Person of the month
Young Hungarian Developer helping the integration of the hearing-impaired - who captured even Apple’s attention
He feels at ease in each area of information technology, from robot programming through web-development to app-development. He has won a number of national and international competitions. In 2016 Apple invited him to their WWDC international developer conference. In 2016 he was the first in the Hungarian Innovation Competition, as a result of which he could participate in a youth world competition in Los Angeles. The 16 year old Roland Kovács does not only program new applications, but also tries to address social problems and find solutions for them. From 2016 MOL Support Program has been helping his activities.
When you were 15, you developed an application which helps the integration of the hearing-impaired as it propagates sign language. You are not at all concerned in this area – why are you interested in this matter?
While preparing for a school competition I first met sign language in a robot programming group. I was shocked to learn how many people are concerned. Taking only Hungary into consideration, there are 60 thousand deaf people living in our country, and 10 % of humankind are hard of hearing. In connection with the competition we were researching this topic area, and to my surprise I could not find any application that could be related to the Hungarian sign language, and even the „teaching material” accessible on the internet is rather poor. The more I dealt with the topic the more resolute I became that I have to write an application for it. This is how my „Show it!” application was born, which was further developed into the „Show me!” variant which is also available in English and has a VR version.
You seem to be interested in social problems in general, and you also know the way how to communicate this. Your video introducing the application is quite a teaser.
Information technology in my opinion can provide answers for several social problems, as through IT the youth can easily be addressed. I believe that ideas that benefit the public can be smuggled into entertaining games and different applications. A lot of difficulties arise from the situation that the young people nowadays do not even know or notice what kind of social problems they are surrounded by. Nearly everyone has a smart-phone, you just need an interesting app and in this way we can call their attention to a good cause.
What is the concept of the application?
The gist of the application is the two 3D hands that show the signs for the words written in the search bar. Meanwhile in the background a coloured graph appears which helps memorizing the sign and the movement. If we write in an unknown word, e.g. a first name, then it signs the word with the dactyl alphabet signs letter by letter. The app works as a multifunction game, therefore it teaches unawares. This app was not mainly developed for teaching the sign language, as this is a complex process, but rather to make the method of signalling more popular, to make people aware of it. The app is simple, colourful, easy to use, as I meant it mainly for children, which can be a step on the way between the worlds of the hearers and the hearing-impaired. I believe that this has to be shown to children at an early age when they are still open and free of preconceptions so that they could become more accepting adults.
You are now working on another language teaching program.
I like teaching and including interested friends in my work, therefore with my classmates I have developed an app for extending vocabulary and a word puzzle. The LayP language teaching playful app supports at present six languages. Its speciality is that it teaches the words classified into categories. It aims at people who urgently have to learn the basic vocabulary of a language for instance because of a job or a journey.
A proof of your success is that Apple also invited you to a conference.
Yes, I applied for it and on the basis of the material I had submitted I was invited to the Apple WWDC Conference in San Francisco, but unfortunately I could not go because of financial reasons. By the way, more million people apply for the conference, 5000 get an opportunity to participate, and 300-400 students are invited and get free admission to the conference. So, the invitation was a great honour for me.
In Hungary you won the first prize of the 25th Youth Scientific and Innovation Talent Competition, so in 2017 you could travel to the United States to the International Science and Engineering Fair, Intel ISEF. What was one of the biggest science talent-competition like?
The competition was organized in Los Angeles, so just the journey itself was a great experience. I spent a week there in the competition, which is similar to an enormous expo. From 78 countries 1800 students participated who got into the finals, and together with the accompanying persons it means a mass of 4000-50000 people. In the fair centre each project was presented on its own stall among others in the fields of medicine, microbiology, mathematics and space research. I participated in the System Software category. On the fringe of the competition the events and award ceremonies were gigantic American show programs where well-known media personalities, internet-stars and vloggers were the presenters together with the President of Intel Foundation. When I heard my name in the room as the fourth winner in my category everything seemed to be like in a dream.
The IT experts of MOL were informed about your results and the leader of MOL Information Services, András Svébis invited you for a short meeting. How did the conversation go?
It was extremely surprising and honourable. Mr Svébis and the IT team accepted me very kindly. Among my friends there are few who are really interested in informatics, I know most of my professional mates only online, therefore it was a real treat for me to meet experts in person. It was interesting to hear from the IT experts of MOL how they use the technologies which I also know. I was overwhelmed to see how the IT experts of different special areas work together in a team in such a big company.