Four Student Teams Selected for Prestigious NYC Mentoring Program

EyeStyle, created by a Columbia Engineering PhD student and a postdoctoral researcher, helps shoppers find clothing based on images they upload. It was one of four Columbia Engineering-connected projects chosen for support and mentoring from Verizon and NYC Media Lab.
EyeStyle, created by a Columbia Engineering PhD student and a postdoctoral researcher, helps shoppers find clothing based on images they upload. It was one of four Columbia Engineering-connected projects chosen for support and mentoring from Verizon and NYC Media Lab.
—Image courtesy of EyeStyle

For engineers, creativity and entrepreneurship skills are essential—not only for advancing the frontiers of what’s possible but for practically applying new ideas to human challenges. For young engineers, mentoring is another critical element in the mix.

Four teams of young entrepreneurs connected to Columbia Engineering will be getting that support and the opportunity to develop their business ideas this year through the Connected Futures program from Verizon and the NYC Media Lab, a prestigious program that provides funding and mentorship for some of New York’s most impressive young innovators. A total of 11 university teams were picked this year for their promising prototypes in the media space.

EyeStyle, a service powered by artificial intelligence that helps shoppers find clothing based on images they upload, was selected in the program’s Conversational Interfaces category. The service, created by Jie Feng PhD’17 of Computer Science and Svebor Karaman, a postdoctoral researcher in Electrical Engineering, integrates sophisticated machine learning with user-friendly apps to help consumers find what they’re looking for.  In addition to the Connected Futures program, the EyeStyle team was chosen for NYC Media Lab Combine, a program created to commercialize emerging media technologies created by faculty and students at New York universities. 

"The Columbia startup community has been quite helpful for connecting us to resources—especially people,” Feng said. He cited the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE) and mentors at SEAS and the Business School, among others.

Also chosen in Conversational Interfaces was Kiko, which uses face-tracking techniques to create animations based on users’ real-time expressions and movements. Created by Columbia electrical engineering graduate student Wanyi Xu and Jacob Sniff, the software empowers users to quickly create their own customized emojis and short cartoons.

Kiwi's app allows students to work interactively with textbooks.
The Kiwi app allows students to work interactively with textbooks. Learn more in this video.

Kiwi, created by a team from the School of Visual Arts and Columbia's Data Science Institute, including Kuo Zhang MS’17, was selected in the Augmented and Mixed Reality category. It is a mobile application scanner for textbooks that helps to create a more immersive learning experience for high school students. The project was designed to facilitate active learning environments in which students search for information beyond the textbook pages and make notes.

Palmos, a wireless network of sensors that detects vibrations and uses machine learning to improve environmental monitoring and prediction of landslides, was selected in the Internet of Things category. Teammates Gregory Kollmer and Aykut Aksit of Mechanical Engineering and Troy Hodges of Earth and Environmental Engineering, all Columbia Engineering graduate students, began the project last year at Columbia’s Sensing and The City design challenge, in which student teams competed to develop sensor-based ideas to help improve life in Rio de Janeiro and cities across the developing world. They won the challenge, earned a cFUND Ignition grant from SEAS, and are now in the midst of three months of mentorship from the Verizon Open Innovation team.

“The Connected Futures program has given Palmos the resources to work on the project full time,” Kollmer said. “It’s been tremendously helpful to be able to work with the excellent engineers and designers at Verizon to better understand how to translate our idea into a commercial product.”

—by Jesse Adams

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