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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella with Imagine Cup winner Bryan Chiang. (Microsoft Photo)

An 18-year-old college freshman and winner of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, the tech giants global student developer competition, has plans to transform how diabetics test and monitor their blood glucose levels with an app that gets the information by taking a picture of their eyes.

EasyGlucose is a creation of Bryan Chiang, a freshman at UCLA, who has a patent pending for the technology. Chiang said the technology can replace the painful pricks that diabetics have to do numerous times per day to check blood glucose.

“Our blood glucose levels are actually highly correlated with the glucose levels in the eye,” Chiang said during his finals pitch Monday. “And by analyzing images of the eye, we can determine our glucose levels by looking at specific structures inside the iris.”

For the first time, the finals of the annual competition, now in its 17th year, went down just before the opening keynote of the Microsoft Build developer conference in Seattle. The teams were judged by Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital Arlan Hamilton and Amjad Masad, CEO of

Charlotte Yarkoni, corporate vice president of cloud and AI at Microsoft, said the student developers’ projects have become more like complete products, including ways to generate revenue and profits, over the years. And moving the finals to Build gives them greater exposure to a broader swath of the tech community.

“We felt it was super important to have them be in a place where they represent tomorrow’s development community and engineering and entrepreneur community, but also having them come and present at a professional forum where there are other professional developers and entrepreneurs, would give them access to broader resources and information than just doing a Microsoft competition,” Yarkoni said.

Imagine Cup runner-up Team Caeli from India. (Microsoft Photo)

EasyGlucose’s bounty includes a $100,000 cash prize, a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, $50,000 in Azure grants and ongoing mentoring from Microsoft’s investment arm M12. Last year’s winning team made an AI-powered robotic arm called smartARM.

Chiang was inspired to build EasyGlucose after watching his grandmother deal with diabetes. The multiple tests per day cost patients thousands every year and costs the medical industry billions.

EasyGlucose has a one-time cost of $10 for a lens adapter that goes on the user’s smartphone and a $20 per month subscription fee. Chiang has a patent pending for the deep learning framework the app is built on. Chiang’s next steps including testing the technology with Stanford University and going for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Taking second place was Team Caeli from India, maker of an anti-pollution and drug delivery mask specifically designed for asthmatic and chronic respiratory patients. And in third was Team Findrr of England, which designed an app to help people who are visually impaired find lost items using their phone.

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