Crowdsourcing Taxonomy Creation

Our goal is to break down large projects into work that can be done in parallel microtasks. Parallel crowd algorithms enable hundreds of people to contribute at once. Breaking tasks into short (typically less than 1 minute) micro tasks makes it more attractive for people to make a contribution in their free time. A major application for crowd algorithm is using people to organize data. For example, given 100 travel tips, we can create a taxonomy that shows what the popular topics are, what topics are missing, and let's users navigate the data more easily.

Accessible Goal Crossing Project

The Accessible Goal Crossing Project is funded by the National Science Foundation as an effort to create user interfaces more suited to people with motor impairments by using goal crossing instead of pointing-and-clicking, which is difficult for many people. Although goal crossing has been investigated on pen and tablet computers for use by able-bodied users, it presents substantially different challenges when used on the desktop with cursor control devices by people with motor control problems.


Activity-Based Prototyping of Ubicomp Applications

ActivityStudio is a suite of tools for prototyping and testing ubiquitous computing applications. It allows designers to incorporate large-scale, long-term human activities as a basis for design and speeds up ubicomp design by providing integrated support for modeling, prototyping, deployment and in situ testing. ActivityStudio prototypes can run on various target platforms, including mobile phones.

Baby Steps

We are interested in designing technology to help detect, record, and track important developmental milestones that occur in children during their first 5 years of life. By tracking these milestones, we can help parents and healthcare providers detect developmental delays, such as autism or deafness, earlier, which can improve the effects of interventions. We have created design guidelines for developing technology to support new parents in record-keeping and implemented novel technologies to support better record-keeping and decision-making about developmental progress.


Change is a group of faculty and students at the University of Washington exploring how technology can improve the lives of under-served populations in low-income regions.

Classroom Presenter

Classroom Presenter is a Tablet PC-based interaction system that supports the sharing of digital ink on slides between instructors and students. Classroom Presenter is widely used as both a presentation tool for delivering lectures and as a classroom interaction system to support computer-based active learning.

Communicative Practices in Virtual Workspaces

The Communicative Practices in Virtual Workspaces (CPVW) lab in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering investigates emergent uses of digital technologies to coordinate work activities. The lab's work focuses on developing knowledge about novel applications and integration of digital technologies in the work of organizations — whether they are formal or ad hoc social networks. Adopting and extending ideas from human-computer interaction, technical communication, and related fields, the lab uses varied methods to explore communicative practices in virtual workspaces.


ConferenceXP is a shared-source platform for simple, flexible, and extensible conferencing and collaboration. It helps researchers and educators develop innovative applications and solutions that feature broadcast-quality audio and video in support of real-time distributed collaboration and distance learning environments. The platform was initially developed by Microsoft Research. The UW Center for Collaborative Technologies is currently continuing development and deployment support for ConferenceXP.

DHH Cyber Community

The goal of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Cyber-Community in the STEM (DHH Cyber-Community) project is to use existing cyber infrastructure connections between universities to advance deaf and hard of hearing students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).


This project aims to design, implement, deploy, and test innovative ways for citizens and government to communicate, with the goal of better supporting civic engagement and deliberation.

For more information, current activities, and project partners, please see the main project web page at


How much of your personal life is on Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Flickr, or YouTube? Are there things you would like to share with some people, but not everyone?

We propose that users protect semi-private personal content on the Internet behind questions of shared knowledge. For instance, "What is cousin Rodney's catchphrase?" can allow access from a hundred extended family members without giving them accounts, passwords, and tediously adding them to access control lists.


GSketch is a system that will help novice programmers create games and simulations.

Heuristic Evaluation of Persuasive Health Technologies

Persuasive technologies for promoting physical fitness, good nutrition, and other healthy behaviors have been growing in popularity. Despite their appeal, the evaluation of these technologies remains a challenge and typically requires a fully functional prototype and long-term deployment. In this project, we attempt to help bridge this gap by presenting a method for using heuristic evaluation to evaluate persuasive technologies.


iLearn is a set of tools for Apple's iPhone that allows us to collect annotated sensor traces from the accelerometer as well as compute accelerometer features and perform real-time activity classification. The software is built on the standard Apple SDK and includes models for inferring some common activity sets (e.g., exercise). This classification can then be used by additional applications on the iPhone or sent to web servers via the iPhone’s highly available internet connection.

Intelligent Wikipedia

Berners-Lee's compelling vision of a Semantic Web is hindered by a chicken-and-egg problem, which can be best solved by a bootstrapping method, creating enough structured data to motivate the development of applications. However, automatic information extraction systems produce errors and are not tolerated by users, whereas user contributions incentives and management to control vandalism.

Interfaces that Make Us Think

The advent of computers has made many things much easier in our lives. With mobile phone contact lists, we no longer have to memorize phone numbers, and with Google, we rarely have to remember anything because we can always just look it up again. Calculators and now advanced systems, like Wolfram Alpha, have reduced the need for being able to solve complex math problems. While these conveniences may have been good for our productivity and efficiency, there is still cognitive value to being encouraged to think and learn.

