Indian American wins Microsoft Innovation Competition

1
smartARM wins the Imagine World Cup Finals: Undergraduates Hamayal Choudhry from UOIT and Samin Khan from U of T, who is demonstrating the prosthetic (photo courtesy of Microsoft Imagine Cup)

An Indian American student from the University of Ontario’s Institute Of Technology and his Indian teammate from the University of Toronto, have won a global award at the “Olympics of technology,” for their smartARM, a prosthetic robotic hand.

UOIT mechatronics engineering student Hamayal Choudhry and U of T computer science student Samin Khan won Microsoft’s 16th annual innovation competition, which saw more than 40,000 student competitors register and 49 teams qualify for the Imagine Cup World Finals in Seattle, Washington between July 23 and 25.

The team wins a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, $85,000 in cash and a $50,000 Microsoft Azure grant to continue developing smartARM.

“If you just take, for instance, your hands and your arms, you don’t often realize just how pervasive they are to your physical, everyday inter-activity with the world. Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to be missing an arm or a hand, if you talk to an amputee, you’ll get a brief glimpse into what that perspective is like,” Khan said during their final pitch to the judges.

According to a press release, a camera embedded in the prosthetic’s palm recognizes objects and calculates the necessary grip, using computer vision, machine learning and cloud storage technologies.

“It doesn’t activate the grip right away – it’s waiting for a cue from a muscle sensor. There’s an onboard computer that processes the images, and figures out the most appropriate grip” Choudhry said in the pitch.

Choudhry and Khan described smartARM as the first “service” prosthetic because the algorithm learns and improves with continued use as the data is stored and can be downloaded to future prosthetic devices.

Annalisa, a congenital amputee in Toronto, helped the team create the smartArm.

As most prosthetics are cosmetic only and provide little function, the robotic arms are simply cost prohibitive for the one million hand amputees globally.

The team’s smartARM expects to cost about $100.

Share