Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org

ACM TechNews
September 8, 2008

Learn about ACM's more than 3,000 online courses and 1,100 online books
MemberNet
CareerNews
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the September 8, 2008 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Britain Leading London 2012 Technology Race
Times Online (UK) (09/08/08) Slot, Owen

At the recent Summer Olympics in Beijing, Great Britain outfitted its athletes with advanced skinsuits, canoe paddles, and meteorological equipment for sailors. Britain is planning more technological advancements for the next Olympics, including radar tracking for archery, a judo robot, personalized spikes for sprinters, and a miniaturized wireless body sensor to help swimmers improve their tumble turns. U.K. Sport head of research and development Scott Drawer says such advancements are only the beginning. "In 2012 I want to have the most aerodynamic or hydrodynamic teams across all sports, who have the best equipment with the least drag and the strongest, lightest components--who can look across the start line and know that they are in a better position than anyone else," Drawer says. Perhaps the single greatest technical innovation planned for the London Olympics is a wireless sensor, slightly larger than a fingernail, that can sit behind the ear of an athlete and send information to a coach on speed, stride frequency, and stride length. Drawer says most coaches obtain this information by eye, but by having objective information, better instructions can be given. The e-AR sensor, developed at Imperial College, London, is still in testing, but should be applicable to a variety of sports, including running, gymnastics, and swimming.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Protecting Your Vote With Invisible Ink
Discover (09/04/08) Lafsky, Melissa

Transparency of the entire voting system has never been more important, and each voter should be able to verify that his or her vote is protected and correctly recorded in the final tally. The challenge is revealing the secret ballot process without sacrificing the privacy that democracy relies on. Computer scientists, lead by cryptographer David Chaum, say they have found a solution that uses invisible ink to protect voter confidentiality. The Scantegrity II (invisible ink) system, was unveiled at the USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology Workshop. The system uses a regular pen and a special decoder pen for use on a ballot that looks like a normal fill-in-the-dot ballot. Voters make their selections by marking the bubble next to their candidate of choice with the decoder pen. A two- or three-letter code will appear in the bubble. The ballots' serial numbers, as well as the invisible codes, have all been created and recorded by voting officials before the election to eliminate the possibility of ballot stuffing. Voters can record their ballots' serial numbers and codes to verify their vote was counted. The ballot is then scanned through an optical scanner. Chaum says that even if only one or two percent of voters go online to check their receipts, it will create a 95 percent chance that no fraud occurred.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Keep Streaming Videos, the Tubes Are Fine: Report Finds
Wired News (09/03/08) Singel, Ryan

Although some experts have been concerned that surging Internet data traffic could soon overwhelm the underlying infrastructure, new research from TeleGeography found international Internet bandwidth jumped 62 percent in the past year, while Internet traffic grew only 53 percent and filled only 43 percent of the Internet's capacity at peak times. The study found that Latin America and South Asia both doubled the capacity of their backbones in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the cost of sending and receiving data continues to decline. The report says the cheapest wholesale prices for data transmission are in Europe and North America, where capacity is abundant. Data on the Internet's size, capacity, and links are difficult to find, since almost all of the Internet's infrastructure is privately owned, and there is little incentive and few requirements to share data with the government or with researchers. TeleGeography says it gathers data at Internet exchange points around the world and from surveys. The firm expects "strong growth and falling prices" to continue into the future.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Driving the Future of In-Vehicle ICT
ICT Results (09/05/08)

The HUMANIST project is working to integrate Europe's expertise in the field of intelligent transport systems (ITSs) to make driving easier and safer. Four years ago, European competence in ITS human-machine interaction was scattered throughout various countries and research institutes. The HUMANIST project started building bridges between these pockets of knowledge, and now researchers can access the expertise of others in the network to enhance the quality, safety, and convenience of ITS systems and services, says HUMANIST coordinator Jean-Pierre Medevielle. Rapid advancements in in-vehicle driver information systems (IVISs) and advanced driver assistance systems (ADASs) are changing how we drive, but continued progress hinges on understanding how people interact with the technology and applying this information to IVIS and ADAS technology. Promoting the human-centric approach was a key issue for the HUMANIST project. ITS is being applied to traffic and transportation management, IVIS, advanced driver assistance systems, and traveler and traffic information services. Despite advances in ITS, questions surround how such developments will impact drivers as technology takes over tasks traditionally controlled by them. The HUMANIST project is working to understand how ITS affects a driver's behavior, and has organized several conferences and workshops on the subject.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Taking Intelligence Analysis to the Virtual World
Federal Computer Week (09/04/08) Bain, Ben

