UW News


February 7, 2024

Q&A: Helping robots identify objects in cluttered spaces

A shelf in a lab. The shelf contains the following items: a pitcher on its side, a bowl in front of a bottle of Soft Scrub, a mug on a plate and a spoon balanced on the plate. Everything except the plate has a green box around it. The plate has a red box around it.

Robots in warehouses and even around our houses struggle to identify and pick up objects if they are too close together, or if a space is cluttered. This is because robots lack what psychologists call “object unity,” or our ability to identify things even when we can’t see all of them. Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a way to teach robots this skill.


January 30, 2024

Using computers to design proteins allows researchers to make tunable hydrogels that can form both inside and outside of cells

New research led by the UW demonstrates a new class of hydrogels that can form not just outside cells, but also inside of them. These hydrogels exhibited similar mechanical properties both inside and outside of cells, providing researchers with a new tool to group proteins together inside of cells.


December 19, 2023

How will climate change affect how predators hunt prey? Two UW professors teamed up to find out

A hand wearing a glove next to a paw print in the snow

Two UW professors teamed up to study how climate change will affect predator-prey interactions in snowy landscapes. Together with a group of researchers, the two measured snow properties that led to a “danger zone,” where prey would sink but predators would not.


December 14, 2023

Seattle metro residents near Amazon delivery stations face more pollution but order fewer packages

An Amazon cargo van parked in front of two houses in Seattle.

UW researchers found that people who live within 2 miles of an Amazon last-mile delivery station are exposed to more delivery-related air pollution despite ordering fewer packages.


September 13, 2023

Battery-free robots use origami to change shape in mid-air

A hand holding tweezers that are holding a yellow square with circuits on it

UW researchers developed small robotic devices that can change how they move through the air by “snapping” into a folded position during their descent.


September 12, 2023

Fall snow levels can predict a season’s total snowpack in some western states

The sun shines through trees in a forest and there is a light dusting of snow on the ground

Research led by the UW found that, in some western states, the amount of snow already on the ground by the end of December is a good predictor of how much total snow that area will get.


July 27, 2023

Q&A: UW researcher discusses just how much energy ChatGPT uses

A hand holding a phone that has ChatGPT on the screen

Training a large language model, such as ChatGPT, uses on average roughly equivalent to the yearly electricity consumption of over 1,000 U.S. households, according to Sajjad Moazeni, UW assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, who studies networking for AI and machine learning supercomputing.


July 10, 2023

New biodegradable plastics are compostable in your backyard

A person is holding up a cube and looking at it

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington has developed new bioplastics that degrade on the same timescale as a banana peel in a backyard compost bin.


May 31, 2023

UW researcher discusses the buzz behind ‘Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’

A screenshot of Zelda protagonist Link standing outside the Shrine of Resurrection in the "Tears of the Kingdom" game

UW News sat down with Michele Newman, a University of Washington doctoral student in the Information School, to learn more about fans’ dedication to “Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.”


May 23, 2023

Q&A: Have a favorite food memory? How technology can help take you back

A hand holding a spring roll open in the palm. Inside the spring roll are noodles and finely chopped vegetables. Behind the hand is a plate containing more vegetables.

Danli Luo, a UW doctoral student of human centered design and engineering, developed a toolkit of sensors and controllers that helped her re-create three dishes from growing up in China: rice wine, tofu and spring roll wrappers.


April 19, 2023

Q&A: Two ways UW researchers are studying marine microplastics

microplastics seen in a water tank

Two University of Washington researchers are using very different methods to investigate the issue of marine microplastics. For Earth Day, UW News asked them to discuss their research.


February 8, 2023

Q&A: UW researcher discusses future of quantum research

Kai-Mei Fu headshot

Scientists at the University of Washington are pursuing multiple quantum research projects spanning from creating materials with never-before-seen physical properties to studying the “quantum bits” — or qubits (pronounced “kyu-bits”) — that make quantum computing possible. UW News sat down with Professor Kai-Mei Fu, one of the leaders in quantum research on campus, to talk about the potential of quantum R&D, and why it’s so important.


