I recently came into contact with Prachaya Phaisanwiphatpong (a member of the 2007 Imagine Cup World finals winning team from Thailand) via this blog for a chat. After emailing back and forth a bit, 'Badd' (his nickname) agreed to answer a few questions about his experiences at the world finals.
I remember watching his team's final presentation of 'Live Book' (their Imagine Cup entry) at the finals in Korea. It was very impressive in it's sheer simplicity - whilst there were more technically complex entries in the Imagine Cup World Finals, Live Book is an excellent example of a single problem solved thoroughly and expertly. Using a slick, highly intuitive user interface, Live Book quite simply helps people learn to read. The program allows users to scan or photograph books / documents, and then uses OCR to pull pictures of keywords in the scanned text from the web to give the user hints as to what the words are and to make the text more interesting.
If you're interested in the Imagine Cup, or are entering this year, read on and see how Prachaya Phaisanwiphatpong feels about his Imagine Cup journey last year and his feelings on the BT Innovation Accelerator.
N: Congratulations on the IC2007 world finals win. I was impressed with your entry, particularly the rich user experience. For those who haven't yet seen it, give us an overview of what your entry does and what technologies were used.
P: Live Book is a project which will turn any textbooks into graphical and attractive one by capture real-time frame from a web camera. Imagine this, when young children cannot read textbook, they put that book in front of the web camera. Live Book software will detect and recognize the word on the book. If there's a word 'apple', there will be images and videos of apple floating over the word, and Text-to-speech technology will read the word aloud. It aims to motivate and encourage young children to learn more from any textbooks without limitation in their reading skill. Also, it directly helps illiterate people to learn reading. Main technologies we used are our invented fast-and-tremble supported OCR, WPF for doing graphical rendering, and SpeechAPI.
N: How was the BT Innovation Accelerator program? What sort of things do they do with you there?
P: Innovation Accelerator program is very a valuable experience for us. We learned business concept, the process to turn prototype into product and participate with many organization. We worked with real business professional, create a business plan and practise business presentation. In the program, we share experiences among six different countries, which each of them has an unique style of work. The lecture consist of both business and technical content. We found a good chance to see real pitch from real entrepreneur asking investment from real Venture Capital in silicon valley and listen to the success entrepreneur from previous ICIA as well.
Visit IC IA blog at : http://www.imaginecupaccelerator.com/ There are notes for many activities that we've done there.
N: Whilst on the topic of entrepreneurial-ism, there's some big success stories coming out of Imagine Cup. The 2007 Australian Finals winning team is about to hand their entry over to non-profit organisation Vision Australia to help blind people learn how to become software developers. What's next for 3KC? Have any big business opportunities opened up since the IC World Finals?
P: There are many contacts in Thailand non-profit organisation, but we didn't decide about it yet. We takes time to learn more and carefully decide to what to do when we graduated in the next few month. (Right now, we are in the last year of undergraduated study)
N: Fair enough. Your team also won a share in US$25,000. What did you spend it all on?
P: Some of us spent for invest in their current IT business. Some invests in stock market. For me, I spent with my extended family business. Yes, we love investment.
N - Having been through the process of preparing an entry for Imagine Cup, list 3 factors that you see as being crucial to success for those who are entering in 2008.
P: I will answer this with the Imagine Cup worldwide final standard. The most important factor is "sharp idea". Every entries in Imagine Cup world final are well developed and their software are well implemented. The crucial point that make each entries different is a benefit that the software will provide. The great software will directly solve the current problem in a practical and innovative way. It make an impact to the world, not just only relate or address current problem and not solve them.
The second factor is "team". If you didn't have a right team, no matter how excellent your idea is, your people will mess it up. Make sure each member has potential in their responsible function and make sure every members in team understand the idea and set goal in the same way. So, you can refine your idea and build the prototype to demonstrate your idea.
The last factor is "communication". We need to make sure that the audience, user and judge panel understand our idea correctly. Make them understand the problem clearly, your innovative way to solve and the impact. It's very important to control the audience, to make them understand everything clearly. So, they will get the accurate information within 10-15 minutes presentation, and will ask only relevant question. These three factors are the most crucial factor for me.
N: If you were entering Software Design again in 2008, what sort of world problems would you be trying to solve, given the theme is "Sustainable environment"?
P: Personally, I think it is Global Warming. However, global warming is quite very large problem and there's a lot of specific problem to solve. I will take much time to research for the top three largest portion that cause global warming, and select one of them reasonably.
N: I think you're right - this year, the teams that will do well will be the one's who can take a large, complex and address certain parts of that. You're not going to save the world in one swoop, but together we can make a very good start. Okay, let's wrap it up... finish the following sentences:
i) My favourite technology is... Internet
ii) My favourite website is... Google.com
iii) My dream job is... owning the largest and most successful software business in Thailand
iv) The best thing about winning the IC world finals was... telling the world that Thailand is the best (at least for IC2007)
v) You can tell alot about a person from their workspace. At home, my desk is... very clean
vi) At work / uni, my desk is...clean (But for my laptop desktop, OMG, it's terrible. you don't want to see it!)
vii) If I were entering IC08, the one thing I'd do different is... I would be a mentor instead. (because there's IC rule, they don't allow me to compete in software design anymore. so, I cannot be winner twice)
viii) At the closing party for the Imagine Cup world finals in Korea, I was...very fun in the bar
Thanks for your time, Badd. Please keep us posted as to how you go with your future endeavours.
EDIT: 4/3/08 - Entries are still open for the 2008 Software Design, Interoperability and Photography categories of the competition. You can register for these categories at http://imaginecup.com. The final submission date for Software Design in Australia is 2/5/08, so there's still plenty of time to get an entry together.