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Greek students won Microsoft’s innovation competition in New York

05 August 2011 / 18:08:29  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova


How often has it happened to you to find yourself in some archaeological complex, whose museum is closed or just doesn’t exist and you are just wandering among the ancient ruins, without knowing what they are the remains of and how ancient they are?

That's exactly what happened to the two young programmers George Karakatsiotis and Vangelis Pterneas when they visited the ruins of the ancient town of Tiryns in Peloponnese. Thus was born the idea to create an application for mobile phones and computers Touring machine or this is an electronic guide, which won them the first place in Microsoft’s global technology competition for students Imagine Cup.

With the same project, the two young researchers won first prize in the Greek final of last year’s competition. GRReporter decided to acquaint its readers with one of the founders of the Touring machine - Vangelis Pterneas. He told us about himself, about the success of teamwork and the hope that the application created by him will find its place on the market.

Who is Vangelis Pterneas?  

I am 23 years old. I graduated from the Faculty of Informatics at the Economic University of Athens and I work as a software developer.

Do you work with computers since you were a child?

When I was little I loved to paint. My interest in computers in terms of programming began at the secondary school. Before that I used the computer primarily to play games and view sites.

Programming infatuated me, so I chose to go with informatics at the university.

How did you get to the competition of Microsoft?

I knew about the contest earlier, because in Greece it has been organized since 2003. Many Greek teams had successful presentations and generally I liked the idea and the concept of the competition. Therefore I wanted to participate, and George did too. I can even say that because he is a little older, his desire dated from earlier. For various reasons we could not find a suitable team until the moment we decided to participate together.

How would you describe the electronic guide Touring machine, which won you the first prize at the International Competition in New York?

This is an application for tours, which have some individual characteristics, and they set it apart from other travel guides. It offers independent descriptions, ie it can be adapted to the needs of the person who is using it. The description is different for a child and for an adult. This is possible through an application that "produces" a natural language and we had developed in our group at the university. We took this research project with George, in the creation of which we were involved to a lesser or greater extent, and we adapted itto the needs of a tourist guide.

Thus we created the guide which we subsequently enriched and made more attractive and interactive for the end recipient. This whole innovative package, research and entrepreneurship lead us to the first place. Last year we participated in the Greek competition with the same project. But after the comments that they made for us and the experience of the people who used it we improved it and the final result is quite different and much better than the original project.

Can the guide be used by disabled people?

Yes. For example, if a person is blind he can hear the descriptions through the system for conversion of text into sound. When the application is used with a mobile phone, it can inform the person through vibration that he has arrived to a cultural site, and then he can hear the description or other information.

Does the company Microsoft intend to produce this application?

Copyrights for the application are owned by us, the creators. But the company announced that this year it will begin funding in the amount of 3 million US dollars for the applications from the competition Imagine Cup, which can be used for entrepreneurial purposes. We intend to send an application for participation.

Would you go to work at Microsoft? Have they offered you already to work there?

Yes, of course. Who would not want? After all we are talking about the largest company producing software. I cooperate with them as a student partner from the Economic University.

Vangelis expressed his gratitude to his teacher Ion Androutsopoulos to whom belongs the idea of ​​creating the application for the "production" of natural language and to the doctoral student Dimitris Galanis, who is one of the first members of the group for processing the natural language and a very large part of the electronic guide is based on his research.

Anastasia Balezdrova


How often has it happened to you to find yourself in some archaeological complex, whose museum is closed or just doesn’t exist and you are just wandering among the ancient ruins, without knowing what they are the remains of and how ancient they are?

Tags: technology software application electronic guide Touring machine Imagine Cup Miscrosoft competition
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