Tag Archives: Student

Congratulations to our 2020 Imagine Cup EMEA Regional Final winners!

Ten student teams from across nine European, Middle Eastern, and African countries pitched their tech solutions at the 2020 Imagine Cup EMEA Regional Final this week. Each team brought a project ignited from their passion and developed with purpose, impact, and Microsoft Azure. The event concluded with the selection of the top two EMEA teams moving forward to this year’s World Championship at Microsoft Build – congratulations Team The Knights from Kenya and RedWalls from Tunisia for taking home the winning spots!  


The Imagine Cup aims to inspire students to use their imagination and passion for technology to create innovative and inclusive projects that tackle some of the world’s biggest social, environmental, and health challenges. Taking on this challenge, The Knights created an automated weeding bot to help farmers eliminate the need for herbicides in their crops, and Team RedWalls created a mobile application designed for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers to help evaluate and train the user’s memory. 


Out of hundreds of EMEA submissions, the ten regional finalist teams virtually showcased their innovations to a panel of judgesto compete for prizes totaling USD20,000, Azure credits, and two spots in the 2020 World Championship. With ideas encompassing solutions in education, wildlife conservation, cancer detection, emotional wellbeing, accessibility, and more, judges had a difficult task selecting which teams to advance. 


Congratulations to all our winners and thank you to everyone who participated in bringing your passion to life! We’d also like to give a special thank you to our competition judges for their expertise and time.  


Meet the winning teams: 


World Finalist – Team The Knights, Kenya 

The Knights created an automated robot using artificial intelligence to identify and remove weeds from rows of crops. Their solution uses cameras as sensors to gather input from the environment and eliminate farmers’ need to use environmentally harmful pesticides in their weeding. 

Prizes: USD8,000, Azure credits, a spot in the 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship   


World Finalist – Team RedWalls, Tunisia 

Team RedWalls created I-Remember, a two-part mobile application designed for the wellbeing of both Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. The patient interface includes task reminders, live facial recognition, labelled photos, emergency location and call assistance, as well as memory games to help evaluate and train the user’s memory. The caregiver interface provides the same, but with supervisor features. 

Prizes: USD8,000, Azure credits, a spot in the 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship   


Runner-up – Team Wild Eye, Kenya

The team’s project, Wild Eye_KE, brings technology to the wild by monitoring and tracking animal activities. Wild Eye_KE will notify authorities if animals move away from the wildlife protected areas in an effort to reduce poaching and human interaction.

Prizes: USD2,500 and Azure credits   


Runner-upTeam Allez, Ukraine

Allez supports personal development through sports experience. The team created a mobile app which collects athlete analytics and improves communication with the coach. The aim is to maximize the performance of an athlete and help coaches grow individuals mentally ready to fight obstacles. 

Prizes: USD2,500 and Azure credits   


Runner-up – Team Vhysio, United Kingdom

Vhysio is a web application utilizing tensorflow.js, a cutting-edge browser-based Machine Learning library, to enable accessible physiotherapy for the visually impaired. Vhysio provides real-time feedback by speaking through exercises and responding to the user’s posture.

Prizes: USD2,500 and Azure credits   


Follow the journeys of our winning teams on Instagram and Twitter as they prepare for the 2020 World Championship! They’ll be competing against Asia Regional winners, team Syrinx and team Hollo, and the winners of the upcoming Americas Regional Final.  

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Meet the 2020 Imagine Cup Asia Regional Finalists

For 18 years, student developers have brought their unique technology solutions to life with Imagine Cup to make a difference in the world around them. Starting with just an idea, students form teams of one to three people and leverage Microsoft technology to develop purpose-driven applications from what they’re most passionate about.

This competition year is no different, and the journey to the 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship is kicking off with the selection of the Asia Regional Finalists! From hundreds of teams who submitted projects to the Asia Online Semifinals, 10 teams have been chosen to advance to the Asia Regional Final in Singapore this February. Encompassing solutions tackling a drug scanning app to monitor authenticity and allergens, to a real-time computer vision physiotherapy tool, to an immersive virtual reality experience so young students can learn about different cultures, these student innovations are truly incredible and have the chance to create global impact.

