Welcome to the October 3, 2012 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Women Flock to Startups While Trailing in Computer Science: Tech
Bloomberg (10/02/12) Ari Levy; Willow Bay
Women in technology claim they have opportunities to start Web-based companies and raise capital, but there are still too few of them studying computer science and taking engineering roles, according to a group of female executives on "Women to Watch," which recently aired on Bloomberg Television. "For the first time, I actually see male co-founders and male co-founding teams who are explicitly looking to bring women into the executive team or the founding team," says Accell Partners' Theresia Gouw Ranzetta. Although more females have entered Silicon Valley businesses in recent years, the computer science field remains dominated by males. Women accounted for just 12 percent of U.S. college graduates in computer science last year, down from 14 percent five years earlier, according to the Computing Research Association. "There's still a pipeline problem of women in computer science and engineering, even from 10 years ago," says SurveyMonkey.com's Selina Tobaccowala. Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe and Piazza Technologies founder Pooja Sankar recently founded Women in Technology Sharing Online, a program that connects women who are pursuing computer and science degrees with mentors in the industry.
In Tech Jobs Market, Data Analysis Is Tops
USA Today (10/02/12) Jon Swartz
Data scientists are in high demand as companies scramble to manage the more than 250 billion publicly available data points that are available on today's social networks. A recent McKinsey Global Institute study called data analytics the next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity. "It's never been a better time to be a data scientist," says 140 Proof co-founder John Manoogian. "Companies want to turn this data into insights about what people like and what might be relevant to them, but they need very specialized analytical talent to do this." However, there is a lack of talent because the jobs often require math skills that many college graduates lack, forcing companies to train their own workers. The Glassdoor site lists 17,699 openings for jobs in big data, and the average salary starts at $74,000, according to Simply Hired. Meanwhile, strong demand for computer scientists across the board has made it even more difficult to fill big data jobs, and the market for workers could get more competitive. Demand for tech workers is expected to increase at a rate of 19 percent through 2020, with an average salary of $88,909, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
A Smartphone in Your Glasses
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (10/01/2012)
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) researchers are developing a prototype of a pair of augmented glasses that allow the wearer to read messages, look at an itinerary, and receive a variety of information directly on the lenses. The early applications for the new device could include games, global positioning systems, teaching enhancement, and support for the deaf. One major problem has been finding a way to allow the user to simultaneously view the information displayed on the lenses and to see his or her surroundings. The researchers solved this problem by developing a specially designed contact lens with a micro-lens in its center that allows the eye to focus on the images. "For the majority of users, it would be possible to make glasses that don't require the use of contact lenses, but the high definition would be somewhat reduced," says EPFL professor Christophe Moser. Collaboration between the EPFL Laboratory of Photonic Devices and EPFL startup Lemoptix is focusing on the development of a high-definition micro-projector that will integrate discreetly into the right arm of the glasses. Images and data will be sent from this projector to the specially treated glasses lens via holography.
Internet Pioneer Dr. Leonard Kleinrock Still Pushing Emerging Technologies
Network World (10/01/12) Jim Duffy
University of California, Los Angeles professor Leonard Kleinrock has helped launch several technology companies over his 50 years as a computer scientist and Internet pioneer. Now, Kleinrock is developing an exhibit of the nodes involved in what is considered to be the first host-to-host communication that led to the modern Internet. "We've created an Internet history center at UCLA, the idea being that the Golden Era was a very special time," Kleinrock says. The UCLA team is combining the Interface Message Processor with other materials from that era. "We're not simply going to ask them just what did you accomplish; we're going to ask them, what was the environment that allowed you to accomplish what you did," Kleinrock says. The effort is complementary and cooperative with the Internet history work being done at the Computer History Museum. Kleinrock says although the Internet has its dark side, it will evolve into a more positive incarnation. "So much depends on the Internet that those who disrupt it or exploit it or abuse it there'll be an awful lot of social pressure brought to bear, and sentimental pressure that would hopefully modulate and moderate the extent of the abuse," he notes.
