking to register her bike and serial number with Rejjee, she got her bike back!



Ken Smith is a career entrepreneur. He has led seven startups, coached at the MIT Enterprise Forum and Lean Startup, and is the author of ‘Selling Innovation’. Ken is currently Co-founder, President, and Head of Product at Rejjee. He also serves as a ride marshal for Boston Bike Party and other local cycling events.

CFA Summit Coming Up – See You There!

code for america

The Code for America Summit takes place September 23-25 in San Francisco.  Microsoft is excited to be a capstone sponsor of the Summit and to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to engage with government, companies, civic technologists and organizations, and engaged citizens on the biggest challenges facing our communities.

We are contributing to the formal agenda with a breakout session on “The New C-Suite: Partnerships and Impact,” which will take place Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 9 a.m.  We’ve gathered an impressive panel of city leaders from Los Angeles, Austin, and Puerto Rico, who will offer first-hand views on what works and what doesn’t when trying to transform government – and offer views on why.  The discussion will also focus on how to affect and assess impact, sustainability, scale, and partnerships at the intersection of government services and innovation.  We also are giving a talk at the ignite session on Wednesday evening at 8:00 p.m. that will preview some exciting new research on online communities in civic tech coming out of Microsoft Research’s FUSE Labs.

Most importantly, we are looking forward to the informal conversations at the Summit.  Please join us at the Microsoft Lounge, which will be open during the Civic Tech Fair, lunchtimes, the plenary session breaks, and the receptions, including the closing reception we are sponsoring on Thursday evening.

Why Are We There?

The Summit is an annual demonstration of the year-round efforts that Code for America and other Summit attendees put into improving government, serving citizens and strengthening local economies.  These are top priorities for Microsoft, too, and we’re looking forward to getting inspired and sparking new connections that will help us do more to benefit the places where we live and work.

Within Microsoft, the Technology and Civic Engagement group brings together some of Microsoft’s best people and resources to build long-term partnerships in local communities and leverage technology to make a sustainable and scalable impact.  We currently have teams in Boston, Chicago, New York, and the Bay Area, and are working with the local community on areas such as economic development and innovation, 21st century education and opportunities, smarter and more sustainable cities, data and openness, and efficient government services.

In addition to seeing us at Summit, we hope you will join us for ongoing events in U.S. cities.  Two are coming up on Wednesday, October 1.  In Chicago, there is the next monthly meeting of the Chicago City Data Users Group, which focuses on practical techniques for anyone interested in using Chicago City Data to promote civic engagement, innovation, and economic opportunity.  In Boston that same night, the next conversation in a series on Civic Tech will focus on education and data, including data use, data location, and ways to improve student learning.

How Can We Help?

Across Microsoft, we partner with civic organizations, governments, and other companies to move cities forward, and below are some Microsoft resources that may be of interest.

  • Microsoft Open Technologies, a resource for open source code and open technical standards and technical bridges between Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies
  • CityNext, Microsoft’s work with partners to define and deliver innovative solutions that support safer, smarter, healthier and modern cities and improve productivity/efficiency in state and local governments
  • BizSpark, how to access free software, support, and visibility that help startups succeed
  • Azure, Microsoft’s cloud services, and the new Azure Government Preview, a cloud platform designed to meet U.S. government demands
  • Power BI, analytics and visualization tools for Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Disaster Response, technology solutions, tools, and practices to support humanitarian relief and disaster management efforts
  • Microsoft Ventures, a global effort around providing mentorship, technology guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities and other benefits to startups
  • YouthSpark, a global initiative to connect youth with opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship; this includes the TEALS program in the U.S. which places computer scientists in high school classrooms across the country

We look forward to connecting at the Code for America Summit and other gatherings of those helping use technology to improve civic communities and keep the conversation going online with Tech and Civic Engagement on Twitter: @MSNewEngland, @MicrosoftNY, @MSFTChicago, @MicrosoftSV.

Annmarie Levins is the General Manager for Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Engagement efforts and is based in Cambridge at Microsoft New England R&D Center (NERD).  She works with the teams in Boston, New York, Chicago, and the Bay Area to bring the best of Microsoft’s technology and people to help these communities address their most pressing challenges.

Fueling the MassChallenge and Supercharging the Innovation Ecosystem in Massachusetts

When we first met John Harthorne, Akhil Nigam and David Constantin (the founders of MassChallenge) in June of last year it was hard not to become instantly inspired by their individual passion and grand idea of catalyzing a start-up renaissance right here in Boston. Their timing was spot-on, as the region reeling from the effects of the economic downturn needed a new cause to get behind, something to lift our spirits and most importantly lift the sagging economy. After they detailed their vision and plans for MassChallenge we knew that this was something special that Microsoft had to participate in. At the end of that first meeting, Microsoft joined 3 other initial founding sponsors (The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The Deshpande Foundation, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation) by providing early stage boot-strap capital to enable the MassChallenge team to put their plans into action.

Why does Microsoft care?  Why would we get involved in the MassChallenge?  It’s simple, actually – it’s a core part of our DNA and since the opening of NERD we have had an ongoing dialogue with the local community about the biggest areas of need and where Microsoft can add the most value. The constant thread in these conversations has centered around the local innovation economy and lack of sustained progress. We have responded to this need by opening NERD as a rallying point for technologists and investing in people and programs like the MassChallenge that the community feels are important. We’ve taken a ‘rising tide will lift all boats’ approach and we feel that it’s vital to everyone’s collective success to have a thriving innovation ecosystem in their back-yard.

Fast forward a year later- John, David and Akhil have been able to boot-strap the MassChallenge despite the tough economic times and today have officially launched one of the largest global start-up competitions. Today, we are excited to announce that Microsoft has doubled down on its investment in MassChallenge through a new 2 year partnership where we will create the Microsoft-MassChallenge Seed Award, provide technical mentoring and access to software through our BizSpark program for all MassChallenge entrants .  Through this expanded partnership, the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center will become the largest private sponsor of the MassChallenge.

We’re excited and honored to be able to contribute to this fantastic Massachusetts initiative and look forward to seeing each of these promising start-ups reach their full potential.

To view photo’s from today’s MassChallenge launch event, click here.