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Smart speakers are transforming how we enjoy music, access information, and interact with our own homes, and it’s a growing market for tech innovation. This month, over 100 Tufts students had the unique opportunity to work with leaders from Sonos in a design challenge to build a new smart speaker experience that improves someone’s daily life.

Organized by Real Industry, a non-profit that works to connect universities and companies with real-world industry challenges and sponsored by Tufts Gordon Institute and Tufts Computer Science Exchange, the event kicked off on Sept. 28 on campus. Student teams met with industry experts from Sonos to learn more about the design challenge, and then had 10 days to come up with a prototype. Awards included just released Sonos One speakers for all winning team members, invitations to attend the companies’ Sonos Hack Day at Sonos’ Boston office, and invitations to interview for full-time positions at Sonos.

Tufts students were the first university students to have access to the pre-release Sonos API and were given exclusive developer access to create a real-world prototype, and develop their portfolios.

“We’re thrilled to work with Tufts students and our partners, because the next generation of technology leaders are here [at Tufts],” said Jay LeBoeuf, Executive Director, Real Industry.

“The massively growing smart home and smart speaker market is the perfect opportunity for young engineers and innovators to gain valuable skills” said Priyanka Shekar, Program Director, Real Industry.

“There is a surprising amount of technical complexity within a seemingly simple smart speaker,” said Ron Kuper, SW Director, Advanced Concepts Lab, Sonos. “It’s a problem space that touches a broad spectrum of hardware and software domains, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.

The winners were:

  • Bonker: iOS app that starts a music playlist playing on Sonos based on an input photo
    Team: Ali Decker, E18, Woody Shortridge, EG19
  • Ultrasonic Tracker: Hardware system for adjusting playback based on user location
    Team: Shadath Chowdhury, E19, Harrison Downs, E19, Davis Franklin, A18, Chanel Richardson, E20
  • Wake Up Remix: Software to play your wake up music in sync with your sleep cycle
    Team: Hermes Suen, E19, Eric Chen, A19, Fabio Vera, A19, Zack Nassar, E19, and Thomas Coons, E19

Sonos and Real Industry chose Tufts as a location for the challenge because of its strong interdisciplinary academic programs in engineering and entrepreneurship, and the potential for Tufts students to have an impact on the field.

“There is a synergistic belief that great opportunity exists at the intersection of technology and music,” said Susan Monaghan, Director of University Programs, Sonos. “Both Real Industry and Sonos sought to play at this intersection, and believe that upcoming graduates will drive the future in this space.”

Click here to see photos from the event.