UC researchers continue to blaze new trails in science, medicine, business, education, engineering and the arts — literally transforming the way we live, work and learn.

Nice to meet you: Research teams meet, talk big picture for Digital Futures

Findings | Dec. 6, 2019

Reneé Seward stands in front of her UC colleagues and shows them how her See Words app works. She scrolls over the letter “d” and the round part of the consonant becomes a donut. She scrolls over the letter “p” and the round portion turns into a pie.

“I’m looking into creating reading glasses,” says the graphic designer and associate professor at DAAP. She's also exploring the creation of a new font. And AR and VR opportunities. And prospects for second language learners. “Access to equitable education is one of our biggest problems,” she says.

Seward is presenting her idea to another 13 research teams gathered at Fueled Collective in Rookwood for a day-long Digital Futures retreat. Each Digital Futures Anchor Team went through a multi-phase, competitive process and was selected based on a set of criteria designed within an impact, inclusion and innovation framework. Each team was awarded a $10,000 planning grant to get started.

Digital Futures is more than just a building. It’s a research initiative that supports interdisciplinary teams of researchers who are passionate about leveraging technology to solve human-centered problems and solving the problems posed by technologies of the future.

Thematically, Digital Futures research broadly relates to safety and security in the digital age; future health, accessibility and independence; advanced concepts in mobility and exploration; and rethinking resiliency and recovery. A new home for this work, will be built at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Reading Road. 

Check out some photos from the retreat below and mark your calendars for Research + Innovation Week—which has a Digital Futures theme this year—starting March 24.

Brandi Blessett, right, and Tia Gaynor present on their Administrative Law and Justice Lab, a part of the University of Cincinnati’s Digital Futures Initiative in 2019. Ravenna Rutledge/ University of Cincinnati
Brandi Blessett, right, and Tia Sherèe Gaynor give a presentation about their Administrative Law and Justice Lab. Blessett is an associate professor and director of the Masters of Public Administration program and Gaynor is assistant professor in Political Science and co-director of The Cincinnati Project. They represent one of 14 interdisciplinary research teams chosen thus far take. part in the Digital Futures initiative. Photo by Ravenna Rutledge/University of Cincinnati

James Lee talks about Human Centered AI for Social Justice and Health, his team's Digital Futures project in 2019. Ravenna Rutledge/ University of Cincinnati
James Lee, director of the Digital Scholarship Center and associate dean of the Libraries, talks about the Human-Centered AI For Social Justice and Health lab. All of these research labs will come together under one roof in the new Digital Futures building, currently under construction. Photo by Ravenna Rutledge/University of Cincinnati


Aashish Priye talks about his Drone-Based Health Platform, which would allow for quick distribution and rapid diagnosis of disease. His was one of 14 ideas shared at the Digital Futures retreat held at Fueled Collective in the fall of 2019.
Assistant professor in chemical and environmental engineering Aashish Priye talks to his research colleagues about an idea to create a drone-based health platform that would distribute testing kits and speed up diagnosis in outbreak and other potential crisis situations. Photo by Andrew Higley/University of Cincinnati

Jess Kropczynski talks about her team's Digital Futures project Smart Synergies, which looks to connect smart homes to smart cities. Ravenna Rutledge/ University of Cincinnati
Jess Kropczynski talks about the work that the Smart Synergies Research Team is doing to connect smart homes to infrastructure in smart city to enhance public safety.  "With AI we can use smart devices to save lives during a disaster," says the assistant professor in the School of Information Technology. Photo by Ravenna Rutledge/University of Cincinnati

Vice President for Research Patrick Limbach gives a presentation about the Digital Futures building to the research teams at the Digital Futures Retreat in fall 2019.
Vice President for Research Patrick Limbach gives the cohorts an update on the Digital Futures building which will break ground this fall. It will include space for these research teams and some high-end technology, as well as classrooms, an eatery and auditorium. The ground floor will be inviting to the public. Photo by Andrew Higley/University of Cincinnati