At the Regional Final, all teams will participate in an Entrepreneur Day and receive in-person pitch training from the U.S. Department of Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST), and compete for prizing totaling over USD20,000 in cash plus Azure credits. The top two teams will win spots in the 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship in Seattle, Washington to present their projects live for the chance to take home USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.

We’re excited to introduce this year’s Asia Regional Finalist teams!



Tanah Airku: Tanah Airku is immersive learning media using books, AR, and VR to deliver a complete cultural learning experience for children from 1st to 3rd grade.



Seguro Droga: The team developed an Android application which lets patients scan a drug’s RFID card to determine authenticity using Hyperledger Fabric on Azure VM, manage their drug purchases, and set filters for allergens.



EDVR: EDVR is a voice-controlled immersive Virtual Reality experience for dyslexic students enrolled in STEM education. EDVR aims to solve the problem of imparting STEM education for students with learning disabilities by enabling them to visualize, comprehend, and conceptualize.


Hong Kong

Hollo: Hollo is a Social Technology Enterprise based in Hong Kong. The team is developing a comprehensive tool for NGOs, therapists, and youth living with mental illness to advance therapy practices using technology such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.



AI Composition System: Using AI, The Muse Artificial Intelligence Composer is a low-cost solution to create music for commercial use, providing a new solution for some commercial music creations that have lower creative requirements and are more cost effective. 



NUTONE: The team’s device restores the ability to speak for patients who have lost their voice (through reasons such as laryngectomes).



FaceTag: The team created a solution for bottlenecked gateways in a daily commute: specifically the entry and exit points at metro stations. FastTag tollways enable commuters to simply walk in, have their face scanned, and have the toll deducted automatically from their wallet.

Team Zest


Dr. Rehab: Dr. Rehab is a mobile application for real-time physiotherapy supervision through computer vision. Users can access the rehabilitation exercises assigned to them, follow guided instructions, and receive feedback while completing their exercises.

Tulibot Team


Tulibot: Tulibot is an integrated assistive device to bridge the communication gap for the deaf by providing a smart glove (gesture to text) and smart glasses (speech to text).



Vibra-Intellisense: Vibra-IntelliSense aims to help companies transition from traditional preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance through the use of sensors. The sensors capture machine vibrations to detect anomalies and recommend maintenance efforts.

Congratulations to our finalists! Follow their competition journey on Twitter and Instagram as they head to Singapore in February to compete in the Regional Final, co-located with Microsoft Ignite | The Tour. Students will have the opportunity to connect with the tech community and get hands-on with the latest in developer tools and cloud technologies.

Are you passionate about using tech for social good to solve some of today’s most pressing challenges? Imagine Cup Asia and EMEA submissions are now closed but Americas regional submissions are open until January 15! Register now for a chance to join students across the globe making an impact with technology.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

HR execs and politicians eye student debt relief

Student debt relief is not only an election issue in the 2020 race for president, but a problem for HR managers. Some firms, including a hospital in New York, are doing something about it.

Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital began offering a student loan relief program this year for its non-union employees. It employs 1,500 people and provides employees 32 vacation days a year.

Most employees don’t take all that time off, said Dan Bengyak, vice president of administrative services at the not-for-profit medical center with hospitals in Newburgh and Cornwall. He oversees HR, IT and other administrative operations.

In February, the hospital detailed its plan to apply paid time off to student debt relief. Employees in the Parents Plus Loan program had the option as well. The hospital set two sign-up windows, the first in May. Forty employees signed up. The next window is in November.

The program “has been extremely well received and it definitely has offered us a real competitive advantage in the recruiting world,” Bengyak said. He believes it will help with retention as well.

The maximum employee contribution for student debt relief is $5,000. The hospital also provides tuition help. This combination “offers significant financial assistance,” to employees seeking advanced degrees, Bengyak said.

A SaaS platform handles payments

The hospital uses Tuition.io, a startup founded in 2013 and based in Santa Monica, Calif. The platform manages all of the payments to the loan services. Its users pay a lump sum to cover the cost of the assistance. The employer doesn’t know the amount of the employee’s debt. The platform notifies the employee when a payment is posted.

