I've just got back from the Champagne Sports Resort in the Drakensberg which was the location for the South African regional finals for the 2009 Imagine Cup. The global competition is sponsored by Microsoft who very kindly put us up for the 1st - 3rd December at the wonderful Champagne Sports Resort. Many universities from around the country were represented by one or more teams with the final winning team being flown to Egypt in June 2009. With such high stakes, the competition was tough, with every team having an interesting project on display. The entries ranged from Masters theses to 3rd year IS projects. The event seemed to be well run and organized, but I hoped that there would be more public to view the awesome projects. I suppose being in the central Drakensberg, it wasn't unexpected.

Unfortunately, we didn't win, so for us, after a long road the competition is over. But, we did make some contacts in the radio industry and got good feedback regarding our project. After a huge amount of work and finally getting everything running relatively smoothly, it's a bit of an anticlimax just leaving it. I'm hoping to take the project further next year and see how that develops.

So, here goes - the breaking news... The winning project was a Masters project (A collaboration from UCT and Stellenbosch I think) which converted sign language performed by a person standing in front of a camera to text and finally to synthesised speech. Unfortunately I don't remember the guys names, so I can't give credit to them, but I'm sure I'll run into their names pretty soon as blogs/ news sites are updated. They claim that the difficult/ innovative part of the system is that it uses only one camera. This comes into play in that with one camera, depth has to be determined without the use of "bifocal vision". I think that the final aim of this research is to port the technology to cellphones which would allow a dumb person to use their cellphone and "speak" to a hearing person unable to understand sign language via sign language.

From what I've heard, research into this field has been going on for the past few years at UCT and therefore I think that the project has a good chance of doing well overseas. Good luck to the unnamed students - I'll be following your progress. (And updated this blog if I find your names.)

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