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  • Cheryl Tan

Microsoft Imagine Cup 2020: The Next Big Idea

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

With the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2020 Asia Regional Finals happening virtually for the first time this year, we went to the Microsoft Office in Singapore to see all the real-world solutions that the student teams came up with, powered by Microsoft Azure.

The Imagine Cup has been a worldwide competition for Microsoft for 18 years. The Global Program Manager Imagine Cup, Microsoft, Pablo Veramendi, said: “it’s really a platform for students to bring their ideas to life using technology. We hope that they can bring an idea to life, bring it to a global stage, and really want them to know that they can think outside the box.”

The General Manager, Audience Evangelism, Microsoft, Jennifer Ritzinger added, “this year we have close to thirty thousand students participating and over a hundred countries. So it’s very global, it’s very international, it’s truly a worldwide program.”

This year’s theme for Imagine Cup was Technology for Social Good, focusing on accessibility, diversity and inclusion, and there were some really exciting teams. There have been a lot of good things and there are a lot of interesting teams out there with some showing a lot of potential.

Team Nutone from Japan came up with an assistive device worn around the neck that restores the ability to speak for patients who have lost their voice. This is made possible by vibrating the user’s throat to create sound that matches the movement of the user’s mouth. Neural networks are also used to learn lost voice characteristics and restore it.

The story behind Team Hollo really drove the team when they were designing the use of their app. The team lost a friend to suicide, and decided to invent a healthcare tool for NGOs, therapists and youth living with mental illnesses to help advance therapy practices by using big data and AI. A mental health companion and therapist are basically put onto a single platform for easy access. By integrating an AI chatbot onto the platform, Hollo introduces and gets youth accustomed to therapy and counselling sessions without fear of judgement.

We asked the winning teams what their strategy is going forward when they went to Seattle.

Team Hollo said they were intending to just keep doing the same thing, and keep up the hard work. They promised to make sure they hit the ground running with the product.

Team Nutone showed they weren’t about to get complacent, and stated they were going to work on the Azure software on their product because there were some shortcomings.

A huge congratulations to Team Hollo from Hong Kong and Team Nutone from Japan for winning the Microsoft Imagine Cup Asia Finals. That’s right, these 2 teams will be going to the Microsoft HQ in May for the World Championships, for the chance to win US$100,000 and will be mentored by Satya Nadella himself. This is amazing. Even if these teams do not win, just this opportunity alone opens up so many doors for them. It’s definitely an opportunity of a lifetime.

More information about the Imagine Cup can be found on Microsoft’s website.

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