An easy way to help people give tech support to loved ones wins top prize at Microsoft Hackathon

An easy way to help people give tech support to loved ones wins top prize at Microsoft Hackathon

Rajeshwari Godbole, a developer for Microsoft’s Nuance Dragon Anywhere dictation app, sees the proposal as a “no-brainer”. As soon as she learned about it, Godbole joined Birdie’s hackathon team – mostly because she needed such a service herself.

When Godbole moved from India to the US, she got smartphones for her parents and in-laws to keep in touch more easily. Instead, there was despair on both sides of the line.

“Whenever I went, I’d set up the home screen for them with their favorite app, but then they’d accidentally delete the shortcut, and they’d call me thinking the app was gone and they broke it, or that they would shut down the phone. finger-hold on the volume button and finally put it on mute and can’t hear it ringing anymore, and I just wished I could see the screen to know what was wrong,” says Godbole, a To explain when to use a long press or short tap on an app’s icon while trying to remember a phone call.

Godbole wanted something that was unlike other commonly available parental control apps.

“With a senior-focused app, you need to be able to be less restrictive and take control without intruding on privacy, giving them the freedom but being able to monitor things for them to fix quickly, ” she says. “Everyone I talk to says they need it, whether it’s for their father, uncle, grandparent, cousin who isn’t tech-savvy, or an adult autistic child who Lives in residence. There’s a huge market for this kind of help.”

Hackathon sign shown in a room
Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Hub, or “NERD”, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Photo by Jesse Buckley / Cobrandit Video)

Nadella launched the annual hackathon shortly after being appointed CEO in 2014 to encourage innovation – often by activating and encouraging employees to solve problems they see in their personal lives. Winning ideas in the past have led to technological solutions to challenges such as visual impairment, limited mobility, learning disabilities including dyslexia, and more.

The family-support entry was chosen this year because it’s a compassionate idea that draws on Microsoft’s strengths in secure device-management solutions for companies and organizations, making the company “uniquely qualified for distribution,” said Jeff Ramos. It is said that those who lead the global Microsoft Garage The team that runs hackathons as part of its mission to foster creativity.

Ed Essie says, “Sometimes hackathon projects are from the same team, and they see a different way of using their team, but it’s interesting because the members are from the whole company, working together for a common purpose.” are coming.” , Head of Intrapreneurship of the Garage. “They wanted to take our expertise in helping enterprises manage their computers and use it in family situations, so that people can help their parents, children and other loved ones have more stable, reliable, secure interactions with their devices. can.”

The idea for Birdie was born out of personal despair.

Members of her family are spread across North and South America, and she and other tech-savvy relatives were called upon to help stay connected during the pandemic via weekly video calls on a variety of devices, which always Didn’t matter to its users. Birdie, a principal program manager with the Office of Microsoft’s chief technology officer, has years of experience making Microsoft products more accessible to software developers, but she talks about the struggle to make modern technology solutions more manageable for those in need. Become aware of those who are not tech-seekers.

As she began building her hackathon team, she heard stories of family helpers scattered across time zones and stuck in meetings, unable to remotely diagnose and explain how to fix something to a relative. Some noted that readily available instructions for common technical problems are usually in English and inaccessible to loved ones who speak a different language, so it takes even longer to help.

Five people sit on a team call
(Top row, left to right) Nicole Birdie and Michael Monvuba, and (bottom row, left to right) Gracie Wilson, Rajeshwari Godbole and Ricardo Monteiro during a team call with Microsoft Garage leaders (not pictured) Team members in Australia Stephen Flegg and Amar Fadley in Ireland)

All they wanted was to be able to get a ping to their phone for help and log in to quickly see and fix the problem, whether it was something as simple as resetting the device’s volume level or removing malware. be more advanced. Then they could go about their day knowing that they had helped their loved ones go about them as well.

And they were all saddened by the lack of options currently available.

“Every single safety app I’ve seen is marketed specifically to parents of kids, but I don’t have kids, and I don’t want to geopolitical my mom, who is an adult and goes where she wants. Can go,” Birdie says. “It’s not about reporting where my family members are or what they’re doing, but about providing technical support. I don’t want to be able to read my mom’s text messages or make her feel that way.” It is not happening that his daughter is spying on him, all I want is for him to help him when he needs it.”

Birdie works in the Boston area, where Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Hub – affectionately called “NERD” – is based and where Chris Templeman runs the NERD Garage in the office in Kendall Square, Cambridge, one of the 14 garages around the world, He one day participated in the “Clippie’s Coffee Club” event, a weekly gathering organized by Templeman to connect with others and share ideas. To help Templeman build momentum for the upcoming hackathon, Birdie wrote several project ideas on notes and pinned them to the idea wall.

Wilson then saw his idea and convinced him to make an entry on the internal Hackbox site, and before long, Birdie was leading a spirited team that made up the U.S. with connections to India, Nigeria, Portugal, and Egypt. , Australia and Ireland.

When Michael Monvuba saw Birdie’s idea, a lightbulb went off: Not only does Monvuba ensure that privacy and security standards are followed in his position on Microsoft’s audit team, but he also spends time with non-profits in his spare time. Was also volunteering to help for-profit organizations configure Intune. Help manage their devices. He had also found ways to keep his two young daughters safe on the tablet at home.

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