DOHA– Students from Qatar and Bahrain will represent the region at the Worldwide Finals of Imagine Cup 2014 – Microsoft’s established global student technology competition. Held for the first time in 2014, the Pan-Arab Imagine Cup Semi-Finals hosted 23 teams from 12 Arab countries.
Challenged to innovate across Microsoft’s technology platforms, the students competed with each team presenting projects that tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. More than 140 students, mentors and judges from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the Semi-Finals, which culminated with the June 3 crowning ceremony.
Following two rigorous days of qualification rounds in Doha with Qatar’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology attending the final deliberations, Microsoft hosted a press conference on Wednesday morning to discuss the winning projects and their potential impact.
Following the announcement of the winners, Qatar’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Her Excellency Dr. Hessa Al Jaber, said: “Each year, Imagine Cup brings together three things I am truly passionate about: technology, youth and imagination. Two impressive projects from Qatar University – ‘I Copy You’ and ‘Techno Commando Squad’ – have made Qatar proud and truly represented the country’s entrepreneurial spirit and talent over the past several days. This year, I am proud to see Qatar play host to the first Pan-Arab Semi-Finals and heartened to see Imagine Cup – an invaluable foundation for students and entrepreneurs to build their technology skills – grow a lasting legacy in the region. Over the past decade, Qatar has made great strides in building an advanced ICT sector and supporting the young people whose ideas move that sector forward. The skills that each student will take home from Imagine Cup are absolutely essential not only for building a business but for building successful careers in the generations to come. Congratulations to all teams and good luck in Seattle.”
‘I Copy You’ and ‘Butterfly’ were named winners of the competition in the World Citizenship and Innovation categories, respectively.
Team “I Copy You” from Qatar University was announced the winner in the Citizenship category, after presenting low-cost educational software designed to build communications skills among children with autism. Utilizing Microsoft’s Kinect camera, the software detects the motions of the child and provides feedback to a RoboSapien – a low cost humanoid robot – which uses the information to mimic the movements of the child.
Team “Butterfly” from Bahrain was announced winner in the Innovation category, after presenting a project called “Nail Polish Mixer”; a mobile application controlled by one machine that enables women to create their own nail polish mix, test different colors, match it with skin types, and choose between three shades of color (normal, glitter and matte) then share it across all social media platforms.
World Citizenship honors the software application project with the greatest potential to make a positive impact on the betterment of humanity, while the Innovation category rewards apps that deliver technology innovations that advance user experiences in areas such as social networks, search. Palestine’s Team Humanity, for example, developed HopeSystem – a Windows 8 app facilitating communication between those with hearing deficiencies, their friends, families and communities. The app introduces an algorithm for Arabic Natural Language Processing, which the team plans to market as an independent product.
All projects were scored by an expert panel on their concept, execution and feasibility. Additionally, judges from across the Arab world gathered in Doha and selected the six-short listed teams whose projects they believed had the most social impact in the market. Panel experts included: Naseem Tuffaha, Online Evangelism Senior Director – Microsoft Corporation; Aben Kvoor, Developer Experience Group Lead, Middle East and Africa; Ahmed Adel, Sales and Operations Director – Microsoft Corporation, Middle East and Africa; Amintas Lopes Neto, Director Developers and Startups – Microsoft Corporation, Middle East and Africa; and Michael Mansour, DPE Lead – Microsoft Gulf, and Nabil Nuseibeh, Chief Operations Officer – Ebla Corporation.
“We are very excited to represent the state of Qatar and the Arab region in the World finals this July in Seattle. We believe this is a huge responsibility that we must fulfill till the very end, and we thank Microsoft for supporting throughout all this period, and for giving us the chance to accomplish our dreams.” stated the Qatari team.
“We would like to thank Microsoft for this wonderful experience, and we are both are very excited to take our idea forward and compete with the rest of the teams in Seattle. Thank you Microsoft for helping us transform our dream into reality, and hopefully one day, you will see our idea sold in the market.” announced the Bahraini team.
“Congratulations to ‘I Copy You’ and ‘Butterfly’ and each competitor for making Imagine Cup’s first Pan-Arab Semi-Finals a massive success,” said Samer Abu-Ltaif, Regional General Manager of Microsoft Gulf. “At Microsoft, we believe in the innovative power of the region and the talent that is based here. Imagine Cup is designed to cultivate that spirit of entrepreneurialism and build skills throughout a year-long engagement.Microsoft has been a longstanding partner helping to power innovation through technology in the region – a top priority for creating economic opportunity and building skills for the future. Our hope is that all students taking part in the Imagine Cup Pan-Arab Semi-Finals will use it as a foundation to grow their entrepreneurial skills and go on to start up their own business. I congratulate the winners and wish them luck as they represent the region in the Worldwide Finals in Seattle. We will be rooting for you!”
For the two winning teams, the journey has just begun. On July 29, 35 teams will advance to the WW finals, 6 of which are from MEA and 2 of MEA are from the Pan-Arab event in Seattle, Washington (U.S.) to compete for top prizes and support for their ideas through special competitions, including the Facebook Creativity Award and Skype Award. New in 2014, the top team in each category at the Worldwide Finals will be given the opportunity to take part in Imagine Cup Boot Camp, during which they will receive hands-on mentorship and project development support from Microsoft and industry experts.
Projects from the region have a history of success at Imagine Cup. From the Middle East and North Africa, teams from Jordan, Uganda, Egypt and Algeria have all taken top prizes at the Worldwide Finals in recent years. At the 2013 Imagine Cup World Finals in Russia, team MASKed Ninjas from Egypt received the App Fast Track award. The team developed Videolator, a Windows 8/Windows phone application that provides the most relevant video to an article, a piece of news text that can be scanned with a Windows 8 or Windows Phone device.
In 2011, Team OaSys from Jordan developed Horizon – a software and hardware system that allows people who do not have use of their hands or arms to use a computer. It tracks head movements and translates these movements into mouse movements. Users are able to have full control of a computer and cellphone, browse the Internet, type, and connect with ease at a low cost. At the 2012 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, OaSys was awarded a grant of $75,000, software and cloud computing services and support, and connections to Microsoft’s network of investors, nongovernmental organization and business partners.