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UW CSE’s Ed Lazowska and spin-outs Impinj and Turi celebrated at 2016 Tech Impact Awards

Seattle Business cover featuring Ed Lazowska

UW CSE was center stage last night at Seattle Business magazine’s annual Tech Impact Awards gala honoring the people and companies driving innovation and economic prosperity in the Puget Sound region. Professor Ed Lazowska was honored as the 2016 Tech Impact Champion for his achievements and advocacy on behalf of the tech community, while Impinj and Turi—UW CSE spin-outs that recently celebrated a successful IPO and acquisition, respectively—were highlighted for their groundbreaking innovations.

Lazowska, who graces the cover of the magazine’s October issue, is lauded for his vision, enthusiasm, and just plain persistence in positioning UW CSE among the upper echelon of computer science programs—including his role in recruiting leading faculty to the region. The magazine also credits him with leading the charge to position the University of Washington and Seattle at the forefront of cloud computing and the data science revolution, and notes that he has earned the admiration of students, colleagues and collaborators across the board for his commitment to elevating not only Washington’s flagship public university and its technology sector, but its people.

“Our job,” he tells the magazine, “is to provide socioeconomic mobility for bright kids in this region.”

Since Lazowska arrived in Seattle 39 years ago—when the local tech sector consisted largely of airplanes, medical devices, and test instruments, and Microsoft was 12 people in Albuquerque—the Emerald City has come into its own as a region with tremendous capacity for innovation in a range of industries. As Seattle Business put it, “With his trademark enthusiasm for the UW and the local tech sector, this celebrated educator, researcher, adviser and booster has played an important role in that transformation.”

Chris Diorio

Impinj, started by then-UW CSE professor Chris Diorio, was honored in the Emerging Technology/Productivity category for its RAIN RFID technology. Since its founding in 2000, Impinj has grown to more than 200 employees and its product was used on more than five billion items last year. Diorio tells Seattle Business that Impinj is “giving digital life to everything in your everyday world, extending the reach of the internet by a factor of 100.” With a successful IPO, a market cap of around $350 million, and 95 percent of the apparel market yet to be tapped, Impinj’s future growth is something else worth tracking.

Carlos GuestrinMachine learning startup Turi, led by UW CSE professor Carlos Guestrin, collected the award for the Intelligent Applications category. The company, which was recently acquired by Apple, developed the GraphLab platform to enable data scientists to create their own intelligent applications for recommendation engines, fraud detection and customer management. As competition judge Matt McIlwain of Madrona Venture Group commented, “Carlos Guestrin is a unique talent in both his deep understanding of machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

A unique talent, fittingly enough, who was recruited to the region thanks in part to the advocacy efforts of fellow honoree Lazowska.

Read more about this year’s Tech Impact Award honorees at Seattle Business magazine here. Congratulations, Ed, Chris and Carlos!

Photo credits: John Vicory/Seattle Business

September 22, 2016

UW CSE’s Shayan Oveis Gharan named one of “10 Scientists to Watch” by Science News

Shayan Oveis GharanUW CSE professor Shayan Oveis Gharan was named one of 10 Scientists to Watch by Science News this week. The list celebrates early- and mid-career scientists under the age of 40 who are well on their way to transforming their respective fields. Oveis Gharan, a member of UW CSE’s Theory group, was featured for his contributions to solving the infamous traveling salesman problem.

From the article:

“It’s a problem that sounds simple, but the best minds in mathematics have puzzled over it for generations: A salesman wants to hawk his wares in several cities and return home when he’s done. If he’s only visiting a handful of places, it’s easy for him to schedule his visits to create the shortest round-trip route. But the task rapidly becomes unwieldy as the number of destinations increases, ballooning the number of possible routes.

“Theoretical computer scientist Shayan Oveis Gharan…has made record-breaking advances on this puzzle, known as the traveling salesman problem. The problem is famous in mathematical circles for being deceptively easy to describe but difficult to solve. But Oveis Gharan has persisted. ‘He is relentless,’ says Amin Saberi of Stanford University, Oveis Gharan’s former Ph.D. adviser. ‘He just doesn’t give up.'”

Science News points to Oveis Gharan’s ability to take inspiration and techniques from other areas of computer science and mathematics to advance research in his own field. In one example, he and colleague Nima Anari (then of UC Berkeley) were able to draw a connection between the traveling salesman problem and what, to that point, appeared to be an unrelated problem in mathematics and quantum mechanics known as the Kadison-Singer problem.

As Oveis Gharan says, “Once someone is exposed to many different ideas and ways of thinking on a problem, that will help a lot to increase the breadth of problem-attacking directions.”

Read Science News’ full profile of Oveis Gharan here, and the full list of Scientists to Watch here.

Congratulations, Shayan!