Artificial Intelligence for Developing Technology for Older Adults
CCC Blog (09/28/12) Kenneth Hines
The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the development of technologies that promote safe independent living for older adults will be the focus of an upcoming symposium titled AI for Gerontechnology. The symposium will bring together experts to present case studies and research and to brainstorm novel technologies that can be enhanced with AI. Researchers will address the current and future challenges of applying AI to gerontechnology. AI will be important for transforming raw sensor data into human interpretable abstractions, innovating new human computer interfaces, and for planning and reasoning. A variety of sensing technologies will capture data on physical activities, nighttime behaviors, medication taking, socialization, and ongoing physiological changes in older adults. AI can help with analyzing the volume of data and with decision making. Northwestern University's Parisa Rashidi, Washington State University's Narayanan Krishnan and Diane Cook, the University of Missouri Columbia's Marjorie Skubic, and the University of Toronto's Alex Mihailidis are organizing the workshop as part of the AAAI fall symposium series.
Researchers Demonstrate 3D Spy Trojan for Mobile Phones
eWeek (09/28/12) Robert Lemos
Researchers at Indiana University (IU) Bloomington and the Naval Surface Warfare Center have developed PlaceRaider, a program that uses a phone's camera to take pictures of its surroundings and construct a three-dimensional (3D) model of the environment. The researchers say PlaceRaider demonstrates that hackers could identify and steal information from a remote location. "Not only do they have access to your digital data on your device, they can listen to your environment; they can look at your environment; and they can feel the environment through the accelerometer," says IU Bloomington professor Apu Kapadia. The researchers used PlaceRaider to take pictures of the phone's current environment and then used the photos and motion information from the accelerometer to create 3D models of the surroundings. The researchers say hackers can use these models to identify objects of interest within the environment and steal information on computer monitors, financial documents, or other accessible information. The researchers suggest that permission changes and forcing the camera to make a shutter sound could help prevent attacks.
Graphics Chips Are for More Than Just Eye Candy
New Scientist (09/28/12) Anil Ananthaswamy
Graphics processing units (GPUs) are currently being used for more than just video game images. Linkoping University researchers have shown that GPUs allow certain functional magnetic resonance imaging calculations to be completed in as little as eight minutes, instead of 24 hours with conventional central processing units (CPUs). Additionally, large manufacturers have designs for chipsets that put both GPU and CPUs on the same piece of silicon. Stanford University researchers have shown that GPUs can help analyze the vast volumes of data generated by a broad spectrum of state-of-the-art astronomical instruments. "The larger the data set, the more advantageous it is to use the GPU," says Stanford researchers Debbie Bard. GPUs also are being used in smartphones and tablet computers to power high-resolution screens and applications such as three-dimensional mapping. "The future has barely been scratched from this point of view," says University of California, Davis researcher John Owens. As GPUs become omnipresent in mobile devices, they will clear a path for applications that no one has yet considered.
UC Davis Team's Piano System Animates Hands to Do-Re-Mi
PhysOrg.com (10/01/12) Nancy Owano
University of California, Davis researchers have developed an algorithm that creates computer-generated animations of piano playing, showing finger placement and wrist movement. The software can automatically generate three-dimensional animations of piano-playing hands based solely on the music input. Each chord in a piece of music translates into a finger position and hand motion. The software analyzes a music file and then creates animated hands to play the music. The software also calculates the animated fingers' most efficient paths. Piano students can use a motion-capture camera to record their practice, and then compare the data to the program's formula for playing the same song to see if their technique is the most efficient way to play the song. The software also can be applied to other instruments, such as violins and flutes, according to the researchers. They plan to enhance the system so that it can generate "emotional piano playing that reflects a personal understanding of the music and player's performance background. This is the main future work we will be pursuing."
Researchers Unveil New Technique to Detect Bots in Casual Online Games
NCSU News (09/28/12) Matt Shipman
The use of bots has become an emerging problem for