In Microsoft’s annual student tech-for-good competition, the Imagine Cup, a team from Kenya called Tawi emerged as the winner. Tawi developed an innovative solution using machine learning tools to assist children with auditory processing disorder (APD) in better understanding others. APD is a hearing condition where individuals can hear sound adequate, but their brains struggle with processing it. This can result in learning delays, difficulties in comprehending speech, and increased effort required for communication.
The team behind Tawi, consisting of John Onsongo Mabeya, Muna Numan Said, Syntiche Musawu Cishimbi, and Zakariya Hussein Hassan, shared a common interest in educational technology. They decided to focus on APD as one of the team members had a sibling living with the condition. While hearing aids are commonly prescribed to individuals with APD to isolate and emphasize voices, they can be challenging to obtain and maintain, especially in certain regions. Additionally, hearing aids might not always be the most suitable solution for everyone. Recognizing the potential of real-time sound processing and captioning, the Tawi team set out to create a smartphone-based APD tool accessible to all.
The name “Tawi” is derived from Swahili, meaning “sprouting leaf” in English. The team chose this name to symbolize their aim of uplifting children and helping them reach their full potential. Tawi’s app incorporates noise suppression, speech emphasis, and real-time speech-to-text conversion, all of which can be tailored to meet a child’s specific needs and hearing issues.
“We believe that Tawi, which uses real-time speech recognition and amplification, could be a game changer for these children, allowing them to participate more fully in social and educational settings,” said Muna Numan Said, describing their project. “Our hope is that Tawi will eventually become widely available and help to address a critical community need.”
As the ultimate winner of the Imagine Cup, Tawi was selected from three regional finalists and numerous category winners. In addition to the prestigious recognition, the team received a $100,000 prize, the opportunity to meet Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Level 2 access to Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, offering invaluable support and resources for their future endeavors.
The Imagine Cup also acknowledged the outstanding efforts of two other finalists. A team from Thailand developed the Cardiac Self-Monitoring Tool, which connects a stethoscope to a smartphone and utilizes machine learning to analyze sound, enabling individuals to check for anomalies. Another team from the United States, called Eupnea, employed AI technology to listen to the coughs of tuberculosis patients and provide recommendations for treatment options.
Congratulations to all the Imagine Cup finalists for their remarkable contributions and dedication to making a positive impact through technology.