September 21, 2016

ImSitu – research by Ali Farhadi, Mark Yatskar and Luke Zettlemoyer (UW CSE + AI2) – featured in New York Times

ImSitu results“Context is everything,” or so the saying goes, which may be why artificial intelligence has a long way to go to in order to match, let alone replace, human intelligence. While computer vision researchers have made impressive advances in image recognition, the ability to not only identify objects but recognize situations and predict what will happen next is still the preserve of humans.

Researchers at UW CSE and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) are trying to help computers make that leap from content to context with the development of the ImSitu situation recognition tool. The New York Times published an article today examining the present limitations of computer vision in application such as self-driving cars — and took ImSitu out for a spin.

From the article:

“Today, computerized sight can quickly and accurately recognize millions of individual faces, identify the makes and models of thousands of cars, and distinguish cats and dogs of every breed in a way no human being could.

“Yet the recent advances, while impressive, have been mainly in image recognition. The next frontier, researchers agree, is general visual knowledge — the development of algorithms that can understand not just objects, but also actions and behaviors….

“At the major annual computer vision conference this summer, there was a flurry of research representing encouraging steps, but not breakthroughs. For example, Ali Farhadi, a computer scientist at the University of Washington and a researcher at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, showed off ImSitu.org, a database of images identified in context, or situation recognition. As he explains, image recognition provides the nouns of visual intelligence, while situation recognition represents the verbs. Search ‘What do babies do?’ The site retrieves pictures of babies engaged in actions including ‘sucking,’ ‘crawling,’ ‘crying’ and ‘giggling’ — visual verbs.

“Recognizing situations enriches computer vision, but the ImSitu project still depends on human-labeled data to train its machine learning algorithms. ‘And we’re still very, very far from visual intelligence, understanding scenes and actions the way humans do,’ Dr. Farhadi said.”

UW CSE Ph.D. student Mark Yatskar and professor Luke Zettlemoyer worked with Farhadi on ImSitu, which the team presented at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference (CVPR 2016) in June.

Read the full article here, and check out the Times’ results using ImSitu here.

Try ImSitu for yourself here, and read the research paper here.

September 19, 2016

Top 10 Science Universities in the World

suzzallo-library-at-the-university-of-washington-by-michael-matti-300x200Never heard of Gazette Review? Neither have we! But adhering to our long tradition of amplifying the rankings in which we do well and burying the others, we draw your attention to this one:

“Located near Seattle and Redmond- the home city of Microsoft – this university is at the crossroads of technology and the natural sciences. Of all the programs at the University of Washington, Computer Science and Medicine are among the most renowned …”

Check it out here!

September 16, 2016

UW researchers recognized with 2 Best Paper Awards and 10-Year Impact Award at UbiComp and ISWC

Eric Whitmire, Mayank Goel, Edward Wang

Best Paper Award winners Eric Whitmire (left) and Edward Wang (right), with UW CSE Ph.D. alum Mayank Goel

Members of UW CSE’s UbiComp Lab led by CSE and EE professor Shwetak Patel are celebrating not one but two Best Paper wins this week: “HemaApp: Noninvasive blood screening of hemoglobin using smartphone cameras” earned a Best Paper Award at the International Joint Conference on Pervasive & Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2016) in Heidelberg, Germany, while “EyeContact: Scleral coil eye tracking for virtual reality” took home the Best Paper prize from the co-located International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC 2016). And once again – for the third year in a row – the late CSE professor Gaetano Borriello was recognized with UbiComp’s 10-Year Impact Award for work submitted a decade ago that, looking back, has had the greatest impact on the field.

HemaApp, which measures blood hemoglobin to screen patients with anemia and other blood disorders, is the latest in an impressive line of mobile health projects from the UW that will benefit communities around the world. The paper—which was co-authored by EE Ph.D. student and lead author Edward Wang, undergraduate EE student William Li, Doug Hawkins of Seattle Children’s Hospital, Terry Gernsheimer and Colette Norby-Slycord of UW Medicine, and Patel—captured one of five Best Paper Awards bestowed upon the top 1% of submissions to UbiComp this year. Check out the recent UW News release on HemaApp here and a related blog post here.

EyeContact, which earned the sole Best Paper Award at ISWC, is a magnetic eye tracking system using scleral search coils for virtual and augmented reality applications. Unlike existing systems that rely on large generator coils—too large for a person to walk around—the EyeContact headset enables high-speed, high-accuracy mobile eye tracking without limiting the user’s movement or requiring instrumentation of the environment. UW CSE Ph.D. student and lead author Eric Whitmire and Patel co-authored the winning paper with researchers Laura Trutoiu, Robert Cavin, David Perek and Brian Scally of Oculus and Facebook, and James Phillips of UW Medicine.


