2 March 2007
A team of South African students have won an international award for developing an online, cellphone version of the traditional African board game Morabaraba.
David Vannucci, Teddy Mwakabaga and Rolan Christian from the University of the Witwatersrand’s school of electrical and information engineering received a silver medal for their entry, “Mobiraba”, at the SIMagine Awards in Barcelona last month.
“Mobiraba the cellphone game was tested at the 2006 National Morabaraba Trials and received excellent reviews from experts,” said Professor Barry Dwolatzky, the team’s supervisor.
Cellphone users can play Mobiraba online by logging on to a game server and chosing between two gaming options. A quick game allows the user to be automatically matched up against another quick game player of a similar skill level, while an organised games allows the user to send out invitations to a chosen opponent.
The online server maintains the results of all the players, as well as rankings and a record of each game.
Dwolatzky said the invention could be used to develop Morabaraba further in the country, as it would be possible to organise online tournaments. According to Dwolatzky, over 16-million South Africans play the game.
“Players could play for communities and clubs in online Mobiraba forums and purchase additional game play credits by simply sending an SMS to a premium rated number,” he said.
The annual SIMagine awards, sponsored by SIM card manufacturer Gemalto, aim to stimulate the development of Java-based SIM card applications.
The winner of this year’s event was a team from Poland who entered an application called SIMKey, which allows the user to replace all kinds of electronic keys with a single key stored on their cellphone.
A Chinese team came in third with their entry “Google SIM”, which enables most of Google’s services – including e-mail, online messaging, calendars and maps – on a user’s SIM card.
The competition drew more than 315 entries from companies and universities around the world, of which only eight were selected as finalists.
“This is an honour for the School of Electrical and Information Engineering, the university, South Africa and the students,” said Dwolatzky. “They managed to beat competitors from countries with advanced software development and developed information systems.”