Kenya’s Tawi Overcomes Auditory Processing Disorder to Win Microsoft Imagine Cup


This year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup was won by Tawi, a Kenyan team that used machine learning to help children with auditory processing disorder (APD) communicate more effectively. APD is a hearing condition which impairs a person’s ability to process sound and can lead to delays in dialog comprehension and everyday conversation. The team, created by John Onsongo Mabeya, Muna Numan Said, Syntiche Musawu Cishimbi, and Zakariya Hussein Hassan, was inspired by the challenge of creating tools for those affected by APD since one of the team members had a sibling with the hearing disorder.

Their innovation was an app designed to work with a smartphone and headphones which performs noise suppression, speech amplification, and real-time text conversion, making it easier to customize to the user’s hearing needs. The Kenyan team beat out the competition, winning the grand prize of $100,000 and exclusive access to the Microsoft founders Hub business accelerator.

Tawi’s project centered around helping children with APD, particularly since they are more vulnerable to being distressed in educational and social settings. Their hope was to create a tool that is easier to access and whose use scale beyond just those living in western countries with better access to hearing aids and technology.

The other finalists included a team from Thailand who created a device to self-monitor cardiac conditions, as well as a US team using AI to recommend treatments based on the sounds of tuberculosis patients’ coughs. It is inspiring to see young students solving global challenges through technology, and hopefully this inspiring story will encourage more participants in the future.

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