It definitely has offered us a real competitive advantage in the recruiting world.
Dan BengyakVP of administrative services, Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital

Payments can be made as a monthly contribution, a lump sum on an employment anniversary or other methods, according to Scott Thompson, CEO at Tuition.io.

Tuition.io also analyzes repayment data, which can show the program’s retention impact, according to Thompson.

“Those individuals who are participating in this benefit stay longer with the employer — they just do,” he said. 

About one in five students has over $100,000 in debt and is, by definition, broke, Thompson said. They can’t afford an employer’s 401K program or buy a house. Employees with a burdensome loan “are always looking for a new job that pays you more money because you simply have to,” he said.

Legislation in pipeline

The amount of student loan debt is in excess of $1.5 trillion and exceeds credit card and auto debt combined, said Robert Keach, a past president at the American Bankruptcy Institute, in testimony at a recent U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on bankruptcy. More than a quarter of borrowers are in delinquency or default, he said. Student loan debt is expected to exceed $2 trillion by 2022.

“High levels of post-secondary education debt correlate with lower earnings, lower rates of home ownership, fewer automobile purchases, higher household financial distress, and delayed marriage and family formation, among other ripple effects,” Keach said.

Congress is considering legislation that may make it easier for firms to help employees with debt. One example is the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, a bill that has bipartisan support in both chambers. It would enable employers to give up to $5,250 annually per employee, tax free.

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CAE’s training simulators make us safer – from the hospitals to the heavens | Transform

The birth was seconds away. The mother rested on her back while a medical student sat at the foot of the bed, blue surgical gloves on her hands – a scene common to delivery rooms everywhere. Except the mom was a manikin, her fetus was a manikin and the student wore Microsoft HoloLens.

Using the device, the student looked at the mother’s abdomen and saw a hologram of the fetus inside the womb before it rotated and descended the birth canal. Then, her mixed-reality training session got tricky.

Suddenly, the baby’s shoulders became stuck inside the mother, a risky complication – but an emergency purposely triggered by a classroom instructor. The student had to act fast. She placed her hands on the tiny manikin and gently freed the shoulders, safely completing another digital delivery.

CAE LucinaAR – the first human-patient simulator augmented with HoloLens – simultaneously delivered another digital lesson. The technology comes from CAE, a Canadian company that offers virtual-to-live training solutions to assess human performance, improving overall safety from health care to civil aviation to defense operations.

A medical student practices delivering a baby with the use of a virtual-to-live patient simulator and Hololens.
A medical student practices delivering a baby with CAE LucinaAR and HoloLens.

“CAE operates in three sectors where the stakes are high, where there’s no room for error and where the people need to be properly trained to be ready for unlikely situations that could lead to catastrophes,” says Dr. Robert Amyot, president of CAE Healthcare, one of CAE’s three business segments.

“On-the-job training is dangerous and costly,” adds Amyot, a cardiologist by trade. “So, we train pilots to make flying safer. We train the forces in our defense and security division to make them more prepared for their missions. And we train clinicians and health care providers to improve patient safety.”

By going digital, each of those training regimens is becoming more precise at pegging and addressing human vulnerabilities, says Marc Parent, the CEO at CAE.

In the realm of aviation, CAE guides pilots to prep for potential airborne adversities by using individualized simulations built with artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).

A new pilot trains on a CAE flight simulator.
A new pilot trains on a CAE flight simulator.

“Although it’s the safest mode of transportation in the world, pilots have long been assessed in a subjective way,” Parent says. “But now, by leveraging the data that our simulators are giving us – powered by the cloud – we can give them an objective assessment in real time. That’s invaluable.

“When the pilots go into our simulator, we are able to give them personalized insights into their skills, into how they perform different operational practices. This raises their level,” Parent says. “And practice makes perfect.”

Nominate your school for Microsoft’s Showcase Schools Program |

School leaders committed to improving student outcomes benefit when they share best practices with one another. Over my time working in education, I’ve continued to be inspired by school leaders who push the boundaries of innovation and strive to set new benchmarks for what’s possible. It’s clear that the most important part of the journey is about people. The role of the school leader in making positive change to the school, community and for students, is critical to ongoing, sustained success.