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is increasingly monitoring online virtual worlds for use in intelligence analysis. ODNI's Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) program is launching the Analysis WorkSpace for Exploration project to explore how virtual worlds can be used to create a workspace for future analysis. In a separate effort, through ODNI's Summer Hard Problem (SHARP) program, about 30 people spent the summer studying virtual worlds. IRAPA, which focuses on high-risk/high-reward research, held an industry day in July on A-SpaceX, a project that develops virtual worlds to explore how manipulating time frames and mapping decision processes can improve intelligence analysis. During the first phase of the project, which will last about 18 months, officials plan to create a Time Machine virtual world to explore how changes in chronology can affect analysis. Officials also plan to use virtual words to create MindSnaps that will allow analysts to track and map out decision processes in a virtual world. IARPA Knowledge Discovery and Dissemination project manager Arthur Becker says the agency is focused on research that generally yields results in three to five years. The Knowledge Discovery and Dissemination project will explore how information technology can be used to manage the large amounts of information analysts typically receive. Another IARPA project will reduce costs by making computer code more easily available to developers, Becker says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Cornell Gets $10 Million Federal Grant to Establish New Institute Applying Computing to Sustainability
Cornell University (09/03/08) Steele, Bill

Cornell University's new Institute for Computational Sustainability will use a $10 million National Science Foundation grant to pursue far-reaching research agendas that promise significant advances in computing that will greatly benefit society. "Our vision is that computing and information science can--and should--play a key role in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the way we manage and allocate our natural resources," says Cornell professor and institute director Carla Gomes. She says that many of today's problems in ecology and conservation involve juggling large numbers of variables and finding the best way to balance those variables. Some problems are so complex that they will require significant advancements in computer science, researchers say. Gomes says the institute will create a new field of computational sustainability, similar to computational biology, which will stimulate developments in the computer science areas of constraint optimization, dynamical systems, and machine learning. The institute will work with the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future and a variety of other sustainability programs on campus, but Gomes says the institute's goal is to extend beyond the initial members of the institute, and to help organizations with computational problems that could benefit other fields.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Massive $208 Million Petascale Computer Gets Green Light
Network World (09/02/08)

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's National Center for Supercomputing Applications has finalized a contract with IBM to build Blue Waters, a 200,000-processor supercomputer that will provide a sustained performance of more than 1 petaflop. The 200,000 processors will be paired with more than a petabyte of memory and more than 10 petabytes of disk storage. The memory and storage will be made globally addressable so the processors will be able to share data from a single pool exceptionally quickly. The new supercomputer, which will go online in 2011, is supported by a $208 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. Blue Waters will be based on Productive, Easy-to-use, Reliable Computing System technology. NSF says the system may be used to study complex processes such as the interaction of the Sun's coronal mass ejections with the Earth's magnetosphere and ionosphere, the formation and evolutions of galaxies in the early universe, understanding the chains of reactions that occur with living cells, and the design of novel materials. NSF says that by 2010 or 2011, academic researchers will be able to access numerous high-performance systems that provide sustained performance between 10 teraflops and 2 petaflops for a variety science and engineering projects that are integrated into a national cyberinfrastructure environment and supported at a national, regional, or campus level.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Toshiba Shows Advanced Image Detection Prototypes
IDG News Service (08/30/08) Williams, Martyn

Toshiba has developed gesture control technology that could potentially enable people to control a TV with the movement of their hands. The gesture control system is designed to track the person in its field of view, and a cursor appears on the TV screen to mirror the way the individual has waved his or her fist around, as if controlling a mouse. The gesture control prototype was just one of several image-detection systems from Toshiba that were on display at this week's IFA electronics show in Berlin. Toshiba's new Qosmio laptops make use of an earlier version of the gesture control system to enable users to move the cursor on their screen with their fist and to perform a mouse click by raising a thumb. "The major difference with the Qosmio is that it's just smoother and more advanced tracking technology," says Kate Knill, manager of interaction technology at Toshiba's laboratory in Cambridge. Toshiba also has developed a pattern-recognition system that would work with a video camera mounted above a TV screen to recognize viewers, and Knill says it could be potentially used to provide personalized information or switch to a favorite channel when they enter the room.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Stanford's 'Autonomous' Helicopters Teach Themselves to Fly
Stanford University (08/29/08) Stober, Dan

