Teams from the groups of Prof. Chang, Kymissis, and Wang win the Verizon Open Innovation Challenge Grants

February 12, 2016

The Verizon Connected Futures Research and Prototyping Challenge, in partnership with NYC Media Lab, supports development of new media and technology projects from universities across New York City, linking students and faculty with industry experts.

NEW YORK, New York – February 3, 2016 – In partnership with NYC Media Lab, Verizon has awarded $250,000 to university teams for research and prototyping projects focusing on connected devices and hardware, journalism, and virtual reality. Fourteen projects from faculty, researchers and students from Columbia University, Cornell Tech, The New School, New York University and Pratt Institute will participate in the program.

The program initiated with a call for applications on September 25, 2015 at NYC Media Lab’s Annual Summit. Representatives from Verizon and NYC Media Lab visited classrooms and labs across the city in a four month recruitment process that culminated with a competitive application pool. Verizon sponsored this City-wide Challenge, presented by NYC Media Lab, to support students, faculty members and researchers affiliated with accredited higher education institutions in New York City. Verizon designated specific topic areas for the challenge: The World Without Phones, Empowering Citizen Journalism, Smart Home, and Virtual Reality. Teams will receive feedback and mentorship from Verizon executives working within those topic areas during the prototype development phase of the Challenge through April 2016.

“Great ideas come from everywhere. At Verizon we’re working with partners across industry, venture and academic communities to help bring these ideas to life and deliver on the promise of the digital world,” said Shawn Strickland, Head of Product Innovation at Verizon. “Through the NYC Media Lab’s Connected Futures program we have found a progressive and innovative partner in New York City’s academic community.”

“NYC Media Lab is grateful for the opportunity to connect Verizon with faculty and students across NYC’s universities to advance new technologies and ideas that will change they way we interact with one another, with information and with the world around us,” said Justin Hendrix, Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. “We are thrilled to see so many disciplines- from design to engineering and beyond- coming together to develop prototypes in response to Verizon’s challenge.”

The winning teams, listed by category, by team lead, additional team members, and by project name, are:

The World Without Phones

Ricki Goldman, Ken Perlin, Yuliya Grinberg, Jocelyn Scheirer, NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Project Decade merges a wearable skin conductance device with AR/VR to correlate wearers’ visual memory with physiological arousal.

Gaia Scagnetti, Jillian Lea Barkley, Kiran Puri, Ryan Schoenherr and Jennifer Sclafani, Pratt Institute
Auteur is a gestural system that offers the most sophisticated, friendly, empowering, and progressive response for re-empowering users to be directors of their digital/curated lives.

Sarit Szpiro, Shiri Azenkot, Yuhang Zhao, Cornell Tech
Enhancing Wayfinding with Wearables is a system of wearables that provide rich information in different modalities to enhance navigation in an urban environment.

Empowering Citizen Journalism

Hyuk Jae Henry Yoo, Keith Kirkland, Jesse Loosbrock, Dawn Moses, Winnie Wen, YangYang Wang, Kevin Yoo, Elaine Khuu, Pratt Institute
Everybody, Everywhere, Everytime is a toolkit, system and culture for citizen journalism. Easy and accurate capturing and sharing of experiences, made possible through responsible integration of technology and culture.

Joseph Ellis, Shih-Fu Chang, Hongzhi Li, Daniel Morozoff , Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Integrating User Generated Video and Image Content with Broadcast News Videos in Real Time automatically discovers rich visual user generated content from Instagram, Vine, and Twitter that add important supplementary information to news broadcasts.

Yao Wang, Xin Feng, Fanyi Duanmu, Shervin Minaee, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Witness Video Summarization: A Collective Journalistic Experience develops algorithms that can generate a comprehensive and yet non-redundant video coverage of a news event from videos captured and uploaded by witnesses.

Jessie Contour, Alonso Castro, The New School, Parsons School of Design
Feli Sánchez, Igor Carrasco, Eric Ramirez, Eva Revear, NYU School of Journalism
React amplifies public opinion during live broadcasting to shape and direct journalists’ coverage on the issues we care about.

Smart Home

Victor Vina, Rafaella Castagnola, James Tae, Kayla Schroter, Pratt Institute
Teleobjects are always-on, low-cost, personal, wireless devices which replace and extend mobile apps, occupying small spaces in the home.

Pavan Yedavalli, Xiaodong Wang, Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Using Beamforming for Wireless Power Transfer in an Internet-of-Things Architecture is a prototype solution for a wide variety of devices in consumer, healthcare, and infrastructure.

Ioannis Kymissis, Aida Raquelina Colon-Barrios, Marco Roberto Cavallari, Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
The Low Cost Bluetooth Connected Plant Monitor uses sensor technology to develop an ultra-low cost integrated plant monitoring system with bluetooth low energy advanced cost reduction strategies.

Benjamin Meigs, Rishi Kumar, NYU Stern School of Business
Intellifly is an ecosystem for smart/connected devices in aircraft passenger cabins.

Virtual Reality

Jaskirat Singh Randhawa, Grace H. Jun, The New School, Parsons School of Design
Stickie allows users to remotely collaborate on ideas by digitally annotating their spatial environment.

Jared Alan Frank, Matthew Moorhead, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Connecting People to Robots Using Interactive Augmented Reality Apps uses state of the art hardware and software of mobile devices to provide intuitive metaphors and rich augmented reality feedback for users as they control and interact with robotic technologies.

David Cihelna, Marc Abbey, Gene Han, NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program
Surround is a virtual reality live streaming platform that makes VR streaming accessible and more cost-effective than existing solutions.

Additional support for the challenge includes matching funds from from The New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Telecommunications and Distributed Information Systems (CATT) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

About NYC Media Lab
NYC Media Lab connects technologists in digital media and technology companies with New York City’s universities in order to drive innovation and talent development. A public-private partnership launched by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Columbia University and New York University, the Lab seeds projects to foster collaboration across a range of disciplines- from data and design to engineering- core to the future of media and communications. More is at

Media Contact: Ally Kirkpatrick
[email protected]
(646) 854-2559

Original press release can be found here.