The Imagine Cup is an annual global competition organized by Microsoft, with the aim of nurturing students to be competitive in the international arena. Our readers may recall that the Project N team was attending the finals in St. Petersberg, Russia from Japan last year.
This year’s finalist team from Japan is Cuddly Connect from National Institute of Technology, Toba College. Prior to the world finals taking place later this week, the Cuddly Connect team received a send-off party, which included distinguished guests such as Yasuyuki Higuchi, CEO and President of Microsoft Japan, and Susumu Furukawa, former Chairman of Microsoft Japan and now a Graduate School of Media Design Studies professor at Keio University.
Cuddly Connect is a remote communication system using a stuffed toy as an interactive interface. For many elderly people in Japan it can be difficult to spend time with grandchildren who may live far, and a working couple may have little time to spend with their children as well. The team developed Cuddly Connect to address such issues.
Grandparents or parents can use a Kinect gesture sensor or a tablet PC to operate a stuffed toy of a grandchild or child. It is in fact a biped walking robot equipped with a web camera, as well as a speaker and a microphone, all controlled via a .NET MicroFramework board in the toy. Cuddly Connect is part and parcel of the IoT (Internet of Things) industry that is receiving global attention. As such, whether the furry toy will make it to the top at the world finals will be of much interest.
The finals will start at 8:30am on August 1, Friday (Pacific Standard Time), or 1:30am on August 2, Saturday (Japan Standard Time). It will be livestreamed here if you’d like to tune in.