The late UW CSE professor Gaetano Borriello

Gaetano Borriello and his fellow researchers were recognized with a 10-Year Impact Award for the 2006 conference paper, “A Practical Approach to Recognizing Physical Activities.” The paper was co-authored by then-UW EE Ph.D. student and lead author Jonathan Lester, and Borriello’s Intel Seattle colleague at the time, Tanzeem Choudhury. This is the third year in a row that one of Borriello’s papers has been recognized with a UbiComp 10 Year Impact Award—yet more evidence of his lasting contributions to the field of ubiquitous computing.

Way to go, team! (We miss you, Gaetano.)

September 16, 2016

Washington Post on gender diversity in computer science


The article included lots of photos of CMU, but not this one …

The Washington Post writes:

“Women are making major gains in enrollment in engineering and computer science at some of the nation’s most prominent colleges and universities, a breakthrough that shows that gender parity is possible in technology fields long dominated by men. …

“The University of Washington, near Microsoft’s Seattle-area home, had the largest share of women in computer science among the nation’s public flagships and some of the largest five-year gains. Thirty-two percent of its graduates in that major were women in 2015, up 11 points in five years.

“Ed Lazowska, a computer science and engineering professor at the university, said it is crucial to ensure that introductory courses are engaging for all students, especially those who might struggle at first because they are new to the subject. ‘If your intro course tries to weed people out, then the people you’re going to weed out are precisely those that are underrepresented in the first place,’ Lazowska said.”

Read the entire article – excellent – here!

September 16, 2016

UW CSE’s Dylan Hutchison earns *two* Best Paper Awards at HPEC 2016

Dylan Hutchison and Alex Chen

UW CSE’s Dylan Hutchison (left) and MIT’s Alex Chen

We like our Best Paper Awards around here, but UW CSE Ph.D. student Dylan Hutchison took it to a new level this week by contributing not one, but two Best Papers at IEEE’s High Performance Extreme Computing Conference (HPEC 2016). Hutchison, a member of UW CSE’s Database group, collected the Best Student Paper Award as lead author of “From NoSQL Accumulo to New SQL Graphulo: Design and Utility of Graph Algorithms inside a BigTable Database.” He also co-authored the Best Paper winner, “Julia Implementation of the Dynamic Distributed Dimensional Data Model.”

In the first paper, Hutchison and his colleagues illustrate how Graphulo—a library for executing graph algorithms inside Apache Accumulo—enables the execution of GraphBLAS kernels in a BigTable database. The team, which includes UW iSchool professor and CSE adjunct Bill Howe, and MIT researchers Jeremy Kepner and Vijay Gadepally, compared the performance of two graph algorithms implemented with Graphulo to that of two main-memory matrix math systems. Their work yields new insights into whether it is faster to execute a graph algorithm inside a database versus an external system, showing that memory requirements and relative I/O are critical factors.

The second paper, which was co-authored by a group of MIT researchers that includes student and lead author Alex Chen, professor Alan Edelman, Kepner and Gadepally, details implementation of D4M in Julia, a new language for writing data analysis programs that are easy to implement and run at high performance. The team illustrated that D4M.jl matches or outperforms its Matlab counterpart, thanks to Julia’s well-structured syntax and data structure.

Read the Graphulo paper here and view the conference presentation here. Read the Julia paper here.

Way to go, Dylan!

September 15, 2016

Happy 80th to UW CSE’s Jean-Loup Baer!

Jean-Loup BaerOn Saturday evening, more than 60 of Jean-Loup Baer’s family members, friends and colleagues – including 10 Ph.D. alums from as far away as Taiwan and Korea – gathered at Bastille Café to wish him a happy 80th birthday.

An internationally recognized expert in computer architecture, Jean-Loup was UW CSE’s first “junior hire,” arriving in 1969 after completing his Ph.D. at UCLA. He served as CSE department chair from 1988-93, and joined the ranks of the emeriti in 2004.

Photos of the event here.jlb2

September 11, 2016

The Man Who Powers Devices with Wi-Fi: UW CSE’s Shyam Gollakota named one of Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10”

Shyam GollakotaUW CSE professor Shyam Gollakota devises ways to pull power out of thin air to enable the growth of a true Internet of Things. This awesome ability to harvest the airwaves — with implications for health care, security, sustainability, and a host of other potential applications — has earned him a place in Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” of 2016 celebrating the most brilliant minds in science and engineering.

Gollakota leads the Networks & Mobile Systems Lab at UW CSE, where he and his fellow researchers develop systems that enable battery-free devices to harvest energy and communicate by reflecting existing wireless signals. Gollakota refers to this method of communication as “ambient backscatter,” and in recent years he has partnered with colleagues and students at UW CSE and Electrical Engineering, including professor Josh Smith, postdoc Vamsi Talla and Ph.D. student Bryce Kellogg, to develop new capabilities for an increasingly impressive array of devices, from tiny cameras, to personal fitness trackers, to implanted medical devices.

