Four students from SRM University’s Kattankulathur campus have won ITC’s major flagship ‘iTech 2016’ competition, an annual technology innovation and co-creation platform aimed at promoting entrepreneurship. The second in the series by ITC was a 30 hour Hackathon on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) and held in the company’s Bangalore campus on July 16th and 17th.
The four intrepid IT whiz kids from SRM- Anshuman Pandey, Aditthya Ramakrishnan, Rohan Pooniwala and Raghav Gupta raced to the top and bagging Rs 3 lakhs in prize money.
The students created a history of sorts. It’s the first time a student team has won the prestigious Hackathon beating professional teams from across the country and the competition was strong with established AR/VR startups participating. The elimination round saw 45 teams make it to the finals, from over 1700 teams who applied. The climb to the top was arduous, but success was not to elude them, as they made it to the Top 5 with a demo of their work. And after the dust had settled, the SRM team emerged on top, walking away with the cash prize from Ms. Sushma Rajagopalan, MD and CEO, ITC Infotech.
The Hackathon provided participants the opportunity to convert ideas into prototypes, addressing a host of crowd-sourced business challenges from Manufacturing, Consumer Goods, Retail, Hospitality, Education & Stationery, Banking, Financial Services and Insurance and Agriculture sectors.
The Winning team from SRM University, created a mixed reality smartphone app, ‘NOMI’, a short form for ‘Know Me!’ The app is a clever invention aimed to re-define shopping experience in stores and online. The team used Vuforia and Unity to develop the app and powered it with artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning capabilities.
NOMI creates an immersive and interactive AR and VR environment to assist customers choose the right product by showing users all they need to know about a product from its nutritional facts to pricing range. It allows users of the app to choose among the alternatives of a product along with real time news related to the product.
“We took the use case of a consumer who is unaware about the effects of a product on his or her health and developed an app that could provide them with all the information they need related to it.” said Anshuman Pandey of the winning team.
Innovation was not new to the SRM team. Anshuman and Aditthya had already established the Next Tech Lab at SRM in January 2016 soon after returning from a semester at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they had interned at the prestigious MIT Media Lab. Rohan and Raghav are founding members of the Minsky (Artificial Intelligence) and Mixed reality groups at Next Tech Lab. They had also developed the app SRM VR at Next Tech which is available at Google Play store.
When asked about the strategy they had in mind, Aditthya Ramakrishnan said “In our app, we render all the graphics and panels in real-time. There is no lag in fetching real time news or generating recommendations. This can be used by anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet plan. I think that set us apart from the tough competition we had from other teams that used technology or equipment with less market penetration – such as Oculus Rift or Leap Motion. Our use of cutting edge technology like deep learning also helped.”
The team has been approached by VCs and investors who have been impressed with the market viability of the winning idea. The fact that a student team won a national Hackathon beating established professionals has served as an inspiration to students of SRM University.