High mortality rates in chickens;loss of biodiversity;and the feeling of loneliness. These and other challenges are being addressed by the first graduates of the Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX.
GIX is a partnership between the University of Washington and Tsinghua Universityin Beijing, with foundational support from Microsoft. Thisproject- and team-based programoffers a 15-month Master of Science in Technology Innovation and a 21-month Dual Degree.
Most of the projects aresponsored by industry partners, including Microsoft, Boeing, T-Mobile, AT&T and Baidu. Leaders from the industry partner companiespitch loosely defined projects to GIX students, and then mentor the teams as the projects develop.
In this way,students tackle both local and global challenges, drawing on the expertise and technology of their project partners.
The first class, which included students from Seattle, Estonia, India and Paraguay, graduated in December 2019. Here's a taste of what the students came up with.
Eggs are a critical source of food around the world.
But many poultry farmers must contend with a significant loss of flock, especially in egg-laying hens, because of disease, animal predators, heat and theft.
To help solve thisproblem, GIX students built a machine-learning program, CluckAI, that can identify when chickens are in distress. Listening devices placed around the flock monitor sounds, while algorithms analyze those sounds and alert the farmer, who can take action.
One team member, Padraic Casserly, likened it to a baby monitorfor poultry farmers.
Thisproject was developed in collaboration with Microsoft FarmBeats, which is helpingfarmers increase productivity and lower coststhrough employing a more data-driven approach to farming.
Diversita As peopleencroach onthe habitats of wildlife,there is a risk oflosing species and reducing biodiversity. According to a recent studyfrom the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, a sixth mass extinction is already underway. But what if we could train cameras to help protect wildlife?
A GIX student team created a motion-sensor camera called Diversitathat uses machine-learning to identify up to 5,000 species of wildlife. Data capturedby the camera is analyzedin real time.
This can save hours of work poring over photographs to spot animals. It can also be used to detect invasive speciesand study shrinking icebergs andother environmental changes.
Thistechnology was built on researchalready carried out through Microsoft's AI for Earthprogram, which usesartificial intelligence to address areas vital for building a sustainable future.
Parents sometimes need to leave their children in the care of relatives while pursuing educational or employmentopportunities abroad.
This was the case for one of the GIX studentsstudying in Seattle, who had a 10-month-old son inChina. The separation made himthinkabout how he could contribute meaningfully to his son's developmentfrom afar.
It inspired SparkEd, an app that allows parents to customize and remotely guide their children's learning.
This app is designed for children ages 4 to 8, and was built around a picture book, 'The Stray Dog.'
As the child reads the story on the app, the parent can build in a question for them to answer.
For example, whenthe stray dog appears, the child is presented with a choice:should it shoo the dogaway, or feed it, because it looks hungry?
The parent decides which answer is the most appropriate based on the beliefs and values they want their child to learn. In this way, the app helps parents teach their children how to react ineveryday situations.
PlayerX Many people move to a new city to take a up a new job ortostudy,without knowing a soul. Seattle is one of the fastest-growingcities in the United States, according to the U.S.Census Bureau. The number of newcomers has increased by 20% in the last eight years.
Knowing this, a team of GIX students designed and developed PlayerX - an app that helps connect people in offline interactions.
The app 'strategically connects people that frequent the same places and engage in similar activities,'according to its description. The more two users have in common, the more interaction is available through the app. Users can then decide whether to add people as a friendon the app, opening the possibility of meeting in person.
The goal is to help people make new, lasting friendships, and the app is aimed not just at newcomers but at locals too.
The process ofgetting legal copyright on contentcan be complex. One group of students used blockchain technology to remove the traditional barriers to getting copyright protection for a piece of work.
The platform, UbiRight, allows creators of written or visual content to instantly receive copyright protection when theypost the content online. When users create a new piece of content and post it to the platform, UbiRight provides a tamper-proof timestampto prove the copy is original.
With a focus on design thinking, entrepreneurship and technology development, theGIXprogram is appreciated by the students as the perfect grounding for careersas innovators.
Some of the students hope to launch start-ups and bring their projects into the real world.
Others have already received job offers from companies including Alibaba, Baidu, Electronic Artsand AMINO Capital, companies thatrecognize the key skills thestudentshavelearned in the program.
GIX is designed to train students to think globally and locally in an era of rapid change and increasingly short business and technology cycles. At the same time, they are bringing forth a raft of projects that show how technology can be used for good.
Lead photo credit: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures
To learn about what Microsoft is doing follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.