Microsoft's Hack4Asia wants to bring innovative solutions to China and India

Kareem Anderson

Image Credit: Microsoft

India and China appear as two of the largest growth centers for companies looking to expand their presence in the future. When the reference, “next billion” is trotted out onto stages, used during press conferences or littered in marketing pieces, the phrase is an acknowledgment of Asia’s influence on the future.

Over the last few years, China has risen to become the world largest smartphone market while India is steadily becoming the fast-growing mobile market. Combined, the two countries account for over half of the world’s population, hence the desire to seize their respective markets by most consumer-driven companies. Beyond consumerizing the area, tech companies, in particular, are also looking to harvest technological innovations that are coming out of the region. 

To help foster innovations from Asia, Microsoft has started a new initiative called Hack4Asia during its company-sponsored, three-day event, 2015 Hackathon. The concept of Hack4Asia lay in the aptly named title of the event. Microsoft employees are invited to develop products and new technologies that help empower Asian customers. According to Microsoft, “More than a thousand teams from mainland China, India, Israel, Hong Kong and Taiwan are participating in the Hackathon, highlighting Microsoft’s innovative strength in Asia.” With offices and employees in the various regions, teams were able to use insight from local, cultural and economic values to help shape their hacks. While the Hack4Asia is specific to its locale, the resulting hacks could translate well to helping all people be productive, in and out of Asia.

Of note, Project TalkEasy was a Microsoft highlight from the Hack4Asia event. Sponsored by executive vice president of Microsoft’s Technology and Research Group, Harry Shum, TalkEasy transcribes speech into real-time text. Another useful hack produce during that time, was specific to India and integrates Microsoft’s Cortana assistant with street navigation in the area. The hack includes emergency support, and real-time bus data to help people get around, specifically the visually impaired.