Real-time Conversation Translator App Wins Big at HopHacks

November 18, 2016
(From left to right.) MLH Nick, Michael Mudgett, William Yao, Aurik Sarker, Gary Qian

(From left to right.) MLH Nick, Michael Mudgett, William Yao, Aurik Sarker, Gary Qian

More than 300 college students worked in teams of up to 4 to bring software and hardware ideas to life at Johns Hopkins annual HopHacks held October 21 – October 23. Engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs collaborated to explore new ideas, competed for prizes, and created amazing applications at the bi-annual hackathon hosted on the Homewood campus of JHU. Teams started working on their hacks after the Friday evening kickoff event and continued working until Sunday morning.

“The great thing about HopHacks is that it attracts students with widely varying skill levels and experiences. Through the years, the prize winners have ranged from freshmen and sophomore teams to graduate student teams, and everything in between,” said HopHacks Organizer and Department of Computer Science Director of Undergraduate Studies, Joanne Selinski. “There is a big learning component to the event, with sponsors presenting technical workshops and mentors available to work with student teams throughout the weekend,” said Selinski.

First place winners were engineering majors Tamer Bader, Andy Sebastian, Zack Khan and Travis Ho from the University of Maryland at College Park. They received $1,024.00. Third place winners were Hopkins students Xinyu Huang, Zhiyi Ren, Xiaowei Wang, and Minwei Xu who received $256.00.

JHU Whiting School of Engineering students Michael Mudgett, William Yao, Gary Qian, and Aurik Sarker placed second in the overall competition. The team created the real-time conversation translator application, “Koala.”

Koala allows two users to choose their respective languages and then take turns speaking. As each user speaks, the application translates the spoken word from the first user’s language into text of the second user’s language. This text is then displayed on the screen. Once it is the second user’s turn to speak, the application works similarly and outputs the translated text to another part of the screen. This makes communication quick and easy between two completely foreign parties.

“The inspiration for Koala was to address language barriers in personal interactions through technology. When travelling, it can be very difficult to ‘merge’ with local culture and do simple things like order a meal,” said William Yao, Junior Computer Science Major. “We wanted to build something that would eliminate these language barriers and would allow any single person to build a relationship with someone from anywhere in the world,” said Yao.

Local entrepreneurs, sponsors, JHU alumni and professors judged the 40 projects submitted. The competition closed Sunday with these overall awards, and also over 10 sponsored prizes, totaling more than $4,000.  For a full list of projects and awards, click here.

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