everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Imagine Cup 2012: Over and out

Students always love a blackboard. [EverydaySparks]

OK, promise this will be my last post wrapping up Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2012. I think. There is still so much I want to share from the amazing experience, but I’m a bit worried that it’ll be like one of those times when someone tells you about that dream they had last night. You know, when they’re really into it, so they go into crazy detail about every little aspect and you’re left nodding and smiling and wishing they would just SHUT UP AND LET IT GO. Because it’s never as good in the re-telling. But I’ll do my best with these last few people-highlights of the Imagine Cup worldwide finals.

Maxim (and the drone hovering behind) in full flight. [EverydaySparks]

First, to the Etzoockee team from Kazakhstan. Maxim Kulesh appeared to be their team spokesman and he was quite the salesman – captivating the crowd with his enthusiastic explanation of the team’s software design project, Archangel. According to their Imagine Cup profile, their project is, quite simply, “for changing the world and saving human lives”. Right on, boys in blue from Kazakhstan. How, you ask? With drones. Well, drones that are controlled remotely using a desktop application, to be more precise. Basically, these unmanned flexible and mobile drones can be directed to emergency situations to (a) drop medical or other urgent supplies and (b) record live footage of the crisis with an in-built camera, enabling emergency services personnel to better prepare for the disaster that awaits them. With advance warning of the state of play, the experts will be able to determine how best to access the sites, treat the victims and manage the situation. Very clever. Although, I think Maxim could have sold any idea to the crowd gathered around him – that kid is going places.

Guilherme Savio, a Doer. [EverydaySparks]

And then The Doers from Brazil – in their bright yellow hard hats to show that their project was all about teaching kids to build better cities with their game design Do More. Their message is about people joining together to do more to solve the world’s problems. Their game is a fun way to look at problems facing developing communities – players have to work out how to manage waste, construction and growing populations as they advance through the levels and build bigger cities. Once they have developed their cities, the game looks at issues such as gender equality at work and other problems facing more established communities. Yep, tackling all of these big issues in a game. It really gets you thinking and I can see how kids would be attracted to the graphics and challenge to progress through the levels, while at the same time having to consider real world issues that come with progress and development. The Doers seemed like a lot of fun and when we asked how long they had been working on their project, the answer was many months – but with a break to enjoy their summer holiday. Hats off to the lovely Guilherme Savio and the team for their work/life balance – and they came 2nd in the world in the game design for Windows/Xbox category!

A fruit ninja with his Xight eyes. [EverydaySparks]

Finally, to the Xight team from China – a great idea and a really dedicated team member who sat in the booth playing a bzillion games of Fruit Ninja WITH HIS EYES. Uh huh. You see (pun intended), Xight is an ‘eye tracking system’, which uses the captured images of human eyes to calculate the direction of users’ gazes. This technology can enable people with upper limb paralysis to control computers on their own. So clever and again, such a practical and genuinely useful application of technology.

For more info, you can check out Imagine Cup website here.

Over and out.

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Imagine Cup 2012: Pillows and Peanuts

If you read my blog yesterday, you’ll know that I was lucky enough to attend the last day of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2012 worldwide finals on Tuesday here in Sydney. And because I’m not ready to forget about it yet – and since everyone I speak to about it seems keen to hear more – I’ve picked two amazing teams to tell you about today. I know I can be a bit superficial, and both of these teams do have very cool names, but I assure you that their appeal is deeper than that – here are two brilliant ideas from Jordan and Korea.

Imagine Cup 2012: Dancing Pillows from Jordan. [EverydaySparks]

When I walked past the Jordanian team’s booth and saw some pillows tossed on to an inflatable matress, I was confused. A dancing pillow? In a software design competition? But the team was made up of three good looking Jordanian chaps (with dimples), so I thought it was only fair to hear them out. Abdallah S pointed out that conventional home alarm systems (those used to detect burglars and fires, or even baby monitors or door bells) aren’t much use to deaf people. So the Dancing Pillowwas developed as an ‘electronic alerting device’ containing three sensors to detect smoke, motion and sound. When a sensor is activated, it sends a signal to the Dancing Pillow app on your Windows Phone and activates your chosen stimulus: flashing lights, the release of a perfume through one of those air freshener type things, or a vibrating device placed in your pillowcase (that’s the ‘dancing pillow’ function). When you’re not on your pillow, you can carry the small device in your pocket with the same functionality, alerting you to any issues in your home. Seems like such a simple idea, but it’s a goodie!

