Student Success

Master's students win Innovation competition at Microsoft's Imagine Cup Canada

A team of University of Lethbridge master’s students is one step closer to winning $50,000 and a meeting with Bill Gates after claiming the Innovation category of the Imagine Cup Canada competition organized by Microsoft.

Mohammad Akbari, seated, and Hossein Naseri are looking to make the world finals of the Imagine Cup competition.

Students Mohammad Akbari (computer science) and Hossein Naseri (physics), along with mentor Dr. Howard Cheng of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, make up team claVision. Their project has created a new way to solve an old problem – how to transcribe piano music.

“Incredible, world-changing software innovations often come from students,” says Microsoft. “Social networks, music services, digital photography apps, gadgets and robotics – the list goes on. In the Innovation category we are looking for the next big thing.”

That thing just might be a software program (Visual Automatic Music Transcription of Piano) developed by claVision that utilizes a video camera mounted on a piano that captures a person’s hands as they play the instrument. It then converts the notes being played into sheet music.

“Mohammad has been working on this project as part of his master’s thesis project under my supervision,” says Cheng. “The big difference between this work and existing products is that this program can be used on any standard piano or electronic keyboard. The music is detected by ‘watching’ the pianist during the performance using video analysis algorithms. Other products require the use of a special electronic keyboard that transmits the keys pressed to a computer.”

The University of Lethbridge team is one of three winners from the first round of competition in Imagine Cup Canada, and will now challenge winners from the Games category (University of Calgary) and World Citizenship category (Marianopolis College) for the right to represent Canada at the 2014 Imagine Cup World Finals in Seattle, Wash. in July 2014. There, teams will compete for the coveted Imagine Cup trophy, up to $50,000 USD and the opportunity to meet Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

“The team now has a chance to improve upon their software, as well as submit a project proposal and video presentation to further impress the judges,” says Cheng. “The project will be graded on technical merits as well as other criteria such as innovation and marketability. It’s almost like going into a Dragon’s Den presentation!”

Microsoft Imagine Cup is in its 12th year and is a competition that invites students to use technology to do amazing things.

To view a video demonstration of claVision’s program, click here.