Above: Hardenhuish School

The Microsoft Showcase Schools program provides an opportunity for diverse yet like-minded leaders to learn from and support one another’s journey through transformation. It’s designed to support innovative school leaders who commit to bringing their vision to life – through the development of a growth mindset in their educators, students, parents, local community, and in themselves. I’ve had the great opportunity to engage with many of these school leaders and to visit their schools over recent years. I am always impressed by the energy, commitment and undeniable passion they have to make their schools incredible places to learn.

While no two Showcase Schools look the same, many share similar challenges. In the Showcase Schools program, success and best practices are shared and amplified through a global network of school leaders. These innovative leaders work together to solve transformation’s toughest conundrums and celebrate momentum and successes as they reflect, grow and develop along the way.

School Leaders love the opportunity to engage directly with Microsoft through the Showcase Schools program, not to mention how easily the program helps develop deep connections with education thought leaders around the world.

If you are a school leader committed to transforming your school and increasing student outcomes, Microsoft encourages you to nominate your school for consideration in the Showcase Schools program. If accepted into the program, you will join a community of passionate and knowledgeable school leaders, innovate alongside Microsoft product teams and partners, and amplify your school’s success through tours and events. Other school leaders will look to you to provide them with an education transformation vision for tomorrow – today.

“The work we are doing at Renton Prep is disruptive. That means there are challenges, roadblocks along the way, and it’s hard work,” says Michelle Zimmerman, Director Renton Prep in Renton, Washington, USA. “But the reward of being a member of the Showcase Schools community, knowing that other educators are going through the same thing, makes it worth it because we can tackle some of those challenges together and find solutions we wouldn’t have alone.”

Microsoft is looking for schools whose leaders are innovative agents of change and who meet the following criteria:

The school demonstrates: 

  • Thought leadership in at least one area of educational transformation, as outlined in the Microsoft K-12 Education Transformation Framework.
  • Innovative use of technology, using Microsoft solutions, to drive positive impact and student success with 21st century skills.

The school leader demonstrates: 

  • Innovation, as evidenced through the actions and attitudes of a growth mindset and commitment to the K-12 Education Transformation Framework Journey.
  • Empowerment of educators and students to innovate and exercise a growth mindset.
  • Willingness to drive efforts to connect with educators locally practices.
  • If the above criteria describe your school and your leadership style, follow these three easy steps to nominate your school for consideration in Microsoft’s Showcase Schools Program for 2018 and 2019.

1.  Join the Microsoft Educator Community and complete your profile. You will need to submit the URL to your public profile as part of the nomination process. You can find your URL under Edit Profile -> Basic Information.

2. On your nomination form, provide the public URLs for any additional social media profiles you may have (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc).

3. Create a two-minute video or Sway in which you share your story of innovative educational transformation. Remember to use these prompts to guide your story:

  • This is what we thought about educational transformation before we engaged with Microsoft . . .
  • This is what we learned about educational transformation since working with Microsoft . . .
  • This is what we are doing next . . .
  • This is what we are keeping in mind . . .
  • These are our current blockers and challenges . . .

Nominations are open on a rolling basis, although some regions and countries’ nomination dates may vary based on local academic schedules. Your local Microsoft team will provide you with details once your completed nomination form is submitted.

We look forward to reviewing your school’s nomination.

Save the Date – July 25th – for the 2018 Imagine Cup World Finals!

This July, Microsoft will host bright student developer teams from across the world for the 16th annual Imagine Cup. Teams will travel to Redmond, Washington to showcase their technical innovations and compete for up to $100,000 USD, as well as a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. We are excited to announce the dates for the 2018 Imagine Cup World Finals!

Follow the action to learn more about the competing teams and tune in to see which teams will be announced as World Finalists!

July 23, 2018

The Imagine Cup World Finals kick-off at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington! The day starts with a Tech Showcase, where teams will pitch to multiple judges and the top-rated teams will move on to the next round. Imagine Cup Awards finalists in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Mixed Reality are chosen to vie for $15,000 USD.

