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Undergraduate Finalist and General Update

Since the last time I posted, I decided to apply for the Undergraduate of the Year award for Computer Science, IT & Physics. The Undergraduate of the Year is run by Target Jobs, and the awards are being offered by various companies. For the one I applied to, the FDM Group were hosting. We were asked to write about our passion for technology, and I spoke about an idea that I dream of creating. This is the short essay I wrote:


 

Tell us about your passion for technology by identifying a technical innovation you dream of creating.

My passion for technology stems from my adoration of solving problems and thinking logically. I also love the results that I can get from my programming – I can develop a game that someone will play and enjoy, or I could work on an app which helps people manage their time/problems/etc.

My area of interest is Artificial Intelligence and the thought of developing software which is sentient is amazing. Aside from games and voice recognition, there are bigger and more important uses for AI. It is versatile and can (and will) be used to revolutionise the world we live in: it can be used to drive a car in a much safer and more efficient manner; it can be used to identify various types of skin cancer (and are just as accurate as trained professionals); and it serves each and every one of us in the form of Siri, Cortana or Google Assistant.

My dream technical innovation would be with synthetic telepathy – communicating with a device without speaking or gesturing. When you read, or think about something in your mind, your larynx makes very small movements which is effectively the same motion made when you say the words aloud, but toned down and not noticeable. Using perhaps electrodes, or a modified version of the laryngophone, a device could pick up the vocal movements made by the larynx. With the user reading set text, the device could learn which movements mean which word. After deciphering what the user is subvocalising the information could be used to help the user – people who are unable/unwilling to speak due to throat cancer, autism, selective muteness or perhaps those with motor neurone disease. The deciphered information could be used to create speech others can hear, or perhaps to control a device they are dependent on.

The idea feels maybe far fetched, however it is possible. There is a small amount of research done in this field, but there isn’t much well defined work created from it. I dream of creating technology which can quickly and accurately do this, and then be made publicly and cheaply available, because I believe it would change the lives of potentially millions of people struggling with these illnesses.


I went on to complete some online competency tests based around mathematics and logic. About a week later I heard that I’d made it through into the final 10%, and the next stage – a telephone interview – was scheduled. That interview went quite well, and I had high hopes of getting through to the next stage. I received a call a week later, and the woman talked about how they’re really interested because of my essay and my interview. I was expecting a ‘but’, however she went on to tell me I’m through into the final 20, and they’ll pay for my expenses to make a trip to London to visit the assessment centre! Needless to say I’m excited for the trip (on the 10th), and can’t wait to see the FDM offices.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on coursework for University. This week I submitted coursework for my Networking module, in which I created a server and a client in C# that communicated over several different protocols. In the coming weeks I’ll reimplement this software into a Pong game, as part of my Game Architecture coursework. In addition to this, my Advanced Programming coursework has been released – our task is to create a data structure that can store (and solve) Sudoku in the most effective manner, written in C++. In preparation to start this coursework, I’m currently going over old practical lessons and notes on efficiency in C++. I’m also shortly expecting to receive coursework for two more modules: Simulation and 3D Graphics; and Artificial Intelligence.

I’ve been advised to start thinking about my final year project, and have been told to consider submitting my own. I’m not entirely sure what route I want to go down – I quite like the idea of building a game engine with C# and OpenGL, but I’m also quite interested in working with Artificial Intelligence further. Of course I’d love to work on the project idea I had for FDM, but I’m not entirely sure whether it’s an appropriate sized project for my final year.

Also a brief note on the new website – I wasn’t able to link directly to projects in my portfolio, and to update it I had to edit the HTML file which wasn’t convenient. I found a nice template (the one I’m using now), bought it for about £10, and then linked it to my (self-hosted) WordPress blog, by directly accessing the database using PHP and displaying it on the new page. I still get the benefit of typing using the WordPress editor, and my blog can still be viewed with the WordPress theme, but it also shows it on the main page which looks nice (and I can create/edit/delete projects, I just tag a blogpost as ‘Portfolio’ and it puts it into the portfolio, and not into the general ‘blog’.