Microsoft has announced that Team Opticode,composed of students Christian Lou Cepe, Jasmine Pearl Raymundo, and Rochel Reyes from Lyceum of the Philippines University Laguna,will be representing the Philippines at the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2017 World Finals to be held in Seattle this July.

As 2nd runner-up in the Southeast Asia Finals, Team Opticode qualified for the World Finals with their mobile app Minerva, which was designed to improve the quality of life of those with visual impairment.

Using various Cognitive Services running on Microsoft Azure, Minerva identifies objects in the immediate environment of users. After pointing their smartphone cameras at a box of cereal, for instance, the app will to describe this aloud using the phone’s speakers.

“The country is full of bright young minds, and Team Opticode represents the best of our present crop of budding technologists,” said Karrie Ilagan, Managing Director of Microsoft Philippines. “With this level of talent, we’re confident that the Philippines will emerge as a leading example of how digital transformation can be used to improve the people’s lives and provide better social opportunities.”

This latest milestone comes alongside an accelerating adoption of digital technology in both the public and private sectors in the Philippines. Following the establishment of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the government announced a “cloud-first policy” for all national and local government offices.

Team Opticode will be joined at the global rounds by Team CIMOL from Indonesia and Team HeartSound from Singapore, who were awarded as Champion and 1st runner-up of the Southeast Asian leg, respectively. They will also be joined by four other student teams from across the region, all of whom were recognized for their efforts to push the boundaries of human invention.

Team CIMOL’s won for their Hoax Analyzer web-based app, which aims to combat the proliferation of “fake news”. The app is capable of identifying if certain contextual information can be categorized as hoaxes or not.

Team HeartSound invented the S3, a smart wearable device that combines the function of a stethoscope and an electrocardiography machine. The device actively monitors the wearer’s heartbeat and flags any abnormality wirelessly to a doctor so that patients can receive further check-ups or treatment without delay.

The Imagine Cup World Finals will gather more than 50 students teams from all over the world, all vying for the top prize of US$100,000, mentorship opportunities with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, as well as Azure grants and credits to bring their winning solution to the market.

In all, Microsoft will sponsor a total of seven teams to bear the standard for Southeast Asia at the World Finals this July, putting the breadth and depth of creativity and innovation in Southeast Asia youth on full display in front of the world.

The seven teams are:

Team Name Country Prize
Team CIMOL Indonesia Champion
Team HeartSound Singapore 1st Runner-Up
Team Opticode The Philippines 2nd Runner-Up
Team Parasitica Bangladesh Worldwide Finalist & Most Popular Team Award
Team Echo Innovators Nepal Worldwide Finalist
Team Titans Sri Lanka Worldwide Finalist
Team Welse Thailand Worldwide Finalist

* In no particular order of merit

Imagine Cup celebrates 15 years of awesome in partnership with ASEAN

Co-organized with ASEAN as part of the latter’s 50th Anniversary Summit, the Imagine Cup Southeast Asia Regional Finals saw 10 bright student teams competing to be the best in the region. These teams were chosen from local finals held in 13 countries across the region, which included Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Microsoft’s association with ASEAN is a strong testament of the company’s commitment to develop and unleash the potential of young talents in South East Asia, as well as to foster the growth of the next generation to help them achieve more in the digital age.

Dave Miller, Developer Experience Lead, Microsoft Asia Pacific, said: “For the past 15 years, Imagine Cup has been a platform to help students turn their dreams into reality. This year’s regional finalists brought great ideas to the stage, and we see a lot of potential in these projects in solving some of the biggest challenges today across the region. Imagine Cup is just the beginning for many of these budding innovators and entrepreneurs, and we are excited to be part of their journey.”

Student teams pitched their ideas and projects in an intense full-dayevent held on 24 April 2017 to a panel of distinguished judges. The judging panel includes H.E. Dr. AKP Mochtan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community and Corporate Affairs; Dr. Jennifer Tang, Founder, STAT Innovations and Creator of Eyenaemia; Lars Jeppesen, Co-Founder Tech One Global; Shuo Hung Chen, Founder, HeX; Nigel Parker, Technical Evangelist Lead Microsoft Asia Pacific, and Joey Limjap, Vice President and Head, PLDT Enterprise Core Business Research and Development.

Dr. Jennifer Tang was part of the winning team in the global Imagine Cup Finals in 2014 for Eyenaemia, a simple, non-invasive screening tool for anaemia. Dr. Tang said, “Imagine Cup is a great platform for young developers and innovators to bring their ideas to life. Past contestants like myself have benefitted from mentorship from industry leaders and seniors to help hone our projects and skills with the goal of building real start-ups. I look forward to seeing some of these projects coming to fruition in the near future.”

Held annually since 2003, the Microsoft Imagine Cup is the world’s premier student technology competition, known affectionately by participants as the “Olympics of student technology competitions”.

The journey of the Southeast Asian representatives to the Imagine Cup World Finals started in 2016, when students began forming their teams to compete at the local level, with the aim of qualifying for the World Finals.

“It’s been a long road for Team Opticode in getting to the World Finals, but their accomplishments in the local and regional legs show that Filipino students stack up very well against the best in the world,” said Ilagan.