UW News

Engineering


May 23, 2024

AI headphones let wearer listen to a single person in a crowd, by looking at them just once

A closeup image on a person wearing a pair of black headphones. The person’s face is out of focus; the headphones have a small microphone attached to them with electrical tape and a button on the side.

A University of Washington team has developed an artificial intelligence system that lets someone wearing headphones look at a person speaking for three to five seconds to “enroll” them. The system then plays just the enrolled speaker’s voice in real time, even as the pair move around in noisy environments.


May 15, 2024

Q&A: How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect older adults’ technology use?

University of Washington researchers interviewed 16 older adults in Washington and Oregon, ages 65 to 80, about how their technology use with their social support networks changed during the pandemic.


May 9, 2024

Can Wikipedia-like citations on YouTube curb misinformation?

A computer screen with the YouTube logo, a red rectangle with a triangle in it, above links to "Home" and "Trending"

University of Washington researchers created and tested a prototype browser extension called Viblio, which lets viewers and creators add citations to the timelines of YouTube videos.


May 3, 2024

Video: Washington students learn about engineering at Discovery Days

Two children holding vehicles made out of tongue depressors

This University of Washington College of Engineering event brings thousands of elementary and middle school students from all over Washington to campus to be engineers for a day.


May 1, 2024

Virtual reality environment for teens may offer an accessible, affordable way to reduce stress

Three images each set in 3D animations of a snowy forest show, from left to right: a gray sign that reads “Welcome to RESeT”; a post with six small signs on with arrows and the words from top to bottom “River Boats,” “Scavenger Hunt,” “Rock Stacking,” “Rabbits,” and “Bird Search”; a red sign with an image of a bird on it and the text “FOLLOW THE SONG.”

Working with teens, UW researchers have designed RESeT: a snowy virtual world with six activities intended to improve mood. In a 3-week study of 44 Seattle-area teens, researchers found that most used the technology about twice a week without being prompted and reported lower stress levels after using the environment.


April 26, 2024

New circuit boards can be repeatedly recycled

A small brown circuit board sits on a gray background. To its right are a small copper plate, sheets of glass fibers in a crosshatch pattern, small chunks of vitrimer plastic that’s been removed from a circuit board, and a computer chip.

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington developed a new PCB that performs on par with traditional materials and can be recycled repeatedly with negligible material loss. Researchers used a solvent that transforms a type of vitrimer — a cutting-edge class of polymer — into a jelly-like substance without damage, allowing solid components to be plucked out for reuse or recycling. With these “vPCBs” (vitrimer printed circuit boards), researchers recovered 98% of the vitrimer and 100% of the glass fiber.


April 24, 2024

Q&A: How TikTok’s ‘black box’ algorithm and design shape user behavior

A hand holds a smartphone with the TikTok app open.

Franziska Roesner, a University of Washington associate professor, and collaborators will present two papers that mine real-world data to help understand TikTok’s personalized its recommendation algorithm and its impact.


March 28, 2024

Q&A: How to train AI when you don’t have enough data

A drawing of dots connected to lines

As researchers explore potential applications for AI, they have found scenarios where AI could be really useful but there’s not enough data to accurately train the algorithms. Jenq-Neng Hwang, University of Washington professor of electrical and computer and engineering, specializes in these issues.


March 14, 2024

UW researchers taught kids to code with cultural research and embroidery machines

University of Washington researchers taught a group of high schoolers to code by combining cultural research into various embroidery traditions with “computational embroidery.” The method teaches kids to encode embroidery patterns on a computer through a coding language called Turtlestitch.


February 29, 2024

Q&A: How a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease could also work for Type 2 diabetes

Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 diabetes are part of a family of amyloid diseases that are characterized by having proteins that cluster together. UW researchers have demonstrated more similarities between the two diseases.


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.


UW-developed smart earrings can monitor a person’s temperature

The temperature sensing earring is shown attached to a person’s ear. The portion touching the earlobe has a gemstone on it. Dangling a few centimeters below it is a small circular circuit board.

University of Washington researchers introduced the Thermal Earring, a wireless wearable that continuously monitors a user’s earlobe temperature. Potential applications include tracking signs of ovulation, stress, eating and exercise. The smart earring prototype is about the size and weight of a small paperclip and has a 28-day battery life.


February 6, 2024

Nancy Allbritton elected to National Academy of Engineering

Nancy Allbritton, the dean of the University of Washington College of Engineering and a UW professor of bioengineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering.


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.


January 9, 2024

Q&A: UW researchers answer common questions about language models like ChatGPT

A cellphone running ChatGPT sits on a textbook that's slightly out of focus.

A team University of Washington researchers have published a guide explaining language models, the technology that underlies chatbots.


December 27, 2023

Cells, microscopes and scientists: Chemical engineering professor’s coloring book makes science accessible

The cover of a ColorMePHD coloring book

ColorMePhD is a free, all-ages coloring book series created by Julie Rorrer, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Washington. The books bring current doctorate-level research in science and engineering to a general audience.


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.


November 29, 2023

AI image generator Stable Diffusion perpetuates racial and gendered stereotypes, study finds

Four images created by AI image generator Stable Diffusion with the prompt "person from Oceania" show four light-skinned people.

University of Washington researchers found that when prompted to make pictures of “a person,” the AI image generator over-represented light-skinned men, failed to equitably represent Indigenous peoples and sexualized images of certain women of color.


November 16, 2023

Q&A: How an assistive-feeding robot went from picking up fruit salads to whole meals

An assistive-feeding robotic arm attached to a wheelchair uses a fork to stab a piece of fruit on a plate among other fruits.