July 24, 2018

The top 15 teams are announced and will move forward as Imagine Cup semifinalists. There is good news for all other teams – they will get a second shot in the wildcard round! The students vote which wildcard teams will be saved and have the opportunity to join the semifinals. Semifinalists present their projects to the judges, and the final 3 teams are chosen to compete in the World Championships.

July 25, 2018

Imagine Cup World Championships – Streamed Live! Tune in at 9:00am PST to watch the top 3 teams pitch to the judges, coming to you live from the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle. Who will win it all?

Save the date for the Imagine Cup World Finals to see who will win $100,000 and the glory of being the Imagine Cup champions!

Office 2011 Mac – 3 user

Have a boxed copy of office 2011 for Mac Home and student which includes 3 users.

Original installation dvd included.

£30 plus postage

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Office 2011 Mac – 3 user

4-H youth leader rocks the Hour of Code, plans to continue the movement in her community – Microsoft on the Issues

4H youth leader and Seattle Seahawk player with student in Microsoft Store in Bellevue, Washington
4-H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina, left, and Seattle Seahawks player Luke Willson participate in an Hour of Code with a student Dec. 5 at the Microsoft Store at Bellevue Square Mall in Bellevue, Washington.

Earlier this fall, Microsoft and National 4-H Council announced a partnership to support young people to be digital leaders, equipping them with the digital skills and other resources to help them make an even bigger, positive impact on their communities. Youth leaders are working with educators, community members and others to identify challenges their communities face, and to use technology to address those challenges.

Nora Medina, from Quincy High School in central Washington state, is working to inspire kids to learn to code, and help adults build digital skills to close the digital divide in her community. We caught up with Nora during Computer Science Education Week when she visited the Microsoft Store in Bellevue, Washington, alongside Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson, to coach elementary school students through their first Hour of Code. Nora and Luke used the new Minecraft tutorial for Hour of Code, called Hero’s Journey, which introduces kids to coding in a fun and engaging way. While our partnership with 4-H is wide-ranging, going beyond digital skills, computer science was the focus of this conversation with Nora:

4H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina with Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson
4-H youth leader and TEALS student Nora Medina with Seattle Seahawk Luke Willson.

How did you discover computer science?

I was introduced to coding and Code.org in middle school in an afterschool club. I started by playing with Minecraft and JavaScript. After that I got involved in Digital Tools class, which opened up more classes at my high school, where I learned web design. I realized you can do so much with your imagination and your creativity. Nothing limits you!

Why do you think learning to code is important for kids today?

Coding is everywhere! If you know coding, companies will be more inclined to hire you. You’ll have more skills to offer.

What can you tell us about your involvement with 4-H?

We’re starting a service project where the main focus is teaching adults digital skills. There’s a gap between students and parents. If we teach adults about digital skills, and why we’re on our phones so much, that can bring us closer as a community, and opens up more opportunities for parents and adults!

Microsoft is a leading supporter of Computer Science Education Week because the lack of access to computer science education threatens to widen the income gap between those who have the skills to succeed in the 21st century and those who do not, impeding students’ ability to eventually thrive in their future careers. We’re inspired by young people like Nora Medina who are stepping forward to help us, and others, address the problem.

In the United States alone, there are over 500,000 open computing jobs, however last year, less than 43,000 computer science students graduated into the U.S. workforce.  Learning to code is one of the most important steps students can take to prepare themselves to fully participate in, and benefit from, our digital economy. That’s why Microsoft Philanthropies is working to help young people and adults become creators of technology, advance their careers and grow their local economies by making computer science education and digital skills available to everyone.

Learn more, and find resources to start learning to code, or to teach others, by visiting your local Microsoft Store or https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/digital-skills/hour-of-code.

