There's a dancing koala bear running around this auditorium. One hell of a powerful fog machine is filling the room with smoke. And before long, a man is going to walk down the aisle playing a didgeridoo. But there's no doubt that I'm in the right place. The guy wearing a varsity jacket that says “1337” on the back is one clue. Another is the massive cheer that envelops the room at the mention of the Higgs boson. “It's been a good week to be a geek,” says the Australian comedian emcee-ing the Imagine Cup closing ceremony in Sydney. And I suppose it has.
The project that ended up winning the software design category of the Microsoft Imagine Cup worldwide finals in Sydney, Australia, and, consequently, the honor of taking home the shiny silver Cup itself, started innocently enough. A group of students from Ukraine noticed that several athletes at their school were hearing impaired, and they wanted to help them be able to communicate better. That desire turned into a pair of gloves, absolutely loaded with sensors, that can understand sign language gestures and translate them into text-based and audio speech with 90 percent accuracy.
Using both the military and software sides of their education, a team of Polish military students studying computer engineering at Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna (Military University of Technology) presented at the Imagine Cup here in Sydney an app that uses the built-in magnetometer in a Windows phone to detect the magnetic signature of land mines buried in the ground.