The Microsoft Imagine Cup is a competition that encourages students to solve the world's toughest problems.

Visual impairment is one of those, and Team Mobile Eye from AUT took on the challenge. Their winning solution is a mobile app to assist people with visual impairment to “see” the world around them, through a combination of computer intelligence and crowd-sourced audio support. 

Congratulations to Team Mobile Eye for winning the Imagine Cup NZ 2012.   

Team Mobile Eye explains their solution.

It was an intense competition this year. From an initial 400 entries across the country, four very strong teams were chosen from to contest the final stage of the NZ 2012 contest. These were Thought-Wired, Connect, Aura and Mobile Eye. You're all awesome.

Imagine Cup NZ 2012 finalists celebrate.

For those that attended I know you’d agree that the competition was massive – we were delighted to host more than 1,000 people to enjoy the event in the Auckland Town Hall. What great enthusiasm for these innovators who will be hi-tech leaders in NZ's future.

Auckland Town Hall crowd

Thank you for making Microsoft Imagine Cup is the premier student competition in New Zealand.

Mobile Eye will go on to represent New Zealand at the worldwide Microsoft Imagine Cup finals in Sydney in July. I was lucky enough to attend last year’s competition in New York and it was an amazing experience with hundreds of students from all over the globe coming together to use technology to help solve serious problems. We're backing Mobile Eye all the way!

Update (July 2012): Team Mobile Eye went on to reach the top six in the global finals, in competition with top entrants from 75 countries - an amazing result, and well-deserved.

Introducing Clare Curran, Labour Spokesperson for ICT.

The judges on the day were Clare Curran, Labour Spokesperson for ICT (above), Kayo Lakadia, Co Founder, OneBeep – Winners of Imagine Cup NZ 2011 and top-6 global finalist, Greg Davidson, CEO, Datacom, and Candace Kinser, CEO, NZICT Group. As always, it was a difficult decision to choose the one team to represent New Zealand, and the questions were tough.

Greg Davidson, CEO of Datacom, asks a question.

Datacom generously offered a Scholarship Award for the second year running, which is open to students in any of the top twenty finalist teams in the 2012 Microsoft NZ Imagine Cup competition. The award includes an internship at the company.

On behalf of Microsoft, I would like to give a big thank-you to all our teams, participants, helpers, supporters, judges, and everyone involved with the event.

More about the winners and the finalists

Each of these teams has achieved so much, we are delighted to profile their work here.

Team Mobile Eye, studying at the Auckland University of Technology

Visual impairment is a significant health problem across the globe. Every 5 seconds one person in the world goes blind. Although 80 percent of visual impairment is preventable, for the 45 million blind people across the globe, prevention is no longer the cure. In New Zealand, the number of blind people is projected to grow from 12,000 today, to as much as 18,000 in 2020. Vision loss robs people of their well-being and presents a significant economic cost.  We have developed software designed to provide assistance to blind New Zealanders. The application, Mobile Eye, is designed to provide the user with an added richness of information. It can take on a multitude of uses simply based on the needs of the user. It is the team’s intention that this technology will assist the individual in the areas of navigation, shopping and even simple day to day activities that can benefit from a greater awareness of surroundings.

Team Thought-Wired, studying at the University of Auckland

Thought-Wired NOUS is an integrated solution designed to restore abilities to those who lack them. Its primary function is to empower individuals with severe physical disabilities in communication and interaction capacities. It allows people who are unable to speak to communicate with anybody using the mind alone. Using NOUS individuals with disabilities can communicate with their family and friends offline in their place of residence or anywhere else as well as online over the Internet. Besides communication, NOUS opens unlimited possibilities for our users via an extensible platform. Additional capabilities can be anything from controlling simple devices at home to education, mobility and entertainment applications.

Team Aura, studying at the University of Auckland

A non-invasive Infrared Imaging solution to detect abnormalities in breathing. Team Aura is set to revolutionise the diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA affects 1.2 billion people worldwide, and an Aura module consists of an advanced algorithm that detects breathing patterns of a patient through innovative monitoring technology. This information can then be easily accessed by medical professionals and patients alike through the Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform, allowing the improved efficient diagnosis of OSA.

Team Connect, studying at the University of Auckland

Transparent Communication Network (TCN) - Christchurch earthquake, Japan tsunami, Thailand flooding. 2011 was known as the year of disasters – what do they have in common? Immediate communication failure.  If you’re in a disaster zone, the first thing you’ll want to do is connect with loved ones; and that goes for everyone else around you. High traffic causes massive congestion to any remaining cell towers and telcos often struggle to keep communication up and running for days, or even weeks. As the first 72 hours are crucial, any downtime can be catastrophic.   We are developing a communication system that, unlike traditional solutions, will respond immediately in the critical hours following a disaster. Our solution will keep you connected to loved ones when you need them the most.

Article by Scott Wylie, Director Developer & Platform Group, Microsoft New Zealand Limited