In 2015, Gollakota’s team devised a way to harvest energy from Wi-Fi routers to continuously power devices without sacrificing signal quality. The technology — Power over Wi-Fi, or “PoWiFi” for short — earned a place on Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New” list of innovations that are likely to shape the future and change the world.

Earlier this year, he and his team went further, demonstrating the ability to generate Wi-Fi transmissions using 10,000 times less power than conventional methods. Called Passive Wi-Fi, the system can transmit Wi-Fi signals at rates up to 11 megabits per second to the billions of off-the-shelf devices with Wi-Fi connectivity.

“We wanted to see if we could achieve Wi-Fi transmissions using almost no power at all,” Gollakota told UW News. “That’s basically what Passive Wi-Fi delivers.”

It also delivered recognition as one of the 10 breakthrough technologies of 2016 by MIT Technology Review for its potential to liberate devices from the constraints of batteries and power cords, which in turn could usher in a new and exciting era of smart homes and wearable devices.

The latest innovation to emerge from Gollakota’s lab is interscatter, a system that, for the first time, enables devices such as smart contact lenses, credit cards, and even medical implants to connect to the Internet and wirelessly communicate with a smartphone or laptop.  It is the latest in a line of innovations emerging from his UW lab that are designed, in his own words, to “unleash the power of ubiquitous connectivity” — and in the case of interscatter, to transform health care in the process.

These and other projects, such as a mobile app for contactless detection of sleep apnea, reflect his drive to push the boundaries of computer science and engineering to solve human problems.

“There is a lot of innovation that can happen when we get scientists and engineers with a diverse set of skills into the same room and provide an environment that enables an open flow of ideas,” Gollakota said. “I have great faculty collaborators and graduate students at the UW who make this kind of work possible.”

He also credits UW CSE’s culture of innovation, which allows him the freedom to explore.

“As an assistant professor I was encouraged by the department not to focus on the safe stuff, to get tenure, but to do the stuff that truly drives me.”

This drive has earned him numerous awards and recognition, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, appointment as a UW CoMotion Presidential Innovation Fellow, a feature in CNN Money’s Visionaries 2020 program, a 2015 World Technology Award in communications technology, and inclusion in MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35.

Read the Popular Science article and learn more about Gollakota and his work by visiting his website.

Congratulations, Shyam!

And congratulations, too, to some previous UW CSE “Brilliant Ten” honorees: Ph.D. alum Roxana Geambasu in 2014, postdoc alum Justin Cappos in 2013, and faculty member Carlos Guestrin in 2008.

September 9, 2016

UW researchers target Fitbit guilt

Fitbit figureResearchers from UW CSE and UW Human Centered Design & Engineering have released the results of a new study that examines how people’s experience with Fitbit and other personal tracking tools could be improved with different design approaches. Their insights could help inspire people who have abandoned such tools to reconsider that “device in the drawer” and get back on track. From the UW News release:

“The research team surveyed 141 people who had lapsed in using Fitbit. They showed the subjects seven different visual representations and ways of framing previously collected data, to see if the data could offer additional support and encouragement to be healthy if portrayed in new and interesting ways.

“Half of these Fitbit users described feeling guilty about their lapsed Fitbit use, and nearly all of those said they would like to return to activity tracking. Twenty-one said they got no value out of tracking, found it annoying, or struggled to connect the data to behavior change. Five participants felt they had learned enough about their habits, and 45 reported mixed feelings about abandoning their Fitbit.”

According to lead author and CSE Ph.D. student Daniel Epstein, “People feel more guilt when it comes to abandoning health tracking, as compared to something like location tracking, which is more of a fun thing…we wanted to see if there are design opportunities to better support people who have had different experiences using Fitbit.”

The researchers found that users’ preferences for what data was presented – and how – changed based on how long they had been engaged in personal tracking and whether comparisons to their peers carried positive or negative connotations. The results indicate that designers should eschew a one-size-fits-all approach in favor of supporting a variety of users.

For example, CSE professor and study co-author James Fogarty suggests that it’s a mistake to assume everyone will track forever. “Given that some people feel relief when they give it up, there may be better ways to help them get better value out of the data after they’re done, or reconnect them to the app for weeklong check-ins or periodic tune-ups that don’t presume they’ll be doing this every day for the rest of their lives.”

The team, which also included HCDE professor (and CSE adjunct) Sean Munson, CSE and iSchool bachelor’s alum Jennifer Kang, and CSE and HCDE postdoc Laura Pina, will present its findings at the Ubicomp 2016 conference next week in Heidelberg, Germany.

Read the full UW News release here and the research paper here. Watch a slideshow about the project here.

September 8, 2016

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