Nearly 100 students came to the first speed dating session. Sixteen teams submitted ideas. Ten teams made initial pitches. Five finalists received funds and mentoring to make those ideas a reality. Today, one of those teams emerged victorious. Team Recordly won the grand prize in the ninth annual RJI Student Competition. They’ll demo their timesaving mobile service for Apple executives in Cupertino, California, later this month.
Recordly uses the Apple Watch as a remote control for tracking and highlighting audio interviews recorded on the iPhone. It harnesses the power of IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence platform to provide real-time, speech-to-text transcriptions for reporters in the field at a fraction of the cost of other commercial services.
Recordly was designed and developed by five University of Missouri students from five different countries: John Gillis, a computer engineering undergraduate from the United States; Zolbayar Magsar, a computer science graduate student from Mongolia; and three journalism graduate students: Anna Maikova from Russia, Yaryna Mykhyalyshyn from Ukraine and Sintia Radu from Romania.
The team plans to market Recordly to news agencies and individual journalists, first in the U.S., then abroad. They say their tool will save reporters several hours of manual transcription each month, time that can be redirected to telling more and better stories.
Randy Picht, executive director of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, is impressed by the practicality of the team’s product. “They have figured out a solution to a growing problem in newsrooms where the newer generation of reporters records everything because it’s so easy to do.”
One of the final-round judges in the RJI Student Competition, SafeTrek founder Zach Winkler, says Team Recordly “has identified a niche market they can hammer from all sides.” Winkler knows whereof he speaks. The 25-year-old MU computer science graduate was a member of winning teams in the RJI Student Competition two years in a row, including 2013 when he launched the personal safety app at the end of that year’s contest. Winkler has just raised more than a million dollars to expand SafeTrek and is moving his team from San Diego to St. Louis.
He joined four other high-profile business and journalism professionals in hearing the pitches and choosing the winners: Adventur.es Vice President Emily Holdman; Newsy General Manager Blake Sabatinelli; Ebony Reed, director of business development for local markets at The Associated Press; and University of Missouri School of Journalism Dean David Kurpius.
The five finalist teams received the same challenge back in September 2015: develop a “must-have,” media-themed app for the Apple Watch that informs, engages and entertains, and where appropriate, takes advantage of other Apple products such as the iPhone and Apple TV.
The judges gave this year’s Technical Merit award to a team of four undergraduates: computer science students Bryan Hill and Dallas Hoelscher, journalism student Jeff Orr and communications student Ryan Platt. Their product, Maply, is a crowd-sourced platform that alerts users when they move within range of events they might want to join. It also taps the Apple Watch’s Time Travel feature so users can look ahead to upcoming events in their area.
Reed says the Maply team gave a strong presentation. She saw potential in taking advantage of “the network effect” to grow the Maply database of events. The judges also noted the team’s ambitious plans to acquire customers and scale up quickly into a leader in the online event planning space.
Three other teams made their pitches yesterday afternoon.
Team VuseFeed (journalism students Riley Beggin, Erin Fry and Daniel Levitt and computer science students Benjamin Liu and Josh O’Steen) is working on a “white label” service for newsrooms wanting to post short video “trailers” to the Apple Watch, driving traffic to full-length stories on the smartphone, tablet or connected TV.
Team Fit Geek (computer science students Olivia Apperson, Yuxiang Chen and Teddy Ivanov and journalism students Yitian Gu and Chris Mathews) delivers short workout videos to the Apple Watch for people who want to improve their skills in the gym or at home without being tethered to a smartphone app or TV.
Team Tick Task (computer science students Michael Henke and Travis Henrichs, journalism students Samantha Huston and Mark Kaman and business student Ryan Steinberg) are working on a Watch-based tool for managing daily tasks in fraternities, sororities and other student organizations.
All five teams gave mini-presentations of their products at the launch of today’s 2016 RJI Tech Showcase, a daylong program that features the work of more than 100 students in areas such as app development, virtual reality, innovations in online storytelling and new uses of social media.
The grand-prize winners will share their plans for Recordly with executives at Apple headquarters in Cupertino and with University of Missouri alumni in the Bay Area on May 18.
Each of the 24 student finalists received a fourth-generation Apple TV, presented by their RJI mentors, Futures Lab Director Mike McKean, Associate Professor of Computer Science Dale Musser and Deputy Futures Lab Director Reuben Stern.
The MU College of Engineering provided generous financial support for this year’s competition.