January 23, 2023

Q&A: How AI can help people be more empathetic about mental health

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington studied how artificial intelligence could help people on the platform TalkLife, where people give each other mental health support. The researchers developed an AI system that suggested changes to participants’ responses to make them more empathetic. The best responses resulted from a collaboration between AI and people.


November 16, 2022

Q&A: UW researchers find privacy risks with 3D tours on real estate websites

A screenshot of a virtual tour of a house. The scene is in a living room and there is a bar over the picture that says "click to explore this 3D space"

University of Washington researchers examined 44 3D tours in 44 states across the U.S. to look for potential security issues when personal details were included in the tour.


October 31, 2022

How low-cost earbuds can make newborn hearing screening accessible

A person holds a child, who is looking at the camera. Another person's arm holds a probe to the child's ear. The probe is connected to a smartphone, which the third person is holding.

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington has created a new hearing screening system that uses a smartphone and earbuds.


October 24, 2022

A new approach, not currently described by the Clean Air Act, could eliminate air pollution disparities

An aerial shot of Seattle showing a large road surrounded by neighborhoods and businesses. There is water on the right and downtown is in the top left.

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington compared three potential strategies for reducing fine particulate matter pollution disparities across the contiguous U.S.


October 17, 2022

Q&A: UnlockedMaps provides real-time accessibility information for urban rail transit in six metro areas

A screenshot of a map of Chicago. Rail stations are shown as green (accessible), yellow (elevator outage) or orange (not accessible) circles

UW researchers developed UnlockedMaps, a web-based map that allows users to see in real time how accessible rail transit stations are in six metro areas. UnlockedMaps shows which stations are accessible and which ones are experiencing elevator outages.


October 12, 2022

UW’s Yejin Choi wins MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grant’

a person stands in front of a stairwell

Yejin Choi, University of Washington professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, has received a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Choi uses natural language processing to develop artificial intelligence systems that have the ability to reason and can understand the implied meanings in human language.


September 19, 2022

A smartphone’s camera and flash could help people measure blood oxygen levels at home

A hand holding a cellphone with one finger over the flash and the camera. The flash is shining through the finger and glowing red.

In a proof-of-principle study, University of Washington and University of California San Diego researchers have shown that smartphones are capable of detecting blood oxygen saturation levels down to 70%. This is the lowest value that pulse oximeters should be able to measure, as recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


September 13, 2022

Q&A: UW researchers develop a reactor that can destroy ‘forever chemicals’

Metal objects on a table. There are two tubes and also two other hexagonal shapes

UW researchers have created a reactor that can completely break down hard-to-destroy chemicals.


July 28, 2022

How to help assembly-line robots shift gears and pick up almost anything

22 objects on a table top. Objects include white 3D printed shapes and also random household items such as a drill, a mustard container, a bowl and a tennis ball

A UW team created a new tool that can design a 3D-printable passive gripper and calculate the best path to pick up an object. The team tested this system on a suite of 22 objects — including a 3D-printed bunny, a doorstop-shaped wedge, a tennis ball and a drill.


July 11, 2022

ClearBuds: First wireless earbuds that clear up calls using deep learning

A hand holding up a 3D printed earbud

UW researchers created ClearBuds, earbuds that enhance the speaker’s voice and reduce background noise.


June 13, 2022

Is there snow in that tree? Citizen science helps unpack snow’s effect on summer water supplies

Trees in a forest. The trees are blanketed by heavy snow.

To investigate what happens to snow intercepted by trees, UW researchers created a citizen science project called Snow Spotter.


June 1, 2022

VoxLens: Adding one line of code can make some interactive visualizations accessible to screen-reader users

A laptop with a screen reader attached sitting on a table

VoxLens users can gain a high-level summary of the information described in a graph, listen to a graph translated into sound or use voice-activated commands to ask specific questions about the data, such as the mean or the minimum value.


May 23, 2022

‘I don’t even remember what I read’: People enter a ‘dissociative state’ when using social media

People on public transit. Everyone is looking at their phones.

Researchers at the University of Washington wondered if people enter a state of dissociation when surfing social media, and if that explains why users might feel out of control after spending so much time on their favorite app.


