On February 15th, four students came together to form what could be a real game changer in the Windows Store space. It all started at the Imagine Cup event held at Exeter University. Teams from around the country came together, all hoping to create award winning apps in the space of 48 hours. With a trip to St Petersburg, Russia, and $50,000 at stake, competition was stiff, and teams weren’t taking things lightly. It was at this event that SoundSYNK were born.
Meet SoundSYNK (from left to right):
Robert Parker (Programmer), Computer science and Mathematics, 2nd yearEdward Noel (Business), Mechanical engineering, 2nd yearAlex Bochenski (Business), Business and Economics, 2nd yearJonathan Neumann (Programmer), Masters in History, 4th Year (Erasmus Scheme)
SoundSYNK are a team of students from Exeter University, who arrived that day not knowing each other, but all had the dream of learning how to create and deploy an app into store and with the more important aspiration of winning big money! But who knew that just by randomly sitting together at the start of a day, would equal the creation of a dream team! Read below for their story…
"The Idea was born at the Microsoft Imagine Cup regionals held by Setsquared and Ignite Exeter University Guild Enterprise team. It all started on Saturday 16th February 2013 at 2 am in the morning. With $50,000 on the brain, we were caffeine fuelled and desperate for a strong idea to win the regionals. Ideas were banded around, but as the hours passed and our brain power started to dwindle, we sought the aid of music to inspire us. Little did we know this would be the start of an amazing adventure…?
We were playing "Sweet nothings" by Calvin Harris on Alex's laptop, but it was just not loud enough for our liking. Being students we wanted to have a blasting beat to keep us going through the night, but the volume was just not sufficient. At this point, we did the age old technique of lining up all of our phones, laptops, tablets, in the hope that we might be able to play the song at the same time. However, due to our lack of timing, it failed miserably! However, it started to get us thinking- What if we could develop an app that allowed us to sync a load of devices in perfect harmony and in turn create a booming base- this was where the idea began!
With time running out and less than 24 hours before we had to present our apps to the judging panel, we all frantically started researching. Our genius coders Rob and Jonathan- who have previously only developed for iPhone and Android- started looking into what kind of technology was available that could help develop this concept, whilst Ed and Alex scoured the internet desperate not to find someone who had already done this. Lucky for us, no one had! Although this was a Microsoft competition, we wanted to make a platform agnostic app that could be enjoyed by all audiences, whether you had a Windows Phone, iPhone, laptop or tablet. It was hard at first for Jon and Rob, as they had never developed for Windows before, but they found it surprisingly easy to pick up and we quickly started developing the prototype and presentation of the product. Our coders started building the app using Microsoft Visual Studio, making sure it utilized Bluetooth, WiFi, and WiFi-direct. We wanted to create a mesh-network that had more bandwidth than simply connecting devices over WiFi and that could be used anytime, anywhere. By utilizing our backend-technology, we saw that we could send data between devices and overcome the current bandwidth limits of Bluetooth (maximum share between 4 devices), allowing us to share data with an unlimited number of devices... we really wanted to take the party mobile!
With the hours ticking away and our presentation slot looming, we pulled together and made an amazing prototype and presentation that we showcased. Thanks to all this hard work, 24 hours later we were being awarded the 1st place prize by the judging panel. We were ecstatic! With this win came a place in the UK National Finals (the next stage) that were to be hosted in April, but we knew from then on that this would be no easy ride. In order for us to win the $50,000 and that trip to Russia to compete in the World Wide Finals of the Imagine cup, there would be a lot to do!
In the run up to the Finals, we were working night and day perfecting our app and presentation, choosing to demo and tell people about our app at every opportunity we had! This even led Ed to being introduced and pitching the idea to Dragons Den Judge, Doug Richards… not every student can say they have done that! Because of all this pitching we were able to drum up a lot of interest and were invited to attend the ‘Starterfor10’ competition. We managed somehow win a £10,000 grant from Creative England that day, which was against over 150 startups! We were really excited by the way things were taking off and the interest our company was getting, but we didn’t lose our focus as the big day was still yet to come…
8th of April meant only one thing, The UK Imagine Cup Finals. Every day had been leading up to it, but with 10 amazing teams, including some of our own classmates as competition, we knew we had to do a presentation like no other. With banners put up, flashing T-shirts on and devices in hand, we demoed our hearts out, trying to convince all the judges and potential investors that we were not only World Wide Finalist material, but also that we had an amazing story to share…
We came out that day as UK winners, and we cannot even contemplate how many amazing opportunities will come about from this. Without the help of people like Natasha from Microsoft, Setsquared, Ignite and Exeter Innovation centre- who gave us incredible amounts of support from legal, accountancy and investor readiness seminars to putting up with us presenting in front of them continuously- we wouldn’t be half the team we are today.
