Thursday , June 21, 2018

Innovating for a cause

DEVELOPING a mobile app is not at all easy, but knowing that it can make the lives of some individuals a lot better makes all the hard work worthwhile.

This is how four students of the University of San Carlos Talamban Campus feel after winning the Technology Vision award at the Program the Future: The Accenture Technology Campus Challenge held in Manila last Aug. 24.

Team AID, composed of BS Information Technology students Rannzel Dwayne Tongco, Jeremiah Valero Jr., Danielle Ann Piamonte, and Erl Joshua Arcenal, created the AID app, a speech translation application for people with cleft palate. It was built with the goal of being a “bridge of communication” for people who are affected by communication barriers. AID envisions a world where everyone can understand and connect with each other.

As they continue to develop the app, the students hope to address the other needs of people with speech disabilities, before making it available to the public.

“We were driven and moved by the fact that there are people who are less capable or are sometimes treated as ‘different.’ We want to utilize today’s technological advancements to help and support these people,” Tongco, 18, told Zup.

Creating the app took weeks of brainstorming not just among the Team AID members and their mentors in school, but also with individuals with cleft palate. They talked to many of them to find out what their difficulties are and how they would say certain words.

“The application utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning frameworks to be able to be ‘trained’ and to ‘learn’ how somebody born with a cleft palate would say a certain word. We had to ‘train’ the application, so to speak, to comprehend what a person with cleft palate is trying to say. Once the app is familiar with the word, you would now be able to ‘speak’ to it through it’s translating module for it to be able to translate what you are trying to say,” Tongco explained.

Developing the app itself took three to four weeks, during which the students meticulously worked with a software called Python. Its machine learning frameworks and artificial intelligence capabilities allowed them to convert text to speech.

“We needed to learn how to code in Python and understand it’s machine learning and audio analysis libraries,” said Piamonte.

Though they did not bring home the grand prize, Team Aid members are still grateful for the opportunity to learn from the experience and from 15 other finalists in the competition, and share their skills with other students.

“We have learned to be patient, to be more determined, and to work hard and never give up even when you’ve almost reached your limits,” shared Tongco.

“If you want to develop something or if you have an idea you wish people would know, go for it and never let anyone convince you otherwise. Never give up and just try your best because you’ll never know how many people might be able to benefit or in some cases, even be saved by your innovative idea,” he added.

The Accenture Technology Campus Challenge is an annual competition that challenges students to create innovative technology solutions that can solve real-life challenges and improve how the world works and lives. Accenture encourages the best and brightest minds from colleges and universities across the Philippines to think out of the box to create and revolutionize the way we work and live through new and emerging technologies. 

This year, Accenture recognized Filipino students who have developed the best Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution that can help improve human experience and interaction.