Man in suit giving thumbs-up

AI bot that helps people prepare for job interviews wins £5,000 prize

A bot that uses facial recognition technology to help people prepare for job interviews has won £5,000 for three UK students.

Samuel Littlefair, Pranay Mistri and Roneel Bhagwakar, from the University of Manchester, have been crowned champions of Microsoft’s UK Imagine Cup and will now go through to the grand final in the US, where they could win up to $100,000.

The trio developed Interview Bot, which uses facial analysis and speech recognition to offer real-time feedback on facial expressions during practice interviews, informing users whether their style is positive, neutral, or negative. Littlefair, Mistri and Bhagwaker used Microsoft’s cognitive API tools and its cloud platform, Azure, to create the bot, which is currently a concept and has not been fully built.

“Our university offers advice on CVs and cover letters, but the area for interviews had a gap. We wanted to help other students, stemming from our personal experiences and the challenges that we’ve faced,” said Mistri, who worked on the design, layout and branding.

Samuel Littlefair, Pranay Mistri and Roneel Bhagwakar, from the University of Manchester, with Emily Byle (left) and Rob Fraser (right), from Microsoft

In addition to providing feedback on how positive the user interview technique is, Interview Bot uses Microsoft’s Bing Speech API to provide feedback on speech sentiment, as well as a transcription of the interview in real-time. The tool can also check-off specified key words once they’ve been said, helping users to remember important subjects during their session.

The bot is intelligent enough to scan the text of an uploaded CV, pick out keywords and use them into questions. If a CV mentions proficiency in JavaScript, for example, the bot will ask users to talk about their work in this area.

Littlefair, Mistri and Bhagwakar will travel to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond later this year for the grand final of the Imagine Cup, where they will compete against teams from across the world for a prize of up to $100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella. The Imagine Cup is an annual competition that encourages students to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications that shape how people live, work and play.

Interview Bot was chosen as the winner of the UK final by a panel of four judges – Rob Fraser, Senior Director of Commercial Software Engineering for Microsoft in the UK and Ireland; Haiyan Zhang, Microsoft Research Innovation Director; Louise O’Connor, Rare UK Executive Producer; and Michael Wignall, Chief Technology officer at Microsoft UK.

Fraser said: “The talent in the room [was] spectacular. The panel was staggered at the level of creativity, thought, expertise and insight; every team brought something different to the table.”

The second-place prize of £3,000 was awarded to a team called Black Light from the University of Abertay. The group created a firefighting training simulator using virtual and mixed-reality.

Visual Cognition – a team from University College London and University of Cambridge that uses machine learning to improve internet accessibility for those with visual impairments – took home the third-place prize of £2,000.