Stanford University computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that enables robotic helicopters to teach themselves how to fly and perform difficult stunts by watching other helicopters perform the same maneuvers. Professor Andrew Ng says the stunts are by far the most complex aerobatic maneuvers flown by any computer-controlled helicopter. The helicopters learned how to perform the stunts by watching a helicopter controlled by expert radio control pilot Garett Oku. After observing the human-controlled helicopter, the AI-controlled helicopter performed a variety of stunts on its own. The air show is an important demonstration in "apprenticeship learning," in which robots learn by observing an expert instead of having software engineers attempt to write the instructions from scratch. "I think the range of maneuvers they can do is by far the largest," says Georgia Institute of Technology professor Eric Feron. "But what's more impressive is the technology that underlies this work." To teach the helicopter to fly, the researchers had Oku and other pilots fly entire air show routines while recording the movements of the helicopter. As maneuvers were repeated several times, the trajectory of the helicopter varied slightly with each flight, but the learning algorithms were able to discern the ideal trajectory the pilot was seeking, enabling the autonomous helicopter to learn to fly the same routine better and more consistently than the human pilots. During autonomous flight, a ground-based computer processes the data, makes quick calculations, and sends new instructions back to the helicopter 20 times per second.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


How a Global Internet Policy Might Look
InternetNews.com (08/27/08) Corbin, Kenneth

The ideal vision of a global Internet policy was laid out by leading Internet activists attending the second annual Internet Governance Forum, who were surveyed by researchers from the Pew Internet and American Life Project and Elon University. Sixty-six percent of respondents called for a global Internet bill of rights, whose fundamental principles would include freedom of information and freedom of expression. The poll indicated that the leading challenge policy makers have to wrestle with is the digital divide, or uneven Internet access. Many respondents said the funding needed to erase the digital divide should come from strong competition between private access providers to lower prices, while others said that each nation's government should fund its communications infrastructure, or create a global fund where commercial providers pool their resources. Forty-seven percent of respondents described the Internet's control as decentralized, while 65 percent of those who took the opposite view said the United States formed the Internet's core. Forty-five percent concurred that ICANN "is not effective and should be placed in a more neutral, global control structure." The poll signaled a widespread conviction that the Internet fuels global economic expansion, while many respondents objected to broadband providers' monopoly in an excessive number of markets. Respondents also said that security must adapt to tackle lingering dangers such as child pornography and spam.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Textured Graphics Can Be Captured in a Flash
New Scientist (08/27/08) Barras, Colin

Researchers from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom have developed a new technique for making more realistic textures for the virtual worlds of computer games. The process involves taking two photos of textured surfaces. Working with Gregory Ward at Dolby Canada in Vancouver, the team took a photo with flash to prevent protruding surface parts from appearing brighter than parts in cracks and pits, which enabled the researchers to record the true color of every part of the surface. The researchers also took another photo without extra lighting, then used software to compare the brightness of every matching pair of pixels in the two images and to calculate how much of the brightness is due to its position and color. They were able to produce a realistic rendering of a surface's texture using the information. The team presented its results at the ACM SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Data Centers: Focusing on Sustainability
Dr. Dobb's Journal (08/27/08)

Dallas Thornton, director of Cyberinfrastructure Services for the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego, says in an interview that the center will move to a new facility that uses "a natural hybrid ventilation system" that employs unaltered external and internal air to supply adequate temperature and humidity to the building over 95 percent of the time. Thornton estimates that U.S. data center loads devour more than 1.5 percent of the national power supply, and notes that federal and state governments, along with many power companies, are offering incentives for more efficient IT practices and deployments. To identify and leverage these opportunities, Thornton recommends that companies more deeply meld data center facilities personnel to their IT operations. "Virtualization of services, servers, and storage provide opportunities for sharing unused resources and reducing the IT equipment and power needed," says Thornton, who adds that many of the virtualization-enabling software and hardware technologies also provide features that streamline tough jobs and offer previously unavailable redundancy options to IT administrators. The advent of cross-site virtualization and greater ubiquitous data access will affect augmented service-level redundancy and availability that will reduce the need to implement expensive and power-consumptive local uninterruptable power supply systems, generators, and redundant power distribution throughout each center, saving millions of dollars in facilities costs and 10 percent to 30 percent in ongoing energy consumption at each site, Thornton says. He observes that along with the growing prevalence of technology in people's daily lives is the mounting challenge of the underlying infrastructure being taken for granted. He believes that cyberinfrastructure "should become as accessible and reliable as the power that comes from your local utility company."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Robotics Engineer Seeks to Define Individuality
Nikkei Weekly (08/25/08) Vol. 46, No. 2351, P. 31; Tamura, Hiroshi

