Oxford Brookes student through to Microsoft Imagine Cup finals with innovative new app to find lost items

Wednesday, 01 May 2019

finderr

Ever get tired of losing your keys? A team of students have developed an app called Finderr to help, which has just secured them a spot at the Microsoft Imagine Cup finals in May.

We had a great time at the Imagine Cup, but the hard work isn’t over. We shall continue to improve our product, readying it for the even harsher competition that we would face in Seattle and making sure it’ll be the best tool it can be to help people in future.

Ferdinand Loesch, Oxford Brookes Computer Science student

Team Finderr, which includes student representation from Oxford Brookes University, took first place at the regional final for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and are one of just 3 finalists out of 385,000 global entrants. Their app that uses smart cameras to track objects in your house or office and lead you to them via your phone. They also netted a $15,000 regional prize.

Using machine learning and AI, based on a bank of over 35,000 photos, the app can learn to track almost any object and locate it if it gets lost or forgotten. It also uses 3D positional audio to create a trail that can be followed by hearing alone. The team hope the app will be especially helpful to those who are visually impaired or who deal with memory problems (issues which frequently overlap).

The team first met at the Oxford Hackathon; an event in which various coders and technicians meet up, break into teams and spend a weekend creating something new or finding an imaginative solution to a problem. These events are frequently described as “creative marathons” and in November 2018 it was Finderr that crossed the finish line first.

The team of students won the Microsoft Prize and Qualcomm Prize for their efforts and were invited to take part in the Imagine Cup. The Finderr team is comprised of Ferdinand Loesch from Oxford Brookes, Sachin Sriskanda from St Andrews University and Choon Kiat Lee from Cambridge University. For the Hackathon, Cara Nabbefeld from Oxford Brookes was also part of the team.

Ferdinand, a Computer Science student at Oxford Brookes, said: “The competition was extremely strong. But despite many setbacks, we managed to push through and reign champion.

“The days leading up to the competition were not easy. We had to toil day and night, barely getting any sleep, to ensure our application and presentation were ready for the big day. 

“We had a great time at the Imagine Cup, but the hard work isn’t over. We shall continue to improve our product, readying it for the even harsher competition that we would face in Seattle and making sure it’ll be the best tool it can be to help people in future. Hopefully, we'll bring back that trophy.”

After all their hard work, the team nearly hit a last-minute disaster due to a laptop power failure. After a late night trawl of Amsterdam, they thankfully found a single basement repair shop that was still open and able to do the job in the nick of time and win the cup.

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup is a competition which aims to empower student developers worldwide to create exciting new technology solutions. The grand prize for the winning team stands at $100,000. Jennifer Ritzinger, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Academic Ecosystems, commented: “We understand that today’s students are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. They will also become technology decision makers. Whatever we can do to help make them better for tomorrow, we want to invest in that.”

Following the finals in May, the team plan to crowdfund an initial run of Finderr smart cameras via Kickstarter. Backers will be able to expect a variety of rewards, including the smart camera and app themselves.

You can find more information about Finderr at https://finderr.cf/

Finderr screenshot - list of items in room
Finderr screenshot - glasses found
Finderr screenshot - visual trail