‘Gameifying’ Data

The unique project by USF students involves a Kinect game they hope will help combat obesity in children.

USF students participated in the Imagine Cup competition this spring. From left, are Jordi Lucero, Andoni Aguirrezabal, Ayaz Hemani, and Sean Dunford.  

 

By Peter E. Howard

USF News

 

TAMPA, Fla. (May 16, 2013) – All they want to do is make data easier to pull together to help people live better.

 

So, when the four University of South Florida students traveled to Silicon Valley in northern California in March to compete in the Imagine Cup competition bootcamp hosted by Microsoft, they were hopeful their project would catch the eye of business and industry leaders and get a boost.

It worked.

Andoni Aguirrezabal, Ayaz Hemani, Jordi Lucero and Sean Dunford were thrilled by the experience. For a week, they got to talk about their project, SoftwareBytes, with developers for Microsoft. They got to hear about more than a dozen other projects presented by budding technologists and entrepreneurs from other universities across the country.

“The bootcamp was amazing,” said Lucero. “They had all types of experts there who could help you with any problems you encountered. They want to see you succeed.”

The team had the idea to create a framework that would help people stay healthy. They would do that by developing a system that would let data from different games and applications be pulled together, or centralized in a way that would let a person see how they are benefiting from different activities. So, if they used a pedometer and a calorie counter, the data could be merged into one source for viewing.

Or, if you played a Kinect game and scored a certain number of points, those points could be increased if you continued activities away from the game. The data is aggregated through a Windows Phone application developed by the students.

“If you want to play a game to become more healthy, it will keep you motivated by rewarding you for doing things outside the game,” said Aguirrezabal.

The team, all studying computer engineering or computer science, focused on obesity in children because it’s an epidemic throughout the world. By trying to attack it virtually through merging activities and data, they hope SoftwareBytes will appeal to youngsters.

“The youth of today is already entwined with technology,” said Hemani. “This would help the youth, especially teenagers, be active while engrained in technology.”

The students decided to submit an application to the Imagine Cup competition this spring, and spent much of their time developing the Kinect game and Windows Phone app to share data with a focus on healthcare systems. The top 15 out of the 100 entries were invited to California.

The advice from the experts at the bootcamp helped provide guidance for next steps, the students said.

“What the bootcamp allowed us to do is really form a structure for our ideas,” said Hemani. “We had an idea to create a health framework to help people stay healthy. When we came out of the bootcamp, we now know the ways to form the structure and make it successful. We want to get the public to use it and have them benefit from it.”

While Aguirrezabal and Hemani graduated this spring, the team intends to stay together and will spend the summer continuing to fine-tune and enhance the product, while applying for start-up money and forming a limited liability company.

“This experience really gave us a window into a whole new different world, and a career path,” said Dunford.

Peter Howard can be reached at 813-974-9057.