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And the winners of the (UK bit of the) Imagine Cup are ...

What happened in your drug-induced coma

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Sadly, there was no Terry Wogan around to make incisive comments about the entries, but that did not stop the winners of the UK heat of another important international competition emerging last Friday.

This is Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, an international arm-wrestle for a $125,000 prize fund covering six different technology challenges. The UK winners of the one with the biggest single prize, Software Design Challenge, was a team calling itself Three Pair, from Hull University.

Now they go forward to the finals, which are to be held in Delhi, India, in August. So it was probably fitting that Microsoft UK stood all the finalists a slap-up curry in Reading the night before. They all survived.

Three Pair's Tom Randall, Andy Sterland and James Lissiak

Three Pair - Tom Randall, Andy Sterland and James Lissiak, together with University mentor Rob Miles - were one of 12 teams of finalists to ship up at Microsoft UK’s Thames Valley base to present their entries to a panel of judges that included representatives of Microsoft itself as well as the event’s co-sponsors, HP, BT and Cap Gemini. There should have been 10 finalists, but it transpired the quality of entries was such that no one had the heart to cut two entries out of the final.

The theme was to create some software technology that "facilitates a healthier lifestyle", and it has to be said that the quality of innovation on show was pretty damned good. The Medaware team, also from Hull University, came up with a system to ensure that people take their drugs when they should, and the Ariel team from Durham University, offered a system that targeted reducing Healthcare Acquired Infections such as MRSA that patients risk from hospital stays. These may have just lost out to Three Pair in the Final, but have nonetheless already attracted interest from hospitals and offers of pilot trials.

So what won? Three Pair’s offering is a system that can provide a personal history for patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs). Such places are strange, almost alien, where notions of time can be lost. Indeed, it is quite common for patients to spend days or week in drug-induced comas to aid their physical recovery. But the psychological by-products of such events on patients can be huge, for they ‘lose’ significant lumps of time – and all the events that occurred. The loss of that personal ‘history’ can be traumatic, and a long-term hindrance to full recovery.

So the Three Pair plan is for a system where all relevant information – be it from doctors, friends or family members – can be accumulated against a timeline and accessed by the patient when they are sufficiently conscious to make sense of it all. The team has come up with a simple, 4-button user interface that can be built as a simple bedside unit, as well as the .NET framework-based software underpinning it all.

As well as some money for their university and xBoxes for themselves, the trio will also get help and mentoring from Microsoft – including help on developing the presentation for India – as well as hardware support from HP and help from BT on turning it into a viable product.

Reg Developer readers can follow the Three Pair team on this development journey to Delhi in their exclusive Reg Developer blog and accompanying RSS feed [http://www.regdeveloper.co.uk/imagine_cup/excerpts.rss] available shortly. ®

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