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HBA students design winning app for Microsoft AI Challenge

Aug 8, 2019

Microsoft AI Challenge

(L-R) Kevin Liu, Jane Wang, and Bohan Jiang.

Imagine tackling some of the world's most pressing issues with cutting-edge technology at your fingertips. For two HBA and Computer Science Combined Degree students, Jane Wang and Bohan Jiang, their goal to help millions of physical therapy patients reduce their recovery time became a reality after winning the Discover AI Challenge: Sustainable Life, powered by Microsoft Canada and Agorize.

The competition challenged student teams to develop a project leveraging Microsoft's Cloud and AI tools. They were also required to base their ideas on one of the four UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  1. Climate action;
  2. Good health and well-being;
  3. Quality education; and
  4. Sustainable cities and communities.

After 13 weeks of competition and out of 687 participants from across Canada, the top six teams pitched their solution to the leadership team at Microsoft Canada Headquarters in Toronto. Finalists had the chance to see their project come to life, network with senior managers, and win a range of prizes.

Improving exercise form with AI

Wang and Jiang, along with teammate Kevin Liu from the University of Waterloo, joined the Discover AI Challenge as Team Filet Mignon. They came up with the concept of their winning app, Medico, after they discovered a common pain point for physical therapy patients when evaluating their exercise form, which is a specific way of performing a movement to avoid injury during prescribed exercises.

Based on personal experiences, they also felt the rehabilitation process was frustrating, mainly due to the lack of communication during treatment and not enough immediate feedback on the patient's exercise form. The trio knew there had to be a way to utilize machine vision and AI to help patients improve their exercise form during therapy.

That's when the idea of Medico was born – a physical therapy app that provides remote access to treatment and speeds up the recovery process. Using computer vision, Medico analyzes patient-uploaded videos, providing real-time feedback to the patient and progress reports for the physician.

Bringing Medico to life

With a solid plan in place, the team developed a working prototype on Microsoft's Cloud Service and delivered a video demo of their solution. 

"We spent long hours collecting relevant data, training and refining our machine-learning model, and developing an entire end-to-end cloud infrastructure that our platform would run on," said Jiang. "We then invested time into making both a mobile app and web application."

The team's hard work paid off – they were selected as one of the top six teams to move on to the final event. They built out a complete business model for Medico along with extensive research on how they would launch the platform, and presented to an auditorium full of senior executives and technical experts. 

"It was a very humbling experience to be able to talk to and learn from so many industry experts, and to see so many talented students present their innovative AI-driven projects and ideas," said Wang.

Putting leadership skills into action

Both Wang and Jiang agree that learning strong leadership skills in the Ivey HBA Program helped them think on their feet as well as pushed them to think deeply and from various perspectives during the Discover AI Challenge.

"The HBA Program helped us build valuable skills that were key in helping us prepare for this competition," said Wang. "The first was working effectively in a team; Ivey's group projects taught us to leverage each person's strengths, delegate accordingly, and support each other during times of stress or ambiguity. Presentation skills were also an essential component. We were not only expected to communicate our ideas clearly, but also to convince the judges on why our idea was innovative and feasible."

What's next for Medico?

The team was surprised and excited to receive support for Medico from the judges and a variety of senior executives at the event. 

"We even received contact information from physical therapy clinic owners, so we believe there could be a real opportunity down the road for us," said Jiang. "However, we know that pursuing such a venture is a big commitment, so we're still discussing our next steps for Medico!"

Watch a recap of the Microsoft Discover AI Challenge