April 21, 2022

Q&A: Making Earth-friendly electronics

A hand holding a biodegradeable circuit board in a beaker full of water. The circuit board is dissolving

Three researchers in the University of Washington College of Engineering are exploring ways to make electronics more Earth-friendly.


March 16, 2022

Tiny battery-free devices float in the wind like dandelion seeds

Inspired by how dandelions use the wind to distribute their seeds, a University of Washington team has developed a tiny sensor-carrying device that can be blown by the wind as it tumbles toward the ground.


February 16, 2022

Google’s ‘CEO’ image search gender bias hasn’t really been fixed

UW researchers showed that image search results for four major search engines from around the world, including Google, still reflect gender bias.


February 11, 2022

Smartphone app can vibrate a single drop of blood to determine how well it clots

Close up of a person holding a phone with a plastic attachment that holds a cup under the camera. The person is adding a red solution to the cup.

Researchers at the UW have developed a new blood-clotting test that uses a single drop of blood and a smartphone vibration motor and camera.


December 15, 2021

Despite cleaner air, pollution disparities for people of color remain across the US

A photo of a city skyline in a haze of smog

UW researchers investigated disparities in exposure to six major air pollutants in 1990, 2000 and 2010 by comparing models of air pollution levels to census data. While overall pollutant concentrations have decreased since 1990, people of color are still more likely to be exposed to all six pollutants than white people, regardless of income level, across the continental United States.


December 9, 2021

3D imaging method may help doctors better determine prostate cancer aggressiveness

picture of research leads with microscope

A team led by the UW has developed a new, non-destructive method that images entire 3D biopsies instead of a slice for determining prostate cancer aggressiveness. The 3D images provided more information than a 2D image — specifically, details about the tree-like structure of the glands throughout the tissue.


November 17, 2021

A chatbot can help doctors better understand incoming emergency department patients’ social needs

A row of green chairs in a waiting room

A team led by the UW developed a chatbot that could ask emergency department visitors about social needs, including housing, food, access to medical care and physical safety.


November 8, 2021

Political ads during the 2020 presidential election cycle collected personal information and spread misleading information

bar chart showing an increase in number of political ads in Atlanta as the date approaches for the Georgia run-off election in 2021

University of Washington researchers looked at almost 56,000 political ads from almost 750 news sites between September 2020 and January 2021.


October 20, 2021

UW students designed a rover to inspect culvert conditions to help fish

A rover entering a pipe

UW students created a rover that can inspect sewer pipes or culverts for any damage that could prevent fish from using them during migration.


September 23, 2021

Video: Arsenic makes these south Puget Sound fish unsafe to eat

Big mouth bass close up

Researchers at the University of Washington and UW Tacoma have been studying arsenic levels in the mud, water and in creatures from lakes in the south Puget Sound area. Eating contaminated fish or snails from these lakes could lead to health risks.


September 22, 2021

UW and UC San Diego researchers honored for their work discovering that someone could hack a car

A team from the University of Washington and University of California San Diego has received the Golden Goose Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


September 13, 2021

Do Alexa and Siri make kids bossier? New research suggests you might not need to worry

A simple drawing of a robot with a smiley face against a blue background

A team led by UW studied whether hanging out with conversational agents, such as Alexa or Siri, could affect the way children communicate with their fellow humans.


September 2, 2021

UW engineer explains how the redesigned levee system in New Orleans helped mitigate the impact of Hurricane Ida

A graphic showing Hurricane Ida superimposed on top of a map

UW News asked Michael Motley, a UW associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, to explain how levees protect cities like New Orleans. 


July 29, 2021

UW to lead new NSF institute for using artificial intelligence to understand dynamic systems

Purple and white lines that are tracing the shape of the UW W.

The UW will lead a new artificial intelligence research institute that will focus on fundamental AI and machine learning theory, algorithms and applications for real-time learning and control of complex dynamic systems, which describe chaotic situations where conditions are constantly shifting and hard to predict.


July 22, 2021

Gaming graphics card allows faster, more precise control of fusion energy experiments

A prototype of the UW's current fusion experiment.

UW researchers have developed a method that uses a gaming graphics card to control plasma formation in their prototype fusion reactor.



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