So what now? We are working with Microsoft UK, Setsquared, Ignite, Creative England and Exeter Innovation Centre to get the working prototype onto the market and to make it a massive success. We also now have a Limited company set up called ‘Colinked’, as what we have come to realise is that our technology can be used for a number of things, from helping out in Natural disasters to replacing it as a sound system at big events! It has really been a real whirlwind adventure ever since we attended the 48 hour hack back in February, and we would have never guessed that 4 students, who had never met each other before that day could come so far, let alone be this successful. We have made it through every stage so far and the only next step is to go on to win the World Wide Finals… Bring on Russia!
Their story clearly showcases how businesses and partners can start up in the most unlikely of places, and it takes real perseverance, talent and drive to make a start-up a success. I know this team will go on to do great things, and I have no doubt that they will be a stand out team at the World Wide Finals. People are already realising the teams potential and are commenting about the clear innovation and talented minds behind this app.
‘This is a huge win for Microsoft, as this clever use of technology shows how Windows Phone applications can be innovative and push existing boundaries. If this application is executed perfectly once it hits the market, this could become a killer app that Microsoft has been waiting for to populate its market space.’ (Brad Sams, Neowin)
We in the UK are proud to have these gifted students representing our country. The app is not out yet, but the team is hoping to launch in June, well ahead of the Imagine Cup finals which takes place in July, so watch this space! If you've been inspired to start building on Windows 8, download the SDK for all the free tools you need.
Nokia and Microsoft have launched a new programme seeking innovative Windows Phone 7.5 apps to feature in their latest advertising campaign. Now whilst this is open to all developers it would be great to see some UK Student apps featured! If you fancy the chance to promote your app to consumers throughout the UK for free then why not give it a shot!
What’s involved? We’re looking for innovative apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace that have recently been published by UK developers (especially students) to feature in the latest advertising campaigns. We want to see your amazing apps that will delight UK consumers in the following categories: casual games, kids, family, health and fitness, shopping, social, travel, and utilities.
Submit your app and it could be featured in an upcoming promotion – plus selected apps will be showcased in our Windows Phone & Nokia ad campaigns, including online banner ads, featured placement in the Windows Phone Marketplace, public relations and media outreach and in upcoming events and social media activities.
Microsoft and Nokia will review and choose new apps each month to feature in the campaigns but you'll have to be quick – the deadline for the next two months is fast approaching.
Deadline for submission*:
Find out how easy it is to get started, and apply today.
* New submissions are reviewed monthly. Not all apps submitted will be selected for the campaign.
Got talking to Tim Rogers and I was staggered to see what he has done in a very short space of time. Its a great story, especially as he is not a Computer Science student. Have a read of Tim’s experiences and let me know what you think.
On these platforms, I’ve always found the learning curve to be too steep to learn the native code and so the user experience of my apps has never been brilliant. However, when I made the jump onto the Windows Phone platform this was not necessary – things just fell into place and I found it very easy to get up and running with the drag and drop design and pretty simple coding.
In just a few months, I’ve built a number of apps that I never thought I would be able to create so quickly. I’ve made a news app for my university, University College London, using one of the many great free templates available on the Internet, SocialViewer. But my main success and my proudest achievement has been with soundboards that I’ve built. Without doubt, soundboards are one of the staple parts of the app ecosystem! I made these from scratch, learning the C# code I needed as I went along, and they’ve turned out to be really good.
I’ve had by far the best developer experience on the Microsoft platform in publishing as well as in the developing itself. On iOS, there are all sorts of bizarre profiles and certificates you have to use to submit to the App Store. Android is similar but a little better, requiring you to use command line tools to sign your apps. But Windows Phone makes this incredibly easy, you don’t even have to think about it – you just build the app directly in Visual Studio with one click and it’s ready to go – just upload the .XAP file to App Hub, the Marketplace developer portal and you can be on the Marketplace. From Visual Studio, you can also try your app on your own phone if you’ve got one! What’s more, there are great prizes you can get if you’re a developer in the UK just for making apps, whatever you’re building – Microsoft runs the Windows Phone Incentive which gets you points for each app which can then be exchanged for serious prizes – including an Xbox (my personal choice!) which I’m just waiting for now – not bad!
