A 20-year-old Tesla intern's team just won $130,000 and a private session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella for creating a smarter prosthetic hand

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smartarm foundersMicrosoftSamin Khan (left) and Hamayal Choudhry (right) after SmartARM won the Canadian Finals of Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2018

  • SmartARM, founded by two 20-year-old college students, just won Microsoft's 2018 Imagine Cup.
  • The prize includes $130,000 in cash and Microsoft Azure cloud credit - plus a one-on-one advice session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
  • SmartARM cofounder Hamayal Choudhry is an intern at Tesla, in addition to his studies.
  • The Imagine Cup had over 3,000 entries.


SEATTLE - SmartARM, a prosthetics startup founded by Canadian college students Hamayal Choudhry and Samin Khan - both 20 years old -beat 3,000 other teams to take the first-place prize in Microsoft's annual Imagine Cup.

Microsoft announced the winner of the Imagine Cup, its annual startup pitch contest for student tech entrepreneurs, at a finals ceremony in Seattle on Wednesday.

SmartARM will walk away with $130,000 in cash and credits to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform - plus, the opportunity for a private meeting with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella himself, who will give the founders some personal advice.

With SmartARM, Choudhry and Khan are promising a cheaper, 3D-printed prosthetic hand, augmented with some Azure-powered artificial intelligence: A camera in the palm of the prosthetic hand will use computer vision to identify an object and subtly adjust the fingers to the most appropriate grip. It makes prosthetics more elegant and intuitive, the founders said on stage.

Choudhry is a second-year mechatronics engineering student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and recently scored an internship at Tesla. His partner in SmartARM, Samin Khan, is a third-year computer science student at the University of Toronto.

In second place at the 2018 Imagine Cup was iCry2Talk, a team from Greece with an app that promises to translate a baby's cry, so you can tell if a newborn is actually in pain or just exhausted. In third place was Mediated Ear, from Japan, with an app for the hearing impaired that enhances the volume of human voices in noisy areas.

The competitors were judged on several criteria, including feasibility of the concept and viability as a business. All three teams went away with Microsoft Azure credits and free Microsoft Surface Laptops.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella himself was on hand at the ceremony, as well as special guest Chloe Kim, the Olympic champion snowboarder. Nadella praised all three teams as using artificial intelligence to solve "un-met, unarticulated needs" and helping people in real life.

Nadella also joked that all of the Imagine Cup teams had accomplished more than he did at their age, and that he may actually be in a poor place to give advice to the finalist teams.

"I definitely wouldn't have made this final," quipped Nadella. "This is a problem."

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