Text originally at University of Waterloo website.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Matt Neill

Two UWaterloo students won big this month at the Toronto Digifest 2014. Matt Neill, an English (Rhetoric and Professional Writing) student, received the ‘Best Integrated Media Project’ award for his digital signage applicationPOET, while Connor Turland, studying Knowledge Integration, won ‘Best Overall Project’ with his teammates for their project, Metamaps.cc.

Toronto Digifest is an annual festival that brings together industry, academia and the public to showcase groundbreaking creations and trending content in digital media, art, design, and technology. This year’s theme was Digital Urbanism and the Future of Cities. From May 8-10th, Digifest hosted the “Best of the Best” student showcase at the George Brown Waterfront Campus. 40 projects from 13 post-secondary institutions were on display and competing for the top awards.

“I loved seeing the diversity of digital creations from games to app concepts to augmented reality projects to get a feeling for what’s being produced at these awesome schools from across Ontario,” says Connor.

Both Matt and Connor work with Research Entrepreneurs Accelerating Prosperity (REAP) a UWaterloo-affiliated extracurricular program, which sponsored the two young entrepreneur’s Digifest entries. REAP brings students and private-sector partners together to explore new ideas and technologies. “We can draw on Arts-led student design thinking, combined with technological innovation and business entrepreneurship to create new assemblages of technology to meet emerging needs while opening up new markets,” says David Goodwin, co-founder of REAP.

Matt’s Point of Experience Technology (POET) allows retail customers to learn more about products via an interactive, experience on an in-store digital signage kiosk. “POET’s flexible and responsive digital signage solution ensures an optimal experience for any screen configuration or size,” says Matt. “The best part about this ‘pitch’ is that everyone has experienced this issue – whether in a liquor store, a coffee shop, or a department store.  Because we had an actual working demonstration at the event, we were able to show what we were working on in real time, as if it were actually in the store.”

Connor’s Metamaps.cc is a free and open source platform that helps individuals, communities and organizations collaboratively build and visualize their shared knowledge. Connor explains that Metamapping is the process of “being able to take the things that exist in our heads and make sense of them, model systems, make connections and strategize on best practices, approaches, processes and workflows.”

“Digifest was great,” says Matt. “It was refreshing to talk about the creative process and the ideation behind the actual design, rather than trying to ‘pitch’ the idea.  It was about the artistic elements behind the project.”

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