Physics, healthcare and imagination: meet Africa’s future


Every year, Microsoft asks university students to imagine what they could do with technology through its Imagine Cup competition — a skills-based challenge comprised of three key categories: Games, Innovation and World Citizenship. The idea is to create innovative and original software applications for Windows devices, of course.

The competition is open to students around the world and spans a period of one year, beginning with national and online competitions, and culminating at the World Finals. So here we are, in sunny Seattle (who would have thought?) with 34 teams of students from around the globe competing either in the World Citizenship competition, Gaming or Innovation. Each team has spent the past year competing at various stages and refining their product to get here.

This year, three teams from Africa made the cut for the world finals. Two in the World Citizenship competition and one in the Games competition. Built for Windows Phones their projects are, something not only to take note of, but provides an interesting look into the talent pool Africa has to offer. We saw some of this earlier in the year with Intel’s ISEF showcase.

So let’s meet the teams.

Team: High Rise
Project: CATARA

Competing in the World Citizenship category, this project, an app, uses the HD camera on your smartphone to detectcataracts early. According to the team, the purpose of the solution is to “drastically reduce the rate at which cataracts cause total blindness”. Sounds easy enough but how are they going to do this? The team argues that this solution provides a cheaper, affordable, fast, accurate and easier way of detecting cataracts.

Currently there is very little communication between patients and optometrists. Through this app, the team hopes to provide better communication between numerous patients and the limited number of optometrists available.

All this while making “statistical data available to NGOs, Governmental bodies, Research institutes etc, for research and budget purposes”.

The team of four young men built this app using Microsoft Azure, .NET Framework, Visual Studio and a bunch of open source libraries.

Team: AfriGal Tech
Project: mDex

Also part of the World Citizenship competition and thinking about healthcare, the Ugandan team wants to diagnose sickle cell quickly. According to the team around 30 000 babies in Uganda are born annually with sickle cell and some 80% of those babies before the age of five.

“This death is because the disease is not diagnosed early and thus treated due to the low access to diagnosis centres (only the national referral hospital and a few private clinics can do this) and general ignorance about this silent killer of a disease,” says the team.

So to combat this they created mDex is a mobile app that allows for the easy diagnosis of sickle cell using an external compound lense. The uses computer vision and pattern recognition to diagnose the disease. The app was built using Microsoft Azure, .NET Framework, Visual Studio and Bing Maps.

This team is made up of four energetic young girls hoping to make an impact in the world of software.

Team: Illogic
Project: Puppy in Bubble

Competing in the Games section, this team is using a very naughty puppy to solve some physics puzzles. Built with Visual Studio and Unity Game Engine, Puppy in Bubble is a Windows Phone game about Spout a puppy that likes disappearing from his owner, Adam. So with some bubbles and an “adventurous arena” it is up to you to take Spout back to his owner. The players control Spout and move him around in a bubble, while collecting doggie treats.

This team is made up of three guys and one girl and they think that logic can be created if you try hard enough.



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