EIT Digital Master School student Huahua Tian is runner up in the Imagine Cup World Finals. This annual Microsoft sponsored ‘Olympics of Technology’, tasks student developers from all over the world to resolve some of the world’s toughest challenges. The innovation that brought Tian and her two friends to a runner up position, winning 2500 USD on prize money Azure credits, is called Wellmask. This is an artificial intelligence social mask that makes social interaction under COVID-19 easier and more fun.
For the nineteenth annual Imagine Cup, two million students from 163 countries, who participated in the 2021 Imagine Cup, took the challenge to bring an idea to life that tackles a local or global issue in one of four competition categories: Earth, Education, Healthcare, and Lifestyle. Projects are being judges on the innovative use of Microsoft Azure Technology, accessibility and inclusion and marketability as a business idea. The prize they compete for is 10.000 USD, Azure credits and four spots in the World Championship.
Tian, a student of the EIT Digital Master School programme Design (Aalto University and KTH University), learned about this competition when searching for internships. She was doing this together with two undergraduate study friends from Chinese universities. “Currently we are finding Internships, so we pay close attention to the websites of big-name companies. One of our team members found the competition information on the website.”
Tian participated with her team DataMasker in the category Lifestyle. The team got through round 1 in January 2021, received first prize as well in the Microsoft Imagine China Grand Final, had been one of the 39 teams in the Imagine Cup world finals round one and ended as one of the top twelve teams in the world in the Imagine Cup World Finals Round two.
Runner up position
While DataMasker did not make it to the final for teams for the Imagine Cup World Championship in May, Tian is happy with the runner up position. “We gave it our best shot and made a good achievement. We won 2500 USD prize money and 1000 USD in Microsoft Azure credits in the world final competition. For me, I won a tacit team and nice buddies in the same boat, I learned how to make online collaboration work and time management effectively. Last but not least, I gained a strong network with talents and professionals from all over the world.”
“What matters is the experience I had and especially the new connections I’ve made. The Imagine Cup is more than just a technology competition, there’s even more opportunity to share your tech ideas for some of today’s most pressing global challenges. I was impressed by innovative projects made by passionate game changers around the world. I received tools, resources, learning materials, and mentors from Microsoft. After this competition, I became a part of an elite international community of students who have shown remarkable creativity and innovation to push technology forward. This priceless experience will open up lots of doors for me.”
The innovation Wellmask is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that obliges people to wear a mask. The downside of this is that these masks challenge effective communication. The masks decrease the audibility and block facial expressions. The Artificial Intelligence social mask Wellmask, based on semantic extraction & symbol communication, should overcome these challenges. “Wellmask,” says Tian, makes face mask communication easier and happier. “Our solution is making a face mask with a new user interface, presenting visual symbols on the face mask based on semantic extraction, this natural interface, to bridge the communication gap, making social interaction under COVID-19 more fun.”
EIT Digital Master School lessons
Tian says that she could not have come so far without the EIT Digital Master School background. “EIT Digital Master School provided me with a strong technical entrepreneurial education. During school, I have met serial entrepreneurs, business partners, top researchers, and other students and teachers from around Europe. We exchange ideas, they inspired me a lot and let me feel the endless creativity. They made me push a little harder, to learn something new and start considering how to make the world we live in better. Especially, the entrepreneurship courses helped me develop a reasonable and clear business development process for our product, which made us earn high scores in business feasibility aspects in the competition.”
The finals of the Imagine Cup mark a beginning for Tian as an entrepreneur. “I will work on refining our product and exploring more business models. In the future, we will optimise the function for different groups, such as adding a lip-read feature for the hearing impaired. At the visual design level, we are considering designing more visual symbol sets for various scenarios, such as hospital scenarios, shopping scenarios. Our ultimate goal is to build a WellMask community，a platform where everyone can upload the emoticons they designed and sell them to others. Also, we are considering brand collaboration, like collaborate with leading Intellectual property, to make WellMask fashionable and closer to daily life.”