Now report abuses ‘smartly’ with the LamApp tool

Now report abuses ‘smartly’ with the LamApp tool

Microsoft Imagine Cup sees students submit reporting tool called LamApp, robot nanny and 3D board game

By Olivia Olarte-ulherr - Senior Reporter, Abu Dhabi

Published: Sat 25 Apr 2015, 12:48 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:22 PM

At some time in your life, you must have witnessed at least one incidence of abuse or know someone who was or is being ill-treated or were victims themselves. And on more than one occasion, sympathetic individuals have resorted to recording and posting such incidents online only to get into trouble.

WINNING SMILES ... Winners of the Microsoft Imagine Cup. — Supplied photos 

Without a tool to help them report such incidents where they won’t land in hot water themselves, many have taken to being indifferent or  adopting a ‘keeping mum’ approach. But with a new mobile application developed by a group of socially responsible senior computer science students from the University of Wollongong Dubai (UOWD), reporting incidents like this have now gone smarter.

“The idea is for people to be able to report incidents that they see, whether as a passerby or as a victim, by video or by audio, and this will go to the authorities directly,” explained a team member Jawad Jandali Refai.

The app called ‘LamApp’ provides the community, victims and passesby, with an authentic reporting tool that enables them to record a video using their smart phones when any such incident (that requires to be reported to the authorities) is happening in public and record an audio in a closed-door setting. The video or audio will then be sent anonymously directly to the police database stamped with the time and location of the incident through the Internet. 

The anonymity of the reporting empowers the community to do the right thing without the fear of being attacked by abusers or end up in jail. This empowers the victim too to speak up, the students said. “It will not stay on the phone, the sender will not be able to view it or share it, it will go to the authorities directly and it will be deleted from the phone immediately,” Jawad added.

Heba Nayef, another team member, said the idea for the app came from the Swedish social experiment where a man was abusing a woman in the elevator, and out of the 53 people who got on the same elevator, only one reacted. The video posted late last year went viral online.


Report without getting involved

Artaza Aziz, a UOWD team member, said in cases like this, often no one raises their voice as either they fear for their safety, or they simply do not know how to help. “We need something that is effective and subtle. This app gets rid of all this pressure from the user so they can actually report this incident without directly getting involved,” he said.

“Most people don’t want to interfere because they don’t want to get involved. This gives them a way to clear their conscience, they feel safe and they can do it without getting persecuted,” added Jawad. He said the plan forward is to get the authorities and the Internet provider to offer “some sort of service” so people can use this reporting tool in future even without connecting to a WiFi. Heba said the initial concern for the project was the UAE law where “you cannot take video or record without consent. We thought that it will be a big block in our way.”

But bagging the first prize on Wednesday for this year’s national Microsoft Imagine Cup competition for the Citizenship Award category for their app, there appears to be no more block for Team Freedom Fragrance which is on its way to compete for the regional finals in Bahrain next month.

The trio also won the Best Project award.


Robot nanny

Another contender for this year’s Imagine Cup Pan-Arab semi-finals on May 31 for the Innovation Category is Team YMAM from Ajman University. The team, comprising senior electrical engineering students Yahya Mohammed Noureldin, Abdelrahman Alshantti and Mosab Omar, had previously showcased their smart robot babysitter at The Innovator Show in March. But for this competition, they have upgraded their robot to include a video streaming where parents can monitor and speak to their child when they are out using their smart phones. The robot can also be manipulated online to search for a particular child and keep them off restricted areas. It also have five ultrasonic sensors for obstacle avoidance. 

Mosab Omar, Moetaz Hindawi, Abdelrahman Alshantti and Yahya Nourledin from Ajman University presenting their robot at an earlier event. — KT file photo 

According to the students, the idea for the robot stemmed from a desire to curb abuse of children by nannies.

“In the Gulf region, there are too many news stories about nannies abusing children that’s why we want to replace that with humanoid-controlled robot to overcome this problem and let the parents be at peace,” explained Mosab.

“When they are at work, they can focus on their work and be more productive,” added Yahya.


Gaming category

For the Gaming category, Khalid Al Awar from Khalifah University won the award with his Cayram, a multiplayer 3D board game that requires accuracy and skills to score as many points by using the dice to get the pieces into the nets that are located at all corners and when the board runs out of pieces, the player with the highest score wins.


Premier technology programme

Now in its ninth year in the UAE and 13th year globally, the Microsoft Imagine Cup is the world’s premier technology programme and competition for students to learn, build and compete with innovative tools, platform and services.

According to Michael Mansour, head of Apps and Innovation at Microsoft Gulf, there’s an “uptake in terms of quality from the projects” and the numbers of students competing for the Cup in the UAE.

A total of 30 projects were submitted from eight universities across the UAE out of which six projects made it to the UAE Finals.  

Globally, the competition has grown to become the world’s global student technology competition with more than 1.65 million students from more than 190 countries having participated in the Microsoft Imagine Cup annual competition from inception.

Winners at the Pan Arab finals (world semi-finals) will compete at the global finals in Seattle, Washington in the first week of July. First prize award for each of the three categories includes $50,000, a chance to meet with Microsoft CEO and an opportunity to join the HoloLens competition, and “a new wearable device that blends in the real world with the virtual world” that Microsoft is launching later this year.

Asked how the UAE teams will do in the semi-finals, Mansour said: “I think they’ll do brilliantly. It remains to be seen of course, but from what I have seen today in terms of the calibre of projects across the three big categories — innovation, gaming and citizenship — I think we have some very strong contenders.”

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