MIT sophomores win OnStar Student Developer Challenge

At last week's Where 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, CA, General Motors and a team of tech elites crowned four students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the winners of the inaugural OnStar Student Developers Challenge.

The competition tasked five universities to create the next great app for OnStar's latest voice-controlled telematics system, and the crew from MIT beat out teams from Carnegie Mellon and the universities of Michigan, Texas and Toledo with its EatOn app. The app is essentially a mobile-friendly version of Yelp, allowing users to search for nearby restaurants, get ratings, make a reservation through OpenTable and send navigation instructions to the vehicle while alerting their friends and followers through text messaging and Twitter.

The four-member team from MIT were selected by a tech-savvy panel of judges, including Daniel Jacobson of NetFlix and the interminable Robert Scoble, and awarded a $10,000 "Developer Dream Package" consisting of an Apple iPad, MacBooks and a host of other geeky goodies. Hit the jump for the full details.

[Source: GM | Photo: Damon Lavrinc]
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OnStar Chooses Winning App in Developer Challenge
Next-generation voice-based applications on display at Where 2.0 Conference

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Four Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are Grand Prize winners of the OnStar Student Developer Challenge and a $10,000 Developer Dream Package. The winning team created an app called EatOn, a restaurant discovery experience within the vehicle.

In an effort to find the next original and compelling in-vehicle voice-enabled application, OnStar challenged students enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, University of Michigan, University of Texas and University of Toledo to submit voice applications that would help provide a greater level of connectivity to OnStar subscribers.

Six finalists (teams and individuals) from the universities traveled as guests of OnStar to the Where 2.0 Conference to present their app submissions to a panel of technology judges including Robert Scoble (Scobleizer), Daniel Jacobson (Netflix), Matthew Ervin (The Plum Group) and Jeff Liedel (OnStar).

"This challenge was about looking outside the box in order to develop new technologies that will enrich the driving experience for our six million customers," said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of Planning and Business Development. "We were extremely impressed with all of the students' final app submissions. These students represent the future of digital connectivity and I wouldn't be surprised to see one of these applications incorporated into OnStar's suite of services in the future."

The winning team consisted of MIT sophomores Drew Dennison, Isaac Evans, Sara Sprague and Marie Burkland.

"It was a great competition that allowed us to explore the latest in automotive technology," said Dennison. "There were excellent submissions and strong teams. It was fun to work together; everyone brought 110 percent effort and we are honored to be selected."

Their challenge-winning app, EatOn, allows drivers to use only their voice to locate nearby restaurants, listen to ratings and reviews, make reservations through OpenTable, call or receive turn-by-turn driving directions to the desired restaurant. The app also allows users to send their friends automated text invitations to the restaurant or post their destination on Twitter.

The Student Developer Challenge is a part of OnStar's targeted push to a connected future by bringing next-generation voice-based applications to subscribers. OnStar's vision was part of Pudar's keynote address at the Where 2.0 conference.

In his address, Pudar spoke about the future of automotive connectivity, where we are today and the possibilities in the future. Creating a seamless experience in the vehicle is imperative and a focus for OnStar as more features are integrated into the vehicle.

Pudar said OnStar is committed to helping shape the future of automotive connectivity, whether that is by introducing new technologies or by involving future engineers in opportunities such as the Developer Challenge.

"We need to develop services that add value to the consumer's mobility and personal experience and solve for some of their everyday needs," he said.

In addition to presenting at Where 2.0, the student finalists also attended panel sessions, networked with technology influencers and viewed emerging location-aware technologies. The Grand Prize winner was announced at a ceremony on April 20.

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