Two Canadian students won more than $130,000 in cash and Microsoft Azure grants Wednesday when they took home the first place prize of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup world finals. The team—who invented smartARM, a robotic arm that uses AI technology to adjust its grip—also won a private meeting with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Around 3,000 teams submitted projects to the Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s annual competition encouraging creativity and technological invention, with topics covering accessibility, data, and mixed reality. Thousands of submissions were reduced to 49 teams representing 33 countries. In the final round, just three teams presented their inventions to a panel of judges in Seattle.
Hamayal Choudry, a second-year mechatronics engineering student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and Samin Khan, a third-year computer science student at the University of Toronto, won first place with their 3D-printed smartARM. The prosthetic uses a camera in its palm to assess the object it’s holding and subtly adjust the grip. With machine learning, the device improves the more it’s used. Data is stored in the cloud, so even if the user switches devices, the information will be transferred to the new model.
The second-place team, from Greece, invented iCry2Talk, a device that records a baby’s cries and translates it to text, images, or a voice message, providing care suggestions to the parent. A team from Japan took third place with Mediated Ear, software that can help someone with impaired hearing isolate one voice in a crowded environment.
The top three winners went home with Microsoft Azure credits and free Microsoft Surface laptops. Nadella himself praised the contest finalists in Seattle, saying, “The impact that you all can have is just enormous, the opportunity is enormous,” GeekWire reports. Chloe Kim, an American Olympic snowboarder, also made a guest appearance.