[Now that the competition is over, I think it’s safe to share my proposed add-on to capture an untapped market: I’m thinking of mothers everywhere when I suggest a blast from a fire hose, accompanied by the delicate aroma of frying chips, to rouse teenage boys from their deep slumber…]

Hapeanuts from Korea’s team TokTok. [EverydaySparks]

Team TokTok from Korea won the crowd over with their marketing pitch – within seconds, I had been attacked by a giant peanut (at least, they said he was a peanut – check out the photo and see why I was at first reluctant to pose for a pic), given badges, bags of peanuts and a Korean flag. Following the ol’ principle of brand awareness first, actual product detail later, it wasn’t until I’d stowed away my goodies that I got to learn more about their idea. In a nutshell (sorry), Hapeanut is an app designed to help people grow peanuts – a ‘relief food’ that will help to support people around the world suffering from malnutrition and starvation. Participants in the Hapeanut virtual community are encouraged to keep a ‘peanut diary’ and they’ll receive tips and guidance on peanut cultivation as they progress. The team plans to help users grow peanuts and actually donate them to the people in need, providing ways for users to donate their peanuts to social welfare companies and NGOs.

Ah yes, the Hapeanut mascot. [EverydaySparks]

Now, a confession. I was sucked in by Team TokTok’s clever gimmicks and when I got to the substance of their idea, I thought it was a little bit too wacky to be true. But then I did some research into the humble peanut and found out many amazing things that I never knew: it’s actually A LEGUME, not a nut, for starters. Oh yeah, and peanuts provide over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients. And they’re a good source of niacin, folate, fibre, magnesium, vitamin E, manganese and phosphorus. Uh huh. Naturally free of trans fats and sodium, they contain about 25% protein. And all that peanut-talk is from Wikipedia, so it must be true. So, Hapeanut is a great combo of making it fun to cultivate a valuable food source – and if they can realise their dream of actually supplying peanuts to the areas in greatest need of assistance, this team will definitely live up to its own hype!

Congratulations to these two teams for their fantastic ideas. I mentioned it yesterday, but I’ll say it again – I have run out of adjectives to describe the awesome-ness of this Imagine Cup competition and its competitors. Geeks are indeed good.

You can check out Hapeanut on Facebook here and the Dancing Pillow team are on Facebook here. You can read more about the incredible Imagine Cup here. And if this post has sparked your interest in peanuts – you’re not alone – all the info you could want is here.

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Foul Weather Friend

I am lucky to work with Jo, a lovely lass who shares my interest in all things wacky. Last week, we were talking about the amazing Samurai Sword umbrella that I wrote about here recently. And Jo started reminiscing about a special sort of umbrella that she had seen somewhere. I listened politely, thinking that it surely couldn’t be as good as the Samurai Sword. Then Jo sent me a website link. And I was momentarily speechless. IT’S A HANDS FREE UMBRELLA.

Nubrella Inc. is a New York company that has patented this space-age looking ‘weather protection device’, which they claim takes over where the traditional umbrella stops! And there are more exclamations where that came from: Nubrella blocks windchill! A far safer and more reliable product! Can be used completely hands free! All supported by fantastic photos of the Nubrella in action – in the snow, in gale-force winds, in torrential rain: look ma, I can talk on my mobile phone AND wave to a passerby AND stay dry all at once!

Although we all know that nothing this great comes easily – there are tutorials on how to open your Nubrella and how to close your Nubrella. And the man in the photos does appear to be concentrating quite hard as he sorts out his weather protection device.

But once your Nubrella has popped open, you just drop it over your head and adjust the shoulder straps and supports. It’s transparent, so you can just walk straight away and see where you are walking all of the time. And according to a slightly bizarre comparison on the website: The result is an eye catching new aerodynamic design that many are saying is simply a better “mousetrap”.

A better mousetrap it may be, but I think it’s so much more. Wouldn’t the world be a better place – a funnier place, at the very least – if your neighbourhood was full of Nubrella People? At around $50 per device, it’s a bargain: umbrella, hat, stylish personal-space-preserving-bubble and mousetrap in one. If you’re tempted, the dream starts here at Nubrella HQ.

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