If you’re a student like me, you can get all this experience for nothing – the chance to learn, be creative and maybe even make some money – through DreamSpark. All you have to do is identify yourself as a student, and then you can submit to the Marketplace without paying the $99 subscription and download the Windows Phone Developer Tools for free as well – you’ll be going in no time.
All in all, I’d highly recommend trying Windows Phone development for yourself, whether you’re a programming expert or a complete novice – whatever stage you’re at, there will be a path to make something brilliant and you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself and learn in the process. You can see everything I’ve built on the Marketplace!
We know you love the way Windows Phone puts People First. Do you want to win one? Course you do! We have put together a competition for those people who like writing Apps for mobile devices. With our latest programme, only available to students aged 16 or over in the UK, we want to encourage you to write lots of Apps and submit them via App Hub into the Marketplace.
For EVERY app you write, during the periods of the competition, (see the detailed terms and conditions here) you’ll have a chance to win one of 100 Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phones. We also want to reward those who write top quality Apps so we are complimenting the random prize draw with a judged competition, the top prize being a trip to our offices to spend a day honing your skills and your Apps with our deep technical experts.
Putting it simply
To enter the competition you simply need to register with your LiveID, App Hub Publisher name, preferred contact email address and mobile phone number and that’s it. Obviously you then need to publish Apps to have a chance of winning.
You may have seen the recently released Consumer Preview of Windows 8, giving you a taste of what our new Operating System has to offer. You may have also downloaded the developer preview or seen some of the sessions from our BUILD conference.
Getting started with Windows 8
This spring we’re running a series of overview sessions for developers across the UK. Join us to get the inside story on how best to take advantage of these opportunities and get ahead of the game on your app building.
Now whilst these are aimed at Professional Developers I think you as students would benefit as well. Here are the initial events and I’ll keep you informed as we do more activity around Windows 8
Hi there, my name is Lucas Courtney and I’m a student of Gameplay design and Production at Staffordshire University. Entering into my third year at the university I came to the point where I had to decide what subject or problem my dissertation would look to focus on – which in an industry as varied as that of Games can be quite a daunting task. So I began looking back and thinking what developments have excited me most over the years and came up with the release of Microsoft’s Kinect.
This technology promised whole new methods of human-computer interaction, theoretically allowing designers such as myself to help bend and break the boundaries further and further with whole new arrays of mechanics and features. Over time however, I felt it proved less and less with its catalogue of sports and party games how far the system was able to show us new ground, creating that all important question –what’s causing the problem? Thinking about this I came up with a theory, by relying only on gesture based mechanics for gameplay the boundaries pushed forward become coupled with new ones being erected directly behind. So this is how I came to the topic of my study, I aimed to show that by introducing a traditional controller to the motion capture system of the Kinect we can further increase the levels of interactivity available with the system.
This is how I found myself in early September of 2011 downloading Microsoft’s Kinect SDK with a concerned expression on my face. Having only tinkered with XNA the previous summer for a few weeks and with no formal education on the language I felt that I was in for a steep learning curve if I wanted to tinker around with this complicated array of sensors. I quickly discovered however, that the tools provided by Microsoft and the support of the communities surrounding the development of the sensor made this task far easier than I was originally expecting. With only a few lines of code in the provided Visual Studio IDE I was able to pull out skeletal information from the sensors wonderful NUI library and begin designing the test procedures that I would put subjects through. My tests were relatively simple, asking users to take part in an increasingly difficult target shooting exercise and then a tracing exercise which asked subjects to trace over simple images displayed on the screen. Each of these tests were completed with three different control schemes, one where the user used only gesture based controls, another where the subject used only a controller and a third where the subject used a combination of each to complete the tasks. The recorded results for each test were then compared to show which system proves the easiest and most accurate to use.
As you can probably guess yourselves, I’m expecting the standard control system to prove the better control method of the three but more importantly that the combination system proves more effective than that of gestures alone- the preliminary results I’ve recorded so far currently supporting these hypotheses. By showing traditional controllers provide a more accurate interface I hope to show that this system rather than being forgotten, should be better integrated- perhaps with a redesigned controller similar to Nintendo’s Wii Nunchuck which will allow designers for the system more options and leave players less exasperated when trying to perform simple actions such as moving around an environment.