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington developed 11 actions a robotic arm can make to pick up nearly any food attainable by fork. This allows the system to learn to pick up new foods during one meal.


November 15, 2023

WhaleVis turns more than a century of whaling data into an interactive map

A humpback whale breaches in the Pacific Ocean.

A team at the University of Washington has created an interactive dashboard called WhaleVis, which lets users map data on global whale catches and whaling routes from 1880 to 1986. Scientists can compare this historical data and its trends with current information to better understand whale populations over time.


November 9, 2023

New AI noise-canceling headphone technology lets wearers pick which sounds they hear

A man wearing a surgical mask and headphones walks through the University of Washington campus while holding a smartphone. People walk behind him.

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington has developed deep-learning algorithms that let users pick which sounds filter through their headphones in real time. Either through voice commands or a smartphone app, headphone wearers can select which sounds they want to include from 20 classes, such as sirens, baby cries, speech, vacuum cleaners and bird chirps.


November 2, 2023

Can AI help boost accessibility? These researchers tested it for themselves

Four AI-generated images show different interpretations of a doll-sized “crocheted lavender husky wearing ski goggles,” including two pictured outdoors and one against a white background.

Seven researchers at the University of Washington conducted a three-month autoethnographic study — drawing on their own experiences as people with and without disabilities — to test AI tools’ utility for accessibility. Though researchers found cases in which the tools were helpful, they also found significant problems.


October 24, 2023

How can social media be better? Four UW researchers compare strategies

A silhouette of a person looking at a phone.

The turmoil at large tech platforms has many people reconsidering what they want out of social media. Four researchers at the University of Washington are exploring different approaches to improve people’s experiences.


October 17, 2023

Q&A: Researchers aim to improve accessibility with augmented reality

A drawing of a phone labeling accessibility problems in a kitchen.

This month, University of Washington researchers will introduce multiple projects that deploy augmented reality — through headsets and phone apps — with the aim of making the world more accessible for people with disabilities.


September 27, 2023

MilliMobile is a tiny, self-driving robot powered only by light and radio waves

Two fingers are about to pick up a tiny robot

The robot, equipped with a solar panel–like energy harvester and four wheels, is about the size of a penny, weighs as much as a raisin and can move about the length of a bus in an hour on a cloudy day.


September 21, 2023

NSF funds internet-connected ocean observatory through 2028

map of Juan de Fuca plate

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Washington $52.4 million over five years to continue operating the Regional Cabled Array, a cabled deep-ocean observatory about 300 miles offshore from Newport, Oregon. The grant is part of a $220 million total investment that will fund the internet-connected ocean observatory, known as the Ocean Observatories Initiative, through 2028.


UW team’s shape-changing smart speaker lets users mute different areas of a room

The seven robotic microphones sit in their charging station

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington has developed system of robotic self-deploying microphones, which lets users control sound in a room, muting certain areas and creating “active zones” in others.


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.


August 14, 2023

UW bioengineering researchers help create a roadmap to diversify faculty hiring

A biochemistry lab bench with pipettes and bottles of liquid. A microcentrifuge and a Bunsen burner sit to the right

A team of biomedical researchers has developed a new method for hiring engineering professors. The primary goal is to actively recruit a more diverse group of applicants and improve the rate that doctoral students from historically excluded groups go on to become faculty members.


July 24, 2023

With a new app, smart devices can have GPS underwater

A scuba diver swims in dark water.

A team at the University of Washington has developed the first underwater 3D-positioning app for smart devices. When at least three divers are within about 98 feet of each other, the app tracks each user’s location relative to the leader.


July 19, 2023

Researchers put a new twist on graphite

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington reports that it is possible to imbue graphite — the bulk, 3D material found in No. 2 pencils – with physical properties similar to graphite’s 2D counterpart, graphene. Not only was this breakthrough unexpected, the team also believes its approach could be used to test whether similar types of bulk materials can also take on 2D-like properties. If so, 2D sheets won’t be the only source for scientists to fuel technological revolutions. Bulk, 3D materials could be just as useful.


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.


June 27, 2023

Researchers make a quantum computing leap with a magnetic twist

This artistic depiction shows electron fractionalization — in which strongly interacting charges can “fractionalize” into three parts — in the fractional quantum anomalous Hall phase.

A team led by scientists and engineers at the University of Washington has announced a significant advancement in developing fault-tolerant qubits for quantum computing. In a pair of papers published June 14 in Nature and June 22 in Science, they report that, in experiments with flakes of semiconductor materials — each only a single layer of atoms thick — they detected signatures of “fractional quantum anomalous Hall” (FQAH) states. The team’s discoveries mark a first and promising step in constructing a type of fault-tolerant qubit because FQAH states can host anyons — strange “quasiparticles” that have only a fraction of an electron’s charge. Some types of anyons can be used to make what are called “topologically protected” qubits, which are stable against any small, local disturbances.


June 21, 2023

An app can transform smartphones into thermometers that accurately detect fevers

A researcher holds a phone to a patient's forehead.

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington has created an app called FeverPhone, which transforms smartphones into thermometers without adding new hardware.


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.


April 6, 2023

National and local leaders convene at UW for discussion of CHIPS and Science Act, investing in scientific discovery

We see the back of the director of the National Science Foundation as he shakes hand with one student in a group of students in a lab.

Leaders from Washington higher education institutions met with national policymakers April 4 to discuss opportunities provided by the CHIPS and Science Act. U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene and National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan visited the University of Washington campus to talk about the legislation, which provides more than $100 billion to fund scientific research and…


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.



Next page