ACM TechNews


Welcome to the May 21, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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sound waves, illustration Interpol's New Software Will Recognize Criminals by Their Voices
IEEE Spectrum
Michael Dumiak
May 16, 2018


The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) in Lyon, France is assessing software that matches samples of speech taken from phone calls or social media posts to voice recordings of criminals in a vast law enforcement database. The SIIP (Speaker Identification Integrated Project) platform would use multiple speech analysis algorithms to filter voice samples by gender, age, language, and accent in an effort to increase voice data accuracy, reliability, and judicial admissibility. The development team successfully field-tested the system twice last year, and a project review is slated for this June in Brussels. The software adds new information to captured voice clips, such as the speaker's age or accent. Using algorithms lined up by software developers, the SIIP platform parses newly recorded voice samples through a processing chain built on open-sourced architecture. The software's video processing engine extracts the audio from an online video and formats it into uncompressed 16 kHz WAV files. Security groups in the Netherlands and the U.K. studied the ethical concerns associated with the project, but it has drawn negative commentary from civil rights activists.

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Cornell University How Cornell University Diversified Its Incoming Ph.D. Computer Science Student Body
EdSurge (CA)
Tina Nazerian
May 18, 2018


Cornell University improved the diversity of its computer science postdoctoral program partly through outreach to the McNair Scholars Program, according to David Bindel, Ph.D. admissions chair for Cornell University's computer science department. Bindel says Cornell tweaked its application-and-review process to have 2018 applications query applicants on how well they had leveraged their computer science opportunities. He notes the committee's consideration of whether the applicant brought a unique viewpoint to their research areas also influenced some students' decisions. Cornell in 2017 admitted 135 computer science Ph.D. students out of 850 total applicants, but this year it admitted 147 out of approximately 1,300 applicants. Bindel notes a disproportionately high yield among female students and underrepresented minorities in 2018, which he believes was helped by a graduate student visit day.

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Artificial Intelligence Improves Stroke, Dementia Diagnoses in Brain Scans
Imperial College London
Maxine Myers
May 15, 2018


Software developed by researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) and the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. has helped enhance stroke and dementia diagnosis by quantifying the severity of small vessel disease (SVD). "This is the first time that machine learning methods have been able to accurately measure a marker of small vessel disease in patients presenting with stroke or memory impairment who undergo [computed tomography (CT)] scanning," says ICL's Paul Bentley. The researchers used the historical data of 1,082 CT scans of stroke patients across 70 U.K. hospitals over 14 years. The software identified and measured an SVD marker in each scan, producing a severity score. The team compared the results to those of a committee of expert physicians, whose estimates of SVD severity matched that of the software. In addition, using magnetic resonance imaging to estimate SVD in 60 patients demonstrated that the software was 85% accurate at predicting its severity.

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nanotube-based strip Making Carbon Nanotubes as Usable as Common Plastics
Northwestern Now
Amanda Morris
May 15, 2018


Northwestern University's Jiaxing Huang is using a commercially available solvent to disperse carbon nanotubes at record high concentrations without additives or volatile chemical reactions. He also has learned that as the nanotubes' concentrations grow, the material transitions from a dilute dispersion into a paste, then into a free-standing gel and finally a sculptable dough. To prevent the nanotubes from clumping and impeding desirable characteristics, Huang's team added cresol, which keeps the nanotubes' surface functions intact; once the entangled tubes are separated, researchers can remove the cresol by rinsing or heating. The paste, gel, and dough forms of the nanotubes can be molded, reconfigured, or employed as conductive ink for three-dimensional (3D) printing. "Essentially, this solvent system now makes nanotubes behave just like polymers," Huang says. "It is really exciting to see cresol-based solvents make once hard-to-process carbon nanotubes as usable as common plastics."

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fly and RoboFly First Wireless Flying Robotic Insect Takes Off
University of Washington
Sarah McQuate
May 15, 2018


Engineers at the University of Washington have created the first wireless, insect-sized flying robot. Weighing slightly more than a toothpick, RoboFly is powered by a laser beam and uses a tiny onboard circuit that converts the laser energy into enough electricity to operate its wings. The engineering challenge is to provide adequate power, because both the power source and the wing controller are too large to fit on the robot. The team used a laser beam pointed at a photovoltaic cell, which is attached above the robot to convert the laser light into electricity. The laser alone does not provide enough voltage to move the wings, so the team designed a circuit that increased the seven volts from the photovoltaic cell up to the 240 volts required to fly. To enable the robot to control its wings, the engineers added a microcontroller to the same circuit. Future versions could have more advanced "brains" and sensor systems to help the robots complete tasks independently, with one potential application in locating methane leaks.

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Rutgers Researchers Create a 3D-Printed Smart Gel That Walks Underwater, Moves Objects
Rutgers Today
Todd B. Bates
May 17, 2018


Rutgers University, New Brunswick researchers have created a three dimensional (3D)-printed smart gel that can perambulate underwater and grab and move objects. This breakthrough could find use in soft robots, artificial organs and muscles, and devices for diagnosing diseases. "Our 3D-printed smart gel has great potential in biomedical engineering because it resembles tissues in the human body that also contain lots of water and are very soft," says Rutgers researcher Howon Lee. The hydrogel moves and reconfigures in response to electricity. During the printing process, light is projected on a solution that transitions into a gel, which is then added to an electrolyte solution while two wires apply electricity to trigger motion. The speed of the hydrogel's movement is determined by its dimensions, with thinner gels moving faster than thicker ones. In addition, the gel bends or shapeshifts depending on the strength of the saltwater solution and electric field.

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Alphabet's Jigsaw Offers Political Campaigns Free DDoS Protection
CyberScoop
Chris Bing
May 16, 2018


Jigsaw, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, is offering U.S. political organizations a free tool to defend against distributed denial-of-device (DDoS) attacks. The defensive software, known as "Project Shield," is designed to flag, filter, and contain malicious Internet traffic. Project Shield is based on Google's own server architecture and scanning capabilities, enabling it to rapidly identify and block Internet Protocol addresses that are recognized as being linked to botnets. A recent DDoS attack on Knox County, TN, which forced the county to postpone the release of voting results, demonstrates the scope of the threat and the need for political organizations to protect themselves from digital attacks, according to Project Shield's George Conrad.

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A photo of pop-singer Ariana Grande Computers Crack the Code of Pop-Song Success: It Helps to Be 'Happy' and 'Female'
Los Angeles Times
Karen Kaplan
May 16, 2018


University of California, Irvine researchers used a computer algorithm that analyzed the properties of more than 500,000 songs released over three decades to extract the most popular ones. They set the success benchmark for songs as cracking the Top 100 Singles Chart in the U.K. between January 1985 and July 2015, while crowdsourced data from the MetaBrainz Foundation's MusicBrainz and AcousticBrainz projects was used to measure the songs' acoustic attributes, which included the singer's gender and emotional state. The researchers applied the "random forest" machine learning algorithm to determine the defining characteristics of the songs listed on the chart. "Successful songs are happier, brighter, more party-like, more danceable, and less sad than most songs," they note. The algorithm then evaluated 1,052 songs released in 2014, and correctly predicted their popularity 75% of the time, or 85% with the inclusion of artists who had songs charted in the previous five years.

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Embracing Interference in Wireless Systems
 
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