Robotics engineer and Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro's interest in what defines human individuality informs his research, which includes a lifelike android of himself whose subtle mimicry illustrates the point that one's self image can be distinct from what is seen by those around them. "The most important thing only a human can do is think about the fundamental questions in this world," Ishiguro says. "Responding to these questions is the only situation in which people truly behave like human beings. The only people who deserve to be called individuals are those who ask what human beings are and establish solid perspectives and base their lives on them." Ishiguro says the more study he devotes to this observation, the more complicated it becomes to realize his dream of creating an android that cannot be distinguished from a human being. This is due to human beings' complexity and the difficulty of understanding them. Ishiguro says that pinning down individuality requires learning the fundamentals of philosophy and cognitive science.
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link to Publication Homepage
to the top


Every Move You Make
Economist (08/20/08)

Workers that maintain a rhythm to their day are more productive than arrhythmic colleagues, even when part of their rhythmic day is spent on non-work-related tasks, concludes a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study. For the study, MIT researchers Benjamin Waber and Sandy Pentalnd used electronic identity badges that monitored a wearer's movements and interactions on a second-by-second basis. Each badge contained motion sensors, a microphone, a microprocessor, and a radio transceiver that enabled it to sense and broadcast a signal to a base station. The badge recorded whether the wearer was walking, their body movements when stationary, the timbre and inflection of the wearer's voice, who the wearer talked to if the other person also wore a badge, and the length of any conversations the wearer had. The gathered information, when combined with data on productivity, provided insights on which work habits are the most effective and created a picture of which social networks are of the most value to a company. The study found that the more people the wearer knew at their office, and the more they interacted with them, the more productive they were. Even non-work-related, social conversations improved employee efficiency, indicating that small increases in social cohesiveness can lead to significant improvements in productivity.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


XML Retrieval and the Mind-Reading Machines
Information Today (08/08) Vol. 25, No. 7, P. 20; Hawkins, Donald T.

Charles Clarke of Ontario's University of Waterloo says that his primary concentration has been documents and how their structure and content is represented rather than specific XML technology. "I am more interested in information access, and XML is really the tool that has become a common language for expressing this interesting and rich structure, metadata, and content, which I think is the real focus of the document," he says. Clarke says that the basic concept of XML for marking up documents with tags and expressing data in a structured manner will endure for quite a while. He says that his ideal vision of a retrieval mechanism is something that retrieves only the part of the document he needs rather than the entire document. Clarke also mentions the need for a precise query language that allows users to particularize the right document portion. He refers to Google's progress in developing a "mind-reading" Web search engine, noting that "for many queries, the algorithms are trying effectively to understand what you really mean and give that to you. Or they may make a good guess at what you probably mean, based on the aggregate behavior of millions of people."
Click Here to View Full Article - Web Link to Publication Homepage
to the top


To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: technews@hq.acm.org

To be removed from future issues of TechNews, please submit your email address where you are receiving Technews alerts, at:
http://optout.acm.org/listserv_index.cfm?ln=technews

To re-subscribe in the future, enter your email address at:
http://signup.acm.org/listserv_index.cfm?ln=technews

As an alternative, log in at myacm.acm.org with your ACM Web Account username and password, and follow the "Listservs" link to unsubscribe or to change the email where we should send future issues.

to the top

News Abstracts © 2008 Information, Inc.


© 2008 ACM, Inc. All rights reserved. ACM Privacy Policy.

About ACM | Contact us | Boards & Committees | Press Room | Membership | Privacy Policy | Code of Ethics | System Availability | Copyright © 2014, ACM, Inc.