Tags: Computer Science Education Week, Hour of Code, Microsoft Philanthropies, Microsoft Store

Microsoft researchers use visual AI to make India’s roads safer – Microsoft News Center India

A nervous student gets into a car. It’s his first time behind the steering wheel. He glances anxiously at his driving instructor on his left. The instructor reassures him and starts on a set of instructions.  He urges him to turn on the ignition, slide the gear from neutral to first, and slowly release the clutch while stepping on the throttle. He also reminds him to be ready to brake if needed and to keep an eye on the rear and wing mirrors.

The scenario above is how drivers have been trained at the Institute of Driving and Traffic Research (IDTR)—a joint venture between the Department of Transport of State Governments and car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., India’s largest passenger car manufacturer. Founded in 2000, IDTR’s aim is to make Indian roads safer.

India has one of the highest number of road accidents in the world. In 2016, 17 deaths and 55 road accidents occurred every 60 minutes—one death every four minutes. The main contributing factors are poor road infrastructure, low awareness of road rules and traffic signs, and distracted and inefficient driving.

One way in which IDTR tries to address India’s dismal road safety record is by teaching safe driving, via scientifically engineered training, testing tracks of international standards and through simulators. Some aspects of IDTR’s methodology are also being used by Maruti Driving Schools, an added service offered countrywide by the dealers of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

“At IDTR, our primary focus is on providing quality training to the drivers and developing better methods of training. For this, we use technology to a great extent—simulators, and cameras. Recently, we have developed an on-board diagnostic (OBD) device used for in-car automation. This enhances quality of driving training instructions” says Mahesh Rajoria, Director IDTR  and head of Driving Schools Division at Maruti Suzuki, The driving schools network comprises of  IDTR and the Maruti Driving Schools (MDS). Collectively, IDTR and MDS have trained over three million drivers so far.

However, IDTR now has one more addition, which could change the way trainers teach students to drive cars – an inconspicuous smartphone mounted on the car’s dashboard that records both the driver and the view of the road from the front windshield. After every session, it provides detailed analysis to the instructor, which wasn’t possible earlier. The solution, made by researchers at Microsoft, is called HAMS.

HAMS: Leveraging low-cost tech to tackle road safety

HAMS, which stands for Harnessing AutoMobiles for Safety, is a virtual harness for vehicles that focusses on two factors that are critical to road safety—the state of the driver, and his or her driving relative to other vehicles.

It employs the front and back cameras of dashboard-mounted smartphone, the phone’s GPS and inertial sensors, and an On-Board Diagnostics (OBD-II) scanner, which provides information from the vehicle. Much of this data is processed locally on the smartphone itself, with an Azure-based backend being used for aggregating and visualizing the processed data. The front-camera of the smartphone looks at the driver, the back camera looks out to the front of the vehicle and based on the raw data obtained from the sensors, HAMS detects various events of interest such as driver distraction, fatigue and gaze tracking, as well as vehicle ranging, which determines whether a safe separation distance is being maintained with the vehicles in front.

HAMS monitors driver fatigue by detecting eye closure and yawns from the phone’s front camera. Eye Aspect Ratio (EAR) metric is used to detect eye closure, based on which the PERCLOS metric quantifying the percentage of time the eyes are closed is computed. Yawns are detected using the Mouth Aspect ratio (MAR) metric, which helps detect when the mouth remains open for a continuous period of at least one or two seconds. Gaze tracking, which is done through head pose estimation and eye gaze tracking, enables analyzing mirror scanning behavior, for example, to detect episodes when a driver stares ahead for a prolonged period, thereby failing to maintain awareness of their surroundings.

Vehicle ranging, aimed to prevent tailgating, is determined by delineating a bounding box around the vehicle in front as viewed through the smartphone’s back camera. Based on the size of the bounding box, the distance to the vehicle is estimated.

The success of HAMS lies in its effective architecture that performs edge-based processing of multimodal sensor data using a hybrid approach that combines machine learning with traditional techniques to balance accuracy with efficiency. Such edge-based processing enables raw data to be processed locally on the smartphone, enabling greater efficiency and minimal data usage. It also ensures privacy, since only the detections and no raw images are uploaded to the cloud.

Effective monitoring leading to actionable feedback

“Since we were already working in this direction—that is bringing technology in driving training—we were ready to go along when Microsoft researchers discussed about HAMS,” says Rajoria, recollecting the initial deployment of HAMS with Ashish Mathur from his team.

