University of Washington wants to record your coughing sounds

To train a new app to monitor coughs from COVID-19 patients, researchers are asking for volunteers to submit vocal samples to train the software.
woman coughing
(Getty Images)

A team of researchers at the University of Washington need help training a new mobile app to recognize coughing sounds so it can eventually monitor coughs from self-quarantined COVID-19 patients, the university announced Tuesday.

The app was developed with the goal of helping health organizations monitor COVID-19 patients who have self-quarantined at home, but before it can do that, researchers at UW need a large amount of vocal data in order to teach the software how to accurately identify different kinds of vocal sounds.

Using a public, 15-minute survey, researchers are collecting vocal sound samples from participants of all ages, like throat-clearing, speech, laughter and of course coughs. The survey includes a consent form, demographic and health questionnaire and for participants to submit sounds of 20 coughs and up to 10 samples of other vocalizations.

“These sounds will help us train our cough detection model,” Matthew Whitehill, a doctoral student at UW, said in a university press release. ”We also train the model with negative examples — such as voices, laughing and throat clearing — to help it learn to not classify them as coughs. The more examples we can give the model, the better performance it will achieve.”


Across the country, several universities are using their capacity for research and technology to help fight against the COVID-19 disease. With doctors, nurses and other medical staff facing a shortage of medical masks, universities, including Michigan State University, the University of Arizona and Penn State University, have stepped in and repurposed their 3D printers to produce medical masks for health care workers.


Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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