Keeping Found Things Found

As with other things, so it is with our information. Finding is just the first step. How do we keep this information so that it's there later when we need it? How do we organize it in ways that make sense for us in the lives we want to lead? Information found does us little good if we misplace it or forget to use it. And just as we must maintain a house or a car, we need to maintain our information -- backing it up, archiving or deleting old information, and updating information that is no longer accurate. These are each important activities of personal information management (PIM).


K-Sketch allows ordinary computer users to create informal animations from sketches. Current tools for creating animation are extremely complex. This makes it difficult for designers to prototype animations and nearly impossible for novices to create them at all. Simple animation systems exist but severely restrict the types of motion that can be represented. To guide the design of K-Sketch, we conducted field studies into the needs of professional and novice animators.


Lullaby is a system designed to help users improve the quality of their sleep by monitoring environmental factors that disrupt sleep (currently light, sound, temperature, and motion) along with sleep quality itself (using commercial sleep trackers, like the Fitbit) and providing feedback. To be practical for deployment into bedrooms, it is designed to be unobtrusive and inexpensive. It aims to respect users’ privacy in this sensitive context by providing them with the ability to selectively disable data collection and to review and delete collected data.


MobileAccessibility is an entirely different approach to providing useful mobile functionality to blind, low-vision, and deaf-blind users. This new approach leverages the sensors that modern cell phones already have to keep devices cheap and uses remote web services to process requests. Importantly, both fully automated and human-powered web services are used to balance the cost and capability of the services available.


MobileASL is a video compression project at the University of Washington with the goal of making wireless cell phone communication through sign language a reality in the U.S.


Music is a major element of social gatherings. However, creating playlists that suit everyone’s tastes and the mood of the group can require a large amount of manual effort. To solve this problem we present MoodMusic, a method to dynamically generate contextually appropriate music playlists for groups of people. MoodMusic uses speaker pitch and intensity in the conversation to determine the current ‘mood.’ It then queries the online music libraries of the speakers to choose songs appropriate for that mood.

Multi-lifespan Information System Design

This project focuses on the design of information systems to support the solution of problems that are unlikely to be solved within a single human lifespan — structurally, problems that are tied to limitations of the human psyche, limitations of the structure of society, or to slow-moving natural time scales.

Muscle-Computer Interfaces

We explore the feasibility of muscle-computer interfaces: an interaction methodology that directly senses and decodes human muscular activity rather than relying on physical device actuation or user actions that are externally visible or audible. As a first step towards realizing the muscle-computer interface concept, we conducted an experiment to explore the potential of exploiting muscular sensing and processing technologies for muscle-computer interfaces. We present results demonstrating accurate gesture classification with an off-the-shelf electromyography (EMG) device.


OneBusAway is a set of tools for improving the usability of public transit, in particular, tools for providing real-time arrival information for busses. The system is used by over 40,000 people per week in the Seattle area. Our research focusses on evaluating the effect on behavior of providing such tools, on improving the tools and adding new functionality, and on integrating them with mobility applications for blind and deaf-blind riders.

Personality & Persuasive Technology

Though a variety of persuasive health applications have been designed with a preventive standpoint toward diseases, many have been designed largely for a general audience. Designers of these technologies may achieve more success if applications consider an individual’s personality type. Our goal for this research was to explore the relationship between personality and persuasive technologies in the context of health-promoting mobile applications.


We are designing an information system to help people with breast cancer manage their health information. When making treatment decisions and undergoing treatment, patients are often overwhelmed by the accumulation of unfamiliar information that they need to keep and use. We want to make it easier for people to organize and maintain all of their information within the context of managing the rest of their lives and schedules.


Prefab is a system for implementing advanced behaviors through the reverse engineering of the pixels of graphical interfaces. In other words, Prefab explores the question: what if every GUI was open source? One example of what Prefab enables is better HCI research: Prefab can be used by HCI researchers to test many of their ideas using existing applications, rather than implementing a toy prototype within an isolated testbed.

Project ACCESS

The goal of this project is to create novel computer-based devices that will enhance the quality of life for people with cognitive disabilities. These devices are memory and problem-solving aids that will help an individual perform the tasks of day-to-day life more independently.


There is a lot of useful information on the Internet, but webmasters do not always present it in the best way. Reform lets end users put a new face on webpages, without subjecting them to the whims of a webmaster, and without learning to program themselves.


ShutEye is a research application that was developed by the University of Washington and Intel Labs Seattle for Android-based mobile phones. The intent of ShutEye is to help improve people's awareness about healthy sleep hygiene — that is, the practices that are believed to promote improved quality of sleep.


Haptic feedback provides an additional interaction channel when auditory and visual feedback may not be appropriate. We present a novel haptic feedback system that changes its elasticity to convey information for eyes-free interaction. SqueezeBlock is an electro-mechanical system that can realize a virtual spring having a programmatically controlled spring constant. It also allows for additional haptic modalities by altering the Hooke’s Law linear-elastic force-displacement equation, such as non-linear springs, size changes, and spring length (range of motion) variations.


