A team of four students from Kenya has won the 2023 Imagine Cup, a global technology competition for students, with their innovative app that helps children with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) communicate more effectively.
Team TAWI beat two other finalists from India and Brazil at the World Championship event, which was held online on May 23 as part of the Microsoft Build conference. The team will receive USD 100,000 prize, a mentorship session with Microsoft’s Chairman and CEO, Satya Nadella, and Level 2 access to Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub.
TAWI is an app that uses real-time speech recognition technology to suppress background noise, enhance speech quality, and convert speech-to-text, all tailored to each child’s specific needs. The app works with just earphones and a smartphone, and aims to empower children with APD to overcome communication barriers, confidently navigate the world and achieve their full potential.
APD is a hearing condition in which the brain has challenges processing sounds. It affects about 5% of school-age children, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Children with APD may have difficulties following instructions, understanding speech in noisy environments, or learning new words.
The team – John Onsongo Mabeya, Muna Said, Syntiche Musawu Cishimbi and Zakariya Hussein Hassan – met at a school hackathon, where they discovered they had a common goal and complementary skills. TAWI was inspired by one of the team members who has a sibling with APD, and they witnessed firsthand their sibling’s difficulties and recognized the need for a more practical and cost-effective alternative to traditional hearing aids.
“As a team, we are very excited about the potential impact that our project, TAWI, could have on the lives of children with APD. We believe that TAWI, which uses real-time speech recognition and amplification, could be a game changer for these children, allowing them to participate more fully in social and educational settings. Our hope is that TAWI will eventually become widely available and help to address a critical community need.” – Muna, Team TAWI.
The Imagine Cup is an annual competition that challenges students from around the world to use technology to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. This year’s competition focused on Microsoft’s AI for Good initiatives, which aim to use artificial intelligence to tackle issues such as accessibility, health, education, and sustainability.
The competition began with tens of thousands of aspiring young minds, and after months of intense competition, only three teams made it to the World Championship. The other two finalists were C-SM Tool from India, which developed a medical device to monitor cardiac health using AI; and Eupnea from Brazil, which created a low-cost solution to diagnose and treat tuberculosis using AI.