Upon completion of my research I intend on creating an application which better displays the possibilities inherent in combining the two methodologies in the way of a simple first person shooter – the player being able to move around the environment using the controller’s right analogue stick whilst being able to look around the world by locking the player’s camera to a crosshair defined by where the player points at on the screen – similar to that of a light gun. Within this framework I intend on implementing further systems which will display the possibilities created by gesture based mechanics when movement controls are taken away and placed on the controller – such as menu systems, shotgun cocking and possibly even swordplay.
I finish my degree later this year and plan on pursuing a career in the industry as a gameplay designer and scripter. I’m a believer that above all else designers in the games industry must be willing to explore and provide captivating and intuitive mechanics coupled with narratives which better explain and explore the world around us. If you wish to get in touch or follow my research, feel free to find me at www.Codemonkey87.co.uk where I’ll be glad to explain my research further and answer any questions.
We recently “supported” Global Game Jam and we thought you might be interested in a guest post from a team from Nottingham Trent University - This Statement is False - who developed a game called ‘FLERBS’ XNA and won the best game award.
So a quick intro bio of the teams skill sets, experiences and how they went about developing an XNA app within 48 hours!
All members contributed to the level creations.
Why did you attend the game jam?
Patrick :- I attended the Jam as I have been doing for several years now, I enjoy the challenge of the limited time frame and seeing so many awesome games being produced in such a short time frame.
Frank:- I attended to do something out of the ordinary and challenging and learn a bit about game development.
Danielle:- I believed that joining a team from DevSoc to go to the Global Game Jam in Birmingham was a great opportunity in gaining experience and furthering my skills as a games programmer.
What skills did you use were these taught, learnt or was this something new?
Patrick :- the main thing's I learnt from this jam were related to team management and how to get everyone to produce components that would work together. it was much more difficult than it looks.
Frank:- I learnt how to animate mainly and do art but thank god they had Photoshop, I know alot about Photoshop.
Danielle:- Most of the skills I contributed to making the game (sprite animation and sound effects) were totally new and learnt within the first half of the event.
What technology did you use? i.e. Visual Studio, Xbox controllers etc..
Patrick:- XNA 4.0, VS2010, XBOX 360 controllers, GIMP 2.0, Audacity.
Frank:- I used photoshop mainly and the level editor that Patrick made.
Danielle:- I used Visual Studio 2010, XNA Game Studio 4.0, Xbox 360 controllers, and Audacity.
What were the outcomes?
Patrick An awesome game!, that and a better understanding of team management.
Frank:- I knew that when Patrick, team leader thing, was happy with it, then I was happy with it, but I definitely need to learn more about tile sets and the art could have been a lot better from my part, but it was useable.
Danielle:- As a whole we created a really fun and addictive multi-player game. Got a sound effect stuck in your head? You can blame me for that one!
What next? Are you thinking of building Windows Phone app or finishing of the xna programme, thinking about PC or Xbox opportunity?
Patrick:- looking at entering the next Jam either developing an XNA game or a windows phone game, and would be happy to enter if an event was organised specificity for it.
Frank:- With a team? Whatever's happening at the next jam.
Danielle:- There might be a possibility of a remake of the game from scratch (for Xbox 360), but I would love to start learning to make games and apps for my Windows Phone 7.
What are the teams members aspirations future career intentions?
Patrick :- continue on with the Phd, and continue jamming.
Frank:- I want to be a teacher funnily enough.
Danielle:- Being the only member of the team who is not studying a computer science degree of some variety, but a Forensic Science (Physical) degree instead, I want to one day become a Forensic Ballistics expert. I will always be looking to enhance my coding skills though as I find it really enjoyable.
They have a website if you are interested: - http://www.devsoc.co.uk/, lots of pictures on Flickr:- http://www.flickr.com/photos/75666795@N03/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/75352867@N06/. Alternatively watch them on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCB15D86703073568&feature=view_all
So I guess our message is – GO FOR IT! it always impresses me the skills and abilities most students have. Believe in yourself and its amazing what you can achieve.
Applications are now open!
The Microsoft Student Partner Programme recognises top young minds from around the world that are passionate about technology. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to develop real-world skills to help you succeed in your future career, to help others learn about the technology of today and tomorrow, and to connect with other like-minded students, all whilst having a ton of fun along the way. The program is our way of encouraging students who are interested in building a closer relationship with Microsoft, and those who are simply hooked on technology, or talking about it to others to develop their skills further.
CLICK HERE TO APPLY! This downloads an Excel spreadheet for you to complete – then send it back to me here on email@example.com and we’ll be in touch!
So what exactly is a Microsoft Student Partner?
