British Students' Entertainment App Wins MS Contest - InformationWeek

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4/10/2013
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British Students' Entertainment App Wins MS Contest

SoundSYNK, an app by Exeter University undergrads that harnesses cellphone speakers for surround sound, wins the British leg of Microsoft's global student technology creation competition, the Imagine Cup.

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Have four British university students just created one of the best ever mobile entertainment apps to come out of the U.K.?

Microsoft seems to think so; it just gave the app top prize in the British leg of the company's global student tech Imagine Cup competition.

The prize was won by four University of Exeter students who say they have come up with a way to boost the sound of cellphone MP3 file-based music. The app came out of a hackathon run by SETsquared, a partnership of British universities that work together to support students in enterprise activity, in partnership with a network called OpenMIC and the University of Exeter Students' Guild.

[ Like your entertainment on the move? Read BMW Brings iPhone Apps To Dashboards. ]

The students said they got their idea after complaining to each other about the volume of music playing from their cellphones while they were participating in a 48-hour coding contest. Inspired, they created an app that uses Bluetooth to link together potentially unlimited numbers of mobile phones to stream the same song in perfect timing, effectively creating a "symphony of speakers." As the students say on their charmingly un-corporate website, "We realized if we linked all our phones and laptops and used them as speakers we could have an awesome surround system amongst friends." Hence, the new startup, SoundSYNK.

Off the back of their win, the four have turned some intensive mentoring from Cambridge Cluster-based entrepreneur and former judge in the popular BBC TV show Dragon's Den Doug Richards into a new business, and have even managed to secure seed money of £10,000 ($15,313) from a body called Creative England.

Next for the quartet is taking their app to the Imagine Cup finals in Russia to compete for $50,000 in prize money. "We are absolutely ecstatic. Representing the U.K. is an honor and we are going to do everything we can to win in Russia!" said student Edward Noel.

"Anyone can build an app to a certain degree," said SETsquared's partnership director, Graham Harrison. "But turning it into a successful business, as these students have done, and making the most of the U.K.'s booming app market is another thing entirely."

Natasha Joseph, a representative of the Microsoft Imagine Cup team, also had high praise. "The progress SoundSYNK has made has been incredible. When I first met them, they hardly knew each other; within 48 hours they'd created an amazing idea," she said. "It was clear when they won the regional finals that they were real contenders for the top spot and their pitch presentation yesterday put them head and shoulders above the rest."

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