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September 7, 2011
Windows Phone Developer Blog

8 Amazing Student Apps (AKA Thank Goodness It Wasn’t Code Named ‘Delaware’)

Update (9/9/2011):  Arjmand Samuel (Microsoft Research) posted about these apps on the Research Connections Blog.

Summer is winding down and Mango is right around the corner. We can’t wait to get Mango out broadly and for developers to unleash their new apps. There have been lots of activities going on to help out student developers who want to create apps for Windows Phone (don’t forget that we announce the final batch of winners for #WPAppItUp this Friday).

A recent event we held for students was called the Hawaii Intern XAPfest. The idea came a few months back when Jitu Padhye from Microsoft Research got in touch to explore how we could see what students would dream-up using Mango and MSR’s Hawaii Services. Along with Arjmand Samuel, the three of us chose to create a contest for Microsoft’s summer interns. The challenge: build an awesome app that uses Mango + Hawaii. To make it even tougher, the participants had to do their project on the side while working full-time at Microsoft for the summer.

We expected most everyone to be new to WP dev and so we lined up some top-notch experts to do weekly presentations so that folks could learn the platform. These talks were all recorded and posted (thank you, MSR!) and I highly recommend them to anyone getting started or if you want to go deeper in a particular area:

We selected the top eight apps for the finals. Laura Foy from Channel 9 hosted the event and each finalist got their chance to show off their app on stage in front of the judges.

The top eight were:

  • 8 Tracks Player (Gary Roumanis) – Beautiful app for the 8 Tracks music service. Makes great use of Windows Phone’s panoramas. Most amazing was that Gary, frustrated by the ongoing, months-long wait for an Android version, created this app in two months in his spare time.
  • Breadcrumbs (Shreyas Thiagarajasubramanian) – Helps people discover more about their surroundings by showing tags (images, audio, video, text) for places and locations. Now I can see real-time pictures from the spots I’m thinking of checking out.
  • Hands Free Cook (Roberto Sonnino and Ian Christopher) – Following a recipe on a phone with dirty “kitchen hands” while cooking isn’t something most of us would want to do. This app uses speech recognition to control the app and then reads recipes & instructions out loud so I can keep my phone free of kitchen grease and grit.
  • Headshot (Julia Schwarz) – I’ve tried taking self-portraits with my phone and often have to do a few takes to get it lined up properly. Not anymore.  With this app I can get it perfect the first time due to the app’s facial recognition and audio feedback.
  • Music Cloud 7 (Andrei Borodin) – Enables music to play on multiple phones at the same time. Imagine attending a party or event with everyone’s phone playing in sync. Gives a whole new definition to “surround sound.”
  • Optical Search (Marvin Cheng) – Recognizes all the words in a picture and then gives you the ability to pick & choose which words to use in a search. Look up something in a textbook or get help with a crossword puzzle.
  • “Pictionary” (Tara Balakrishnan) – This app uses Hawaii services to enable multiple people from anywhere to connect in real-time for a game of drawing and guessing. Guessers type their answers for the drawer to respond to. To top it off: Tara was the only high-school student in the finals.
  • Ringify (Alex Weingart and Matt Asplund) – Takes advantage of Mango’s new custom ringtone feature and allows you to quickly make ringtones out of your own music. Select the song and the section of the song you want as your ringtone.  My phone has been ringing like a G6 recently.


Headshot took home top honors and won a trip to Hawaii (Julia can thank MSR for not choosing Delaware as their code name).


You can see a 90 second highlight video as well as the full event over on Channel 9.

Since this was the first time we had done this contest, we weren’t sure what to expect. We were not disappointed! I was inspired by the creativity of these apps. There was real innovation and the apps were all incredibly well-done. We can’t wait to see them in the marketplace!


So you might be reading this and thinking, “I wish my phone could do X.” As long as “X” isn’t “teleport myself through space and time,” then there’s an excellent chance you can bring your idea to life on Windows Phone (but who knows what MSR will think up next).

What are you waiting for? Students should go sign-up for Dreamspark. Create your free account on App Hub (non-students pay $99/year). Get the Mango tools and get cracking. Also, ‘>’>email me if you have not yet connected with your local Mobile Champ.

I’ve been having a blast getting to know student developers and seeing what they create on Windows Phone. Keep your eyes open for more student events & activities in the coming months.


@benlower | +1 (206) 659-NINJA