Team Qspark is seen in action during a presentation held at the Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar yesterday.
By Noimot Olayiwola/Staff Reporter
The Qatar team that will take part in the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2013 to be held in St Petersburg, Russia from July 8-12, is getting ready to come on top of other contestants during the annual event being described as the world’s most prestigious student technology competition.
The all-female team Qspark, comprising four third-year students from Qatar University, includes three computer science students - Latifa Talal al-Naimi, Amna Khalid al-Kaabi and Rahma Saleh Ali; and one computer engineering student Mariam Ali Bahameish.
The team was seen yesterday putting the final touches to their novel project titled ‘Artouch’ during a practice session demonstrating serious confidence and readiness to present their project in front of an expert audience at the world’s championship and win over $300,000 in prizes.
Their project Artouch had emerged the winner over four others by students of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and Texas A&M University at Qatar during a local championship held in March.
The five competing projects were shortlisted from an approximately 470 registrations.
Artouch is a novel approach offering museum visitors the ability to virtually touch and feel the museum artifacts which would normally be out of their reach.
The system is also promising to benefit the visually impaired people by enabling them to touch the artifacts and experience them.
The team is being mentored by Qatar University faculty member Dr Osama Halabi, who will be accompanying them to Russia.
Artouch was made by using the Microsoft’s Kinect sensor that takes in a 3D image of the museum artifact, via a computer that processes the artifact image into a 3D mesh object, and a Haptic device to provide the user the ability to virtually feel and touch the object. The system also enables the visitors to listen to information about the artifact as if it is coming from the object using 3D sound.
Speaking to the Gulf Times yesterday about new additions to their project ahead of the preparation for the contest in Russia, the team said the features of the system have been upgraded by making use of the latest Microsoft Kinect for Windows SDK.
“This new version of Kinect SDK gives a much better 3D model of the objects being viewed using the system, which is quite different from the old version,” they explained adding that aside being useful for museum artifacts, the system can also be broadly adopted for use in interacting with art objects in Art Institutes and School of Arts.
“We are confident that our project will receive positive nod at the contest as it is the only project that is a combination of both hardware and software whereas projects by most of our competitors are either based on Windows phone or Windows 8. We are the only team that is not using a mobile phone platform for their project,” the team claimed.
According to them, the idea for the project came from strict restrictions imposed by museums that prevent visitors from touching artifacts because they are expensive and priceless.
“We believe that museums are an important means to educate society about various cultural aspects including historical artifacts. However, they’re not as interesting as one would hope them to be. Since museum visitors are prohibited from touching the artifacts for fear of damaging them, they’re not getting the full benefit out of museums. It is therefore this observation and our general knowledge of the curiosity in human nature to touch and experience the environment around them that inspired us with the idea of Artouch,” al-Naimi said of the project on Imagine Cup website.
Now in its 11th year, Imagine Cup is an annual competition sponsored and hosted by Microsoft Corporation, which brings together young technologists worldwide to help resolve some of the world’s toughest challenges.
Imagine Cup 2013 comprised three competition tiers: games, innovation and world citizenship.
The Qatar team is sponsored by Qatar Petrochemical Company.