Research at Imagine Cup 2011
In nine years, the Imagine Cup has become one of the pre-eminent youth technology competitions in the world. This year, more than 350,000 young people from 183 countries and regions around the globe signed up to compete.
Beginning last Friday evening and running through to Wednesday this week, more than 400 of the brightest young minds from more than 70 countries will be competing in the finals hosted in New York City, United States. These are the winners from all of the local, national, and regional competitions around the world over this past year.
The students develop solutions for an enormous range of socially-relevant applications, including environmental issues, medical diagnosis, disaster relief, and technology access for the disabled. They mix and match Microsoft and other technologies to reach those solutions.
Microsoft Research has long been a collaborator with the event and this year is no exception. Notable this year has been the prominence of the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) beta, released less than a month ago. In common with so many enthusiasts around the world, the amazing Microsoft Kinect sensor and its powerful software, now officially available to developers on Windows 7 PCs with the SDK, has captured the imaginations of many of the student teams, some of which have already been using the SDK in their projects—an extraordinary effort in so short a time.
In response to this enormous interest, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who opened the event with a keynote presentation, announced that all of the student finalists would receive Kinects as gifts to help inspire further innovation in natural user interfaces and beyond!
To further help the students understand the capabilities of the device and its SDK, including access to the raw data streams, and the audio and visual processing (which includes skeletal tracking), Stewart Tansley presented a training class with Clint Rutkas from Channel 9’s Coding4Fun. The class generated a lot of interest from the students—who were eager to learn more about the Kinect for Windows SDK beta.
Representing the culmination of decades of computer science research in audio and vision processing, the prominence of Kinect and the SDK at the event has been an inspiring testament to the practical influence of research on today’s emerging computer scientists.
Furthering this message, Microsoft Research Connections corporate vice president Tony Hey presented a special session to the students entitled, “What it takes to be a researcher.”
Tony recalled that Albert Einstein once said, “If we knew what we were doing it wouldn’t be research.” Tony addressed specifically those students who are considering graduate school and the potential rewards of a research career, but are unsure about the specific paths and options that are available to them. He shared from his extensive experience as a researcher and academic both in the United Kingdom and United States.
Last but not least, Jane Prey represented Microsoft Research on a stellar panel at the Women Innovators dinner. The other panelists included: Earl Newsome, vice president Global Shared Services, Estée Lauder; Her Excellency, Meryl Frank, former ambassador and deputy U.S. representative to the Commission on the Status of Women (appointed by Barack Obama); Zainab Al-Suwaij, president of the American Islamic Congress; and Dr. Mary Fernandez, executive director of Dependable Distributed Computing Research at AT&T Labs. The panel focused on how to help get more women involved in technology and encouraging the student women innovators attending to continue on their technical initiatives. Learn more about this special highlight.
As we write this blog the day before the final winners of Imagine Cup 2011 are to be announced, we wish all competitors the best of luck for the competition and in their future careers, whether as researchers, entrepreneurs, or other champions of computer science!
—Stewart Tansley, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections, and Jim Pinkelman, Senior Director, Microsoft Research Connections