SUPPLE is an application and device-independent system, currently under development at University of Washington, that automatically generates user interfaces for a wide variety of display devices. SUPPLE uses decision-theoretic optimization to render an interface from an abstract functional specification and an interchangeable device model.

Tactile Graphics Project

The Tactile Graphics Project aims to increase universal benefit from graphical images (i.e., line graphs, bar charts, illustrations, etc.). It is a multidisciplinary project with researchers and practitioners from UW's Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Access Technology Lab, and DO-IT. Our goal is to enable K-12, college, undergrad, and graduates students who are blind to have full access to mathematics, engineering, and science.

The Designers' Outpost

The Designers’ Outpost is a tangible user interface that combines the affordances of paper and a large physical workspace with the advantages of electronic media to support collaborative information design for the web. Based on an earlier ethnographic study, we have analyzed web site design practice and developed a system to support the practices used by designers during the early phases of information design.


Location-enhanced applications make use of the location of people, places, and things to provide useful services. We see an increasing number of location-enhanced applications, particularly on mobile devices. Topiary allows designers to quickly prototype location-enhanced applications using high-level abstractions, such as maps, scenarios and storyboards, and test these application prototypes with real users in the field without having to deploy a location infrastructure.

Trustworthy Wireless

The Trustworthy Wireless project aims to provide the users of mobile, wireless devices with technologies that let them understand and control the kind of privacy that they receive. This is a problem of growing importance as wireless devices become pervasive -- in all manner of everyday consumer devices from laptops and mobile phones to health monitors and game controllers -- and are used to convey ever more personal information about our locations, habits, relationships and health.


Ubiquitous computing systems present a unique set of challenges to designers, such as novel interaction techniques, the ability to detect and respond to their context of use, and unconventional user interfaces. To understand how designers currently address these challenges, we conducted more than a dozen in-depth interviews with designers of a variety of ubicomp systems. Our analysis of these interview and the artifacts used in the design of these systems revealed a number of difficulties in the design of ubicomp systems.


UbiFit is a mobile, persuasive technology that we developed in collaboration with Intel Labs Seattle to encourage individuals to self-monitor their physical activity and incorporate regular and varied activity into everyday life. It consists of three main components: (1) a glanceable display, (2) an interactive application, and (3) a fitness device.


The UbiGreen project aims to encourage environmental stewardship by combining low-cost sensors, inference, and user feedback to track resource usage and "reward" green behaviors. We are carrying out this work in the context of transportation, energy, and water usage.


UrbanSim is a software-based simulation model for integrated planning and analysis of urban development, incorporating the interactions among land use, transportation, and public policy. For example, a region might be evaluating two proposed alternatives for dealing with a congested freeway: expanding the freeway or building a new rail system. These decisions are often contentious and politically charged. UrbanSim can be used to help inform the discussion by simulating the long-term effects of these choices on land use, transportation utilization, and the environment.

Utility: Measure What Matters

A system is useless if it can’t motivate people to use it. Your interfaces must be clear and appealing, your tasks must be satisfying and rewarding, and your games must be fun.

Here is a way to evaluate a system’s ability to recruit use, or human attention. Let’s take any web interface and task. Now let’s post it as a job on Mechanical Turk and see how much we need to pay people to use the interface to complete the task. The less we have to pay workers, the better the interface and task.

Value Sensitive Design

Value Sensitive Design refers to an approach to the design of technology that accounts for human values in a principled and systematic manner throughout the design process.

Visual Passwords

The average Web user has passwords on 25 Web sites; however, they often have far fewer unique passwords. The visual passwords project explores how to reduce problems such as password forgetting, writing passwords down, reusing passwords, and failing to authenticate. Our goal is to make passwords easier to use, to provide visual clues in the password itself for site authentication, and to provide relevant prompts for the user.

Vocal Joystick

The goal of this project is to develop a novel system that we call the Vocal Joystick (VJ). This device will enable individuals with motor impairments to use vocal parameters to control objects on a computer screen (buttons, sliders, etc.) and ultimately electro-mechanical instruments (e.g., robotic arms, wireless home automation devices).


VoiceDraw is a drawing program designed to be controlled using only one's voice. Since no mouse, keyboard or stylus is required, it can be used by people with various forms of motor impairments to express themselves creatively.


In the VoicePen project, we seek to explore ways in which a digital stylus input can be augmented with voice input to provide added expressivity and control in various pen-based tasks, such as drawing and manipulation of animation objects.


The WebInSight Project includes is a collection of projects designed to make the web more accessible to blind web users.

Open Data Kit

Open Data Kit (ODK) is a free and open-source set of tools that help organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions. ODK provides an out-of-the-box solution for users to: build a data collection form or survey; collect the data on a mobile device and send it to a server; and aggregate the collected data on a server and extract it in useful formats. In addition to socio-economic and health surveys with GPS locations and images, ODK is being used to create decision support for clinicians and for building multimedia-rich nature mapping tools.