As a team we are responsible for helping students and start-ups design, create and publish great quality apps for Windows 8, Windows Azure and Windows Phone. An MSP’s role is to help us achieve this by:
So we are looking for students who:
We do want to encourage discussion and debate about technology and hence your experiences and opinions are extremely valuable. If you want to share your passion and develop industry-leading skills, we want to hear from you.
What will you get in return?
As part of your role as an MSP you will receive the following
How do we select MSPs?
The application process will open in August 2012 and we’ll review applications in September. Subsequent selection will take place until the end of December 2012.
To consider applying for the MSP Program, you must be:
What are we looking for?
All MSPs should have the following basic qualities:
What’s the fine print?
How to apply?
Applications for the 2012-2013 Academic Year are now open. To apply for the Microsoft UK MSP programme, please refer to the competencies required and the responsibilities above.
Complete the application form by clicking here. This downloads an Excel spreadheet for you to complete – then send it back to me here on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch!
·You will need to provide contact details from an academic member of your department or the professional who you have worked with in the technology industry
For all questions regarding the Microsoft UK program, please email email@example.com
Haven’t got the first clue about how to monetise your app? Thinking about ads but not sure where to start or what’s involved? Mark Allan from Ranyart Systemsshares his experiences so far – his Manchester United app is not only the top rated free app in the UK, it’s also the top rated sports app in the world.
“When I did the initial Manchester United app I decided to put it out there for free to get the numbers up – I thought I’d figure out monetisation later on. After a while I dropped in Microsoft pubCenter ads to see how that would go. It didn’t make me lots of money but it was more about getting my app in front of people. Now I’ve got 50k downloads I get a reasonable income from it. The new version has an extended range of ad providers including Nokia Ad Exchange and a couple of others like the adduplex where all the apps that use that ad exchange run ads for each other – so there’s no money in and no money out unless you choose to run an ad rather than exchange. It’s more about getting your app in front of people.
All of the ad providers are reasonably easy to integrate although a couple of providers are a bit buggy. pubCenter and Nokia are trivial for example. I put some effort in to build some code that balances how often the ad providers work so I can keep an eye on revenues and send info to the app to base towards Nokia or pubCenter depending on what’s working and what categories are effective – you need to have some control over the ads and how they’re served up to your users. There are open source controlsthat do the same sort of thing around balancing so you don’t have to go and create your own like I did. All the providers give you access to the inventory of suppliers so you have a list of advertisers ready and waiting, you don’t have to find any. You can filter them by territory and if you have business intelligence from your stats like their gender, location and age then you can provide that information through a control which will improve your performance. For example you can filter on health or sports based apps to choose to run ads that are aligned to your app category and what your users are interested in. That’s where the fine tuning (balancing) comes in. I get around 200k impressions a day – about half my users are coming back regularly which is really good retention even though the app isn’t ranked at the very top. What makes them come back? I update the content regularly like news so if people have pinned the app to the start screen then it’s a great way to encourage them to pop back in and get the latest news. It really encourages people to keep launching the app.
I’ve got a 2 pronged approach to marketing – when I wrote the app I decided I was going to put lots of effort into links to matches and commentary and making it a really good app. It helped that it gets so highly rated – it’s still at about 4.9 stars on average. The other approach is when I wrote the app I spent a while on social media like Linked In and Man U forums and just told people about it. That seeding helped it climb up the charts. Once you’re in the top 10 or so the app starts to market itself. I use Distimo for reporting and it told me I’ve been promoted twice in India and once in the UK Store just in the past week. I did all my marketing with no budget, but investing in marketing is the next step really, so watch this space!”
The session will take place at our Cardinal Place offices in Victoria, London and will be deliberately kept to a small and interactive meeting to help explore the many aspects of the Windows Azure platform and technology stack and to make sure you get a chance to ask lots of questions.
• Creating highly-available, infinitely scalable, multi-tier, games using Windows Azure as a rich “Platform as a Service” environment
• Authenticate and manage users across multiple devices with minimal effort
• Designing highly scalable multiplayer game running across cloud networks and data centres
• Perform post game analysis using big data techniques such as cloud based data warehousing and Hadoop
• Create, stream and managing on-demand video
There is no cost to attend this event and we’ll even lay on some refreshments.
Monday 1st July, 2013, Microsoft Offices, Meeting Room No 5, Cardinal Place, 80-100 Victoria Street, London. SW1E 5JL
1:30pm – Registration and coffee
2:00pm – Briefing starts
3:30pm – Short coffee break
5:30pm – Briefing ends
Register to attend now by sending an email too firstname.lastname@example.org.