Working as an intern at Microsoft has many benefits, but a vacation in Hawaii is not usually one of them. This year, summer interns had an opportunity to work on exciting new mobile technologies, while competing with their peers for an all-expenses paid trip to one of the Hawaiian islands. Microsoft Research Connections—in partnership with Microsoft Research’s Mobile Computing Research Center and Windows Phone—hosted a first-of-its-kind intern competition: Hawaii XAPFest. The competition was open to all U.S.-based Microsoft interns. The challenge: develop Windows Phone apps by using Project Hawaii services and that make use of new consumer features coming in the next version of Windows Phone, code-named “Mango.”
All participants were trained in the key Windows Phone development areas to provide them with necessary background to complete the challenge. The training included a series of lectures about relevant Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft Silverlight, XNA, Project Hawaii services, and Windows Azure. Armed with this knowledge, each participating intern developed a Windows Phone app for submission to the evaluation committee comprised of researchers and developers from Microsoft Research and Windows Phone.
The final round of XAPfest judging took place on August 9, when finalists presented their projects to a panel of judges comprised of Microsoft executives. Each finalist was required to present their project to the judging panel and provide a live demonstration of their app. The judges selected the top four projects based on their creativity, presentation, use of Project Hawaii, and use of features in the next version of Windows Phone.
Top Award Winners
The grand-prize winner was Julia Schwartz, a second-year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University and an intern with the Microsoft Research Human Computer Interface (HCI) group. Julia’s app, “Headshot,” uses facial detection and audio feedback to make it simpler to get the perfect self-portrait every time. Julia’s prize for this victory is a trip for two to Hawaii. Congratulations, Julia!
The top three runners up were:
- Marvin Cheng, a senior at the University of Washington and intern working in the Windows Phone division. Marvin presented the “Optical Search” app, which uses the Project Hawaii Optical Character Recognition service to recognize words in documents and enables users to search for those words on the Internet. The app also has built-in definition look-up functionality.
- Gary Roumanis, a student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Gary showed “8 Tracks,” a handcrafted Internet radio service app that offers a simple way for people to share and discover music and playlists.
- Ian Christopher, a first-year graduate student at Stanford University, and Roberto Sonnino, an undergraduate at the University of São Paulo. The duo, who are both interns in the Microsoft Visual Studio Graphics team, collaborated to create an app, “Hands Free Cook,” that uses speech recognition and synthesis to provide cooking tips while keeping the phone a safe distance away from the stove and sink.
All of the presentations we saw this year were very impressive, which made it tough to pick a final winner. The quality of work we saw from our participants demonstrates the innovation we continue to see with Windows Phone. I’m pleased to say I received overwhelmingly positive comments from contestants, who shared that they had a great time participating in this unique, exciting competition. Of course, the most excited of all is Julia, who started out working with Project Hawaii, and is now set to take off and see the “real” Hawaii!
—Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections