[AI] Tech ‘geniuses’ make pilgrimage to Microsoft

vishnu ramchandani vishnuhappy at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 2 22:53:44 EDT 2007


Tech ‘geniuses’ make pilgrimage to Microsoft 

AFP 

Mohamed Radwan came from Egypt to Microsoft’s US
campus to show Bill Gates a way software can strip
away the stigma of being disabled.

Radwan, his sister, Noha, and fellow Cairo college
students Tarek Elgaaly and Ahmed Fathallah created
computer software that uses artificial intelligence
to customise school programs for those with mental or
physical challenges.

“I have a good friend and one day I found out he had a
brother who is handicapped,” Radwan said of the
inspiration for the invention that put his team among
the finalists in this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup
innovation contest. “It was as though the family was
ashamed and kept him a secret.” The Imagine Cup
theme this year is, “Imagine a world where technology
enables a better education for all.”

Read latest news at DNA

Ten of the teams that will vie in August at the
Imagine Cup finals in Seoul were at Microsoft’s US
headquarters on Tuesday, showing their work to the
software
giant’s legendary co-founder Bill Gates. “It’s a great
area and I completely agree with your vision,” Gates
told Radwan and his team, which boldly suggested
that Microsoft more aggressively develop ways to make
computing easier for people with disabilities.

Gates and Microsoft chief research and strategy
officer Craig Mundie lingered at student
presentations, asking questions and trying programs.
“I’m very
nervous and excited,” Byoung-Su Lin said as she and
fellow students from South Korea readied a program
that lets deaf and blind people read, write and
participate in classes.

The invention features a glove embedded with sensors
with software that translates Braille into and out of
text and speech. A team from China demonstrated
a program that links students in remote villages with
teachers, volunteers, research and other education
resources.

“In front of you today are this generation’s
geniuses,” Microsoft director of initiatives Joe
Wilson told news reporters at the demonstration event.
“The
thought leaders of tomorrow.”

French university students built a joy stick that
people with motor skill difficulties can use in lieu
of a computer mouse, while a team from Japan made
software to organise class notes and send feedback to
teachers.

“This is a fun event,” Gates said. “The point is to
show how the magic of software can do far more amazing
things than most people understand.”

This is the fifth year for the Imagine Cup and it drew
entries from more than 5,800 teams from more than 100
countries.

“I’m always excited by the kids,” said Mundie. “This
is the Olympics of collegiate problem solving. We’ve
upped the bar in recent years and they respond
extremely well.”

The Imagine Cup victor gets a 25,000 dollar prize and
likely attention from investors looking to bankroll
promising new technology. “Just that approving
look from Bill Gates is worth all of it,” Mohamed
Radwan said. “It’s about much more than the Imagine
cup,” Fathallah said. “It’s about changing the world.”

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