Development competition finalists come up with ideas for making news more accessible in smart homes

Four finalist RJI Student Competition teams challenged to make news more accessible for the smart home have come up with ideas including interactive smart mirrors and the ability to ask basic questions about what they’re watching on TV news.

The research firm Gartner projects there will be 20.4 billion “connected things” being used by 2020.

During the competition, the teams, which are each made up of three to five journalism, business and engineering students from the University of Missouri, will develop prototypes for various ideas they initially came up with in the fall 2018. (The competition was also open to college students outside of MU, as long as they participated in the TigerHacks Hackathon  this fall where students from across the Midwest developed ideas for solving journalism challenges.)

“Students have come together, showing a lot of creativity as they submitted proposals,” said Ebony Reed, director of innovation and the RJI Futures Lab, and competition coordinator. “We are really excited about what the next several months will bring as they work together and further their ideas.”

RJI Student Competition teams can use any “internet of things” technologies, but the preferred platforms are single computers including Raspberry Pi or voice computing devices such as Amazon Alexa, Reed said.

Now through April, the finalists will meet with technical mentors from the campus and Columbia, Missouri, communities regularly to test ideas and get help in developing and marketing. This year’s mentors are James Gordon, senior editor in the RJI Futures Lab; Damon Kiesow, Knight Chair in Digital Editing and Producing at the Missouri School of Journalism; Reuben Stern, director of the School’s New York Program, and Ian Straub, founder and president of Golden Toad Software, a technology solutions provider.

Reed said students learn various skills including product development, how to work with students from other disciplines, incorporating industry trends and strategy.

The work “is definitely going to give these students a leg up in the industry,” said Straub. “And technology is constantly evolving as is the knowledge required to utilize it, so whenever someone can point to a functional product they created using cutting edge technology, you know they are someone you would like as a member of your team.”

Students will pitch their prototypes to judges on April 22 with the winners being announced on April 23 during which time teams will share their prototypes with the university community and public.

In the past, winners have received trips to New York and California to network and share their ideas with technology and media companies.

The 12th annual RJI Student Competition is a collaboration between the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Missouri School of Journalism, MU College of Engineering and Trulaske College of Business.

Meet the teams

Team Artico wants to connect smart technology to TV news so users can ask the smart device about basic information about the news they are watching and receive an answer. The members of the team are Jihwan Aum, journalism; Maishi Xie, strategic communication, and Huizi Yang, journalism.

Team Spectra plans to create an interactive smart mirror operating system that focuses on integratin,g personal and relevant information into a user’s daily life. Spectra will provide users with basic functions such as weather forecasting, a daily calendar, and push notifications.

The team members are Brian Dugan, marketing and political science; Alex Ring, journalism; Jacob Sokora, information technology, and Jonah Zukowsky, computer science.

Team Six Flags came up with the idea to create a product that provides a better news broadcasting experience for smart home users. It tries to solve the problem for the inconvenience of Alexa speakers and plain sound quality of phone speakers. The team’s members are Yongyu Deng, computer science; Jiarui Han, accounting; Danting He, journalism; Zhebin Weng, business, and Yinting Yu, journalism.

Team Wiper will create a home skill named Stitch so users can stitch together favorite news stories of the day and share them with friends on social media. Team Wiper is made up of Betsy Smith, convergence journalism; Isabella Thomason, math; Colton Vaughan, strategic communication and Spanish.

(The teams are in the early stages of development, so the ideas may change and evolve throughout the competition process.) 


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