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MIEM Students Win Rostelecom Online Hackathon

MIEM Students Win Rostelecom Online Hackathon

In VirusHack, a hackathon organized by Rostelecom, a team of students from the HSE Tikhonov Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM HSE) finished among the competition’s winning teams. More than 1,000 competitors from different regions of Russia presented 240 projects before the jury of the hackathon, which was held remotely.

The main theme of the competition was using technology to improve everyday life and expand opportunities for people, business, and the state in the face of global change. The cases that the teams had to solve in the competition were real tasks from various companies. Once they developed their solutions, the teams then pitched their projects in order to gain support for their implementation.

The MIEM team chose a track from an IT company from Gazprom Media Holding and outperformed its rivals in solving the Equal Opportunities task. The students came up with a functional that provides people with disabilities access to audiovisual services.

Artyom Avdeev, Project Leader, 4th-year student, Bachelor’s Programme ‘Information Science and Computation Technology’

Artyom Avdeev, Project Leader, 4th-year student, Bachelor’s Programme ‘Information Science and Computation Technology’

We developed a programme that helps those who suffer from paralysis navigate web pages using a neurocomputer interface. It is a browser extension that displays a set of buttons in the form of a joystick on the user’s screen to help them navigate a webpage’s active elements and icons so that they can browse popular sites quickly.

The programme that the team developed locates and helps connect the neural interface to a user’s computer. It allows users to use the browser extension, which appears at the top of the user’s browser (at the top of a web page). The programme facilitates the users’ web navigation by ‘clicking’ on the necessary buttons or icons in accordance with the user’s neural signals. In order to set up and customize the programme’s algorithm for a specific user, a 15-minute training session is required.

Screenshot of the programme

The resulting development is unique; similar developments in this area are at the very initial stages. Most companies that produce affordable personal neural interfaces and software for them use their developments within the gaming industry or for meditation and sleep cycle monitoring, and not to help people with disabilities. ‘The solution we found can easily be scaled to other platforms both from the standpoint of neural interfaces and from that of the interaction device,’ says Artyom. ‘In a while, we’ll be able to make a version for using Smart TVs and adding support for a wide range of brain-computer interface models.’

The team included four representatives of MIEM’s Laboratory of 3D Imaging and Computer Graphics. Pavel Kolesnik and Georgy Klenevsky, 4th-year students of the bachelor’s programme ‘Information Science and Computation Technology’, were in charge of developing the artificial intelligence models and the server aspects. Roman Tolmachev, a colleague of Klenevsky’s from the industrial software company, Zyfra, was in charge of the application’s visual design, its architecture, and bringing the programme’s parts into a cohesive whole. Artyom Avdeev wrote the code for processing web pages and searching for active elements in their interfaces and oversaw the project’s product management, presentation, content, design, and final pitching.

Although VirusHack was conducted completely online, all of the traditional stages of the competition were preserved: from the mentor sessions to the checkpoints that help all those involved better understand the direction in which they are headed. The final project pitches were conducted on Zoom. ‘Of course, competing remotely doesn’t feel the same as doing it in person, but the anxiousness you get before doing the presentation was the same,’ says Artyom. ‘Personally, I found participating from home to be much more comfortable.’

Prepared by Polina Podkopaeva (MIEM Media Centre)

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