Challenge 22 is our opportunity to showcase Qatar to the world
Twelve months ago Ali El Dous was an undergraduate preparing for his final exams. Now he is part of something he says will enable him to play his part in showcasing the brilliance and beauty of the Middle East to the world. And he cannot wait.
Born and raised in Doha, Ali was studying computer science at Qatar University and due to complete his studies in the summer of 2015.
As he neared the end of his time at university, a fellow student alerted him to a new innovation competition launched by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) – Challenge 22. And a seed was sewn.
Just a few months later – after working around the clock to complete his exams and the Challenge 22 proposal – he was a winner, savouring the opportunity to play his part in showing the world what his region can do when it plays host to the 2022 FIFA World Cup™.
Something, he says, he could never have dreamt about back in 2010.
"At the beginning I thought it was just going to be for football," he told www.sc.qa. "They would come here, play the games and then leave. But the Supreme Committee is doing fantastic work, getting in touch with the community and spreading the culture of innovation.
"They are bringing benefits to every part of this community – not only for football, but for other areas too. This is the impact the 2022 World Cup will bring to the region. Without Challenge 22 we could not have been here."
And as well as the joy and excitement he felt when Qatar won the bid, he also recalled another emotion that day.
"I was excited," he continued. "But I also felt a very strong sense of responsibility. That responsibility has pushed us all. Everyone is trying to find solutions. Solutions for stadiums, solutions for legacy – to show the image of Qatar for what is it, a wonderful, proud country."
Fast-forward to 2015, and a chance meeting with soon-to-be ARVEX (Amazing Reality Viewing Experience) team member Salman Badnava occurred in the corridors of Qatar University. He suggested they consider entering an augmented reality fan experience concept into the competition.
So Ali set about working on what he views as his responsibility. The young entrepreneur speaks passionately about his region's FIFA World Cup™, and enthusiastically about the opportunity to play a role in the historic events to come.
"By luck or by chance, I'm not sure which, we heard about Challenge 22 just before I graduated last year," he continued. "We had exams to prepare for and were told we should choose one thing to focus on. But we did both, and we were successful."
The project began with a focus on augmented reality – glasses that fans can wear inside a stadium and supply them with additional information about their surroundings, such as replays and live statistics.
Since winning the competition, however, Ali and his team's idea has evolved – and they are now pursuing fan-related experiences in virtual reality technology.
"We thought we could introduce another dimension for the people in the stadium," he continued. "We provide a completely new experience for fans."
Following a period of research, both in the lab and at the stadiums, the concept progressed.
"We thought 'let's move to virtual reality'," he continued "It has a lot of benefits – it can reach much greater audiences because it works outside of the stadium too. So we provided the same features we had for the concept of augmented reality, but with virtual.
"It's going to be an experience that allows the fans outside of the stadium to act like they are inside, to have this interactivity inside the virtual reality."
Since winning Challenge 22 in the summer of 2015, his life has completely changed – and he thinks many other lives around the region will also change due to such programmes.
As well as the funding and mentorship opportunities Challenge 22 provided it has, he says, opened numerous doors of opportunity. On 25 May they will present in front of investors, businesspeople and enterprise companies at the Accelerator Day Demo.
"We can show our prototype and our concept," he continued. "If they like it, and they see the potential in it that we do, then there could be an opportunity here for us. Life is all about opportunities. The opportunity that we currently have could turn into a very successful project."
Ali concluded by acknowledging the crucial work his other team members have played in the ARVEX journey. As well as Salman, an electrical engineering student and Doha resident originally from Iran, the team also has two other computer science undergraduates in their ranks: Taofik Al Nass from Syria, and Egyptian Khaled Mohamed.
"I must say the team I have is great," he added. "Without a great team you cannot do anything. We are multicultural and multi-disciplined – we all bring something different to the group."
Challenge 22 returns later this year and Cycle 2 will open the programme to more countries across the region than ever before. Keep an eye out on www.sc.qa for an important announcement soon – and you could be the next person to cultivate innovation in the Middle East, and play your part in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™.