From amputation to anxiety ... young techie minds can solve anything

Imagine cup 1

The Arab World’s brightest young minds solving real world problems

The Arab region is not short of young entrepreneurs, all eager to bring new and creative innovations to market. We live in a world where everyone has the resources to create the next best app and be what’s next, so it’s no wonder that students throughout the region are coming up with businesses and products that wouldn’t have been imaginable a few years ago. This was clear at this year’s Imagine Cup 2016 Pan Arab Semi-Finals that took place in Cairo at the end of May.

At the competition, teams from 13 Arab countries were required to create an original technology project from start to finish. We were pleased to see the teams innovating across Microsoft’s platforms and building solutions that enable people to do and achieve more through technology. However, what struck us about the three winning teams, is that they all focused on serious issues and developed solutions that would help people living with illnesses and disabilities. It was inspiring to see how members of each team had family or friends suffering from a condition, which inspired them to produce a solution.

So who were our winners and what problems were they solving?

  • Innovation: Team Basilisk from Tunisia

‘Protect Me’ is a product for diabetic patients who lose sensitivity and develop ulcers, leading to amputation. It contains micro sensors which measure pressure on the defective part on the sole of the foot, providing on demand information, wirelessly, to help prevent any aggravation of ulcers.

Three of the four team members had family members suffering from ulcers, which in two cases led to amputation. This inspired them to try and find a prevention and they hope to bring an end to the pain and anguish suffered by millions of people living with ulcers.

  • World Citizenship: Team Night’s Watch Tunisia

Smart Hand was inspired by a friend who was born without a hand. The team wanted to find a way to make his life, and the lives of people with similar disabilities, easier. So they created a prosthetic hand. It makes use of a Myo Armband and a phone app and allows the user to programme their smart hand using the app. The user can grab items, shake hands and use a mouse on a PC.

  • Games: Team Vanguards from Bahrain

Even the winning game was inspired by one of the team’s friends who suffered from anxiety. Their research found that virtual reality was being used to treat patients with phobias and biofeedback devices were being used to track the patients’ conditions. So they created "Apollo-X", which combines both of these technologies and a mobile phone. The game is adaptive and changes according to the player's heart rate. As the player becomes more frightened, the scarier and more difficult the game becomes. This makes the player more aware of his or her feelings and will try to stay calm. The team hopes the game will serve as a tool to help treat people with anxiety in an entertaining way.

In a world full of innovations it’s hard to stand out from the crowd, but young entrepreneurs who create solutions that are going to have a serious impact on the health and well-being of society are the ones who are going to truly be successful.

Looking forward to seeing these young innovators shining at the Imagine Cup worldwide finals in Seattle by the end of July!