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Two SA students through to Imagine Cup World Finals

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Two second year students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) have been listed among the 33 top teams competing at the 2015 Imagine Cup World Finals in Seattle.

Following a heavily contested World semi-finals involving 150 student projects from 64 countries, two second year students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) find their team – Digital Interactive Games – listed amongst the 33 top teams competing at the 2015 Imagine Cup World Finals in Seattle taking place July 28 –31.

Imagine Cup is a global student technology competition that provides opportunities for students across all disciplines to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications, games as well as integrated solutions that have the potential to change the way we live, work and play. The South African leg of the competition is co-sponsored by Microsoft South Africa and Department of Science and Technology.

“Microsoft Imagine Cup empowers tertiary education students of all ages and skill levels with the tools, programmes, and instruction to turn innovative ideas into reality. Whether they’re building a game, designing an app, or launching a project, Imagine Cup will help them develop their idea and boldly bring it to life,” says Clifford De Wit, Developer Experience Director at Microsoft South Africa.

Possessing that ‘cease the day’ mindset.

Digital Interactive Games consists of two students, Jason Cross and Nicholas Jordaan, who are both attending NMMU in Port Elizabeth. Cross and Jordaan are currently second year students and are studying Software Development.

The team’s project is called PYA Maze of Gods and is a 3D Labyrinth style game that has been built to challenge the player’s problem solving skills, reaction time as well as their ability to overcome the obstacles. For fans of fantasy, the game involves in-depth lore along with detailed character profiles. In the game, PYA, is the name given to the realm of the gods.

They both share a passion for game development and met each other in the first week of varsity, when Jason decided to put together a team in the hopes of making a game. Nicolas was one of the first people he approached in support of that cause.

To get the programming ball rolling both budding game developers taught themselves Unity Personal Edition (formally known as Unity Free) and Autodesk Maya. During their first year at varsity, the pair entered PYA Maze of Gods in the local round of the Imagine Cup, making them the first ever first year students in South Africa to not only compete and win at the local level of the Imagine Cup, but also progress from the Global Semi-finals to the World Finals.

“This phenomenal achievement reassures us that South Africa is on the right path of developing skills in software development that is able to compete with the rest of the world. Initiatives such as Imagine Cup provides an avenue through which to develop future IT entrepreneurs who will soon be creating jobs for the youth,” says Dr Quentin Williams, Strategic Research Manager at the CSIR’s Meraka Institute.

Cross explains their drive in the following manner: “Don’t be afraid to go into something you truly have a passion for or to take the initiative for what you wish to do one day. Don’t wait until someone offers it or you get taught how to. There is a ton of resources available for anyone to teach themselves as well as exciting opportunities like Imagine Cup. So just go, learn and make sure you have fun doing it.”

Seattle is calling

Cross and Jordaan are looking forward to going to Seattle for the first time and competing in the World finals of the 2015 Imagine Cup.

“It is the greatest feeling either of us has ever experienced career wise. We could never have dreamed we would make it this far in the competition, but we are honoured to have the opportunity to represent South Africa in this category,” says Jordaan.

He added that they also cannot wait to meet and learn from all of the Microsoft officials and hopes that this experience will help them start their own game development company. Previous winners of the South African leg of the Imagine Cup has gone on to do exactly this.

For instance, 2007 Imagine Cup winner Devin de Vries and his colleagues managed to build a successful and thriving business around their winning entry called Where is my transport. This solution provides commuters in select South African cities like Cape Town with up-to-the-minute information and timetables for taxis and buses, directly to their smartphones.

“Like previous winners of the Imagine Cup have shown, technology can be a powerful tool for addressing local development challenges and we believe that the youth of the country can be important partners in this endeavour,” says Ms Jeanette Morwane, Director: ICT and Services Industry at the Department of Science and Technology.

According to Cross, Digital Interactive Games plan to build on their achievements. “We want to expand our team to keep pushing our limits and develop games to the best of our abilities,” he concludes.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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