“HAMS covers parameters in driving instruction that we thought was never possible,” says a jubilant Rajoria. “Take for example, the parameter of maintaining the correct distance between the vehicle you are driving and the vehicle in the front. Now this is a very important parameter as far as the driving instruction goes. HAMS is definitely going to help us with that.”

HAMS is already being used in some cars at IDTR and instructors revisit the footage and analytics after every training session to give feedback to their students in the next session.

The vision behind HAMS

The genesis of the HAMS project goes back to a decade ago, when Principal Researcher Venkat Padmanabhan returned to India after having spent eight-and-a-half years at Microsoft Research in Redmond, USA. “The first thing that hits you, quite literally, is the traffic,” he recalls when asked about how the HAMS project came to be. “Back then, we did a project called Nericell, where we came up with an idea of using smartphones, or what was then considered to be a smartphone, to monitor road and traffic conditions. While we did succeed on many fronts—we did a small-scale deployment and our 2008 paper has garnered well over 1,000 citations and has spawned many efforts—because of the limitations of the hardware, we couldn’t really take it very far.”

All this changed in 2015, when the researchers decided to concentrate the research on road safety, narrowing down on the driver and the driving. The fast developing IoT ecosystem and the advancement of smartphone hardware with faster processors, better cameras and multiple sensors – accelerometer, gyroscope – accelerated the efforts.

“It was the summer of 2016 when we started building and deploying HAMS in over a dozen cabs at Microsoft Research office in Bengaluru—vehicles that were used to shuttle employees back and forth,” Padmanabhan recalls.

But before the successful launch of HAMS, Microsoft researchers had to face challenges on several fronts. First, since HAMS utilized edge processing that would happen directly on the smartphone, the researchers had to figure out how to process information in an intelligent way. Second, the algorithms had to be self-calibrating to work in uncontrolled environments, where, for instance, the mounting of the phone with respect to the driver could vary. The algorithms also required a fair amount of customization to define the various parameters such as vehicle tracking and ranging.

Post-doctoral researcher Akshay Uttama Nambi, who is part of the Microsoft research team that developed HAMS, elaborates on how they overcame the challenges. “Especially with vehicle ranging, where we had to identify the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in the front, the algorithms had to be efficient enough to track and identify the vehicle in real-time. We developed a hybrid approach where we mix a high computational intensive task with a low computational intensive task. This balances the load on the smartphone.”

“We identified certain features which could be reused across multiple detectors. For example, facial landmarks can be computed once for each image, and then could be used for multiple detectors such as for fatigue, gaze, etc. Thus the heavy-lifting done in extracting the facial landmarks could be used for such diverse tasks as tracking the driver’s blinking rate, detecting whether he is yawning, or whether his gaze was directed in the appropriate direction,” Nambi explains.

Immense possibilities to be explored

The possibility of HAMS goes far beyond it just being used as an aid for driver training. For instance, it could potentially be deployed during the issuance of driving licenses. Presently, just a single practical test along with a theory exam is needed to get a driving licence in India. “If HAMS is deployed, an applicant with a learner’s license can be tested over 100 or 1,000 kilometres, before the licence is granted,” says Padmanabhan.

Another area where HAMS can be put to use is in fleet management, providing stakeholders such as fleet owners or supervisors with visibility in an intelligent way. The fleet can comprise hundreds or thousands of cabs, buses, or trucks, being overseen by a supervisor.

Parents could also possibly use HAMS to monitor the driving of their teenage kids, who might be new drivers.

“Different markets can have dramatically different needs, and this is evident in the innovations in the automotive industry. While self-driving cars are being actively worked on in the West, there is a huge need in India and emerging markets to use AI in existing human-driven cars to help the driver drive safely,” says Sriram Rajamani, Managing Director, Microsoft Research India.

“There is also a huge need to improve safety of fleets such as truck fleets, bus fleets and car fleets. HAMS is an extremely interesting project because it deals with existing vehicles, and existing fleets, and explores improving safety while being frugal in terms of costs,” he adds.