Team Eyeworks storms UK Final of Microsoft Imagine Cup
A team of North East technology students will represent the UK in a major international software competition after developing a mobile application that can help to spot the early signs of sight loss.
Team Eyeworks consists of three students from Northumbria University’s School of Computing, Engineering and Information Sciences (Riccardo Viglianisi, Faizan Asghar and Vimansha Weyhenage) and Colin Squires from Newcastle College. The team won first place in the UK Final of the Microsoft Imagine Cup Software Design Competition after receiving support from Sunderland Software City to develop its idea, and will now compete in the worldwide finals in Australia this July.
The competition has again highlighted the wealth of software talent based in the region, with second placed Teesside 0x32 also coming from the North East.
Both teams entered the competition after coming through a regional heat, which was arranged by Sunderland Software City alongside Codeworks and involved an intensive ‘36 hour hack’, which included workshops and seminars designed to provide the knowledge needed to compete nationally.
The theme for the UK Final was inspired by the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals, with the students tasked with coming up with technological solutions for some of the world’s toughest problems.
Team Eyeworks’ mobile app provides a low cost way of identifying the early stages of sight loss and addresses recent studies highlighting that of the two million people living with various degrees of sight loss in the UK, 50% could have been prevented.
The app works by taking a picture of the user’s retina, which is then compared to a library of images containing retinal abnormalities, all of which are based on the Microsoft Azure online cloud. The images are then analysed using a complex series of artificial neural networks to give a probability of infection.
As there is no mobile device on the market with a suitable camera and lens package, Team Eyeworks are currently developing a lens attachment, as well as a chin rest and camera stand. With plans to get the product out to market following the worldwide finals, the team are also looking to develop the technology for other medical fields, including the detection of skin disorders.
Winning at the worldwide finals, which take place between July 6-10, would see the team pick up a top prize of over £15,000, with a second place prize of over £6,000 and a third place prize of over £3,000.
Team Eyeworks team leader Faizan Asghar, said: “The leading causes of blindness and sight loss in the developing world are cataracts, glaucoma and age related macular degeneration. Fundus cameras can easily cost thousands of pounds and having a trained practitioner on hand may not be possible in a resource strapped hospital based in a developing nation.
“M.I.R.A (Mobile Intelligent Retinal Analysis) is a combination of a physical lens attachment and software solution that can be installed onto any modern smart phone and provide the functionality of a Fundus camera and a basic expert system for the diagnosis of various sight loss causing disorders.
“Representing the UK in the worldwide finals is like a dream come true and this will most probably be the biggest achievement in all of our lifetime so far. We are so excited and happy about this opportunity and are really looking forward to going to Australia to represent the UK.”
Second place Teesside 0x32 impressed the judges with their Cloud Doctor solution, which harnesses cloud technologies to connect healthcare workers in the developing world with international specialists and doctors willing to volunteer their time to help patients on the ground.
David Dunn, chief executive officer at Sunderland Software City, said: “Having two teams from the North East come first and second in such a prestigious national competition highlights the wealth of software talent and innovation we have here in the region.
“The fact that Team Eyeworks will now go to Australia and represent the UK in the worldwide finals is extremely exciting and will help to further strengthen the region’s already impressive reputation within the international software community.”
Emilia Flockhart, communications executive at Codeworks, said: “We at Codeworks are incredibly proud of all the teams who put themselves forward to compete in the competition. They all worked exceptionally hard on their projects, and we are thrilled to see that the hard work has paid off not just for Team Eyeworks, but for many of the other teams who gained invaluable employment contacts through the competition. Having both the second and first place of the UK finals go to our North East teams is absolutely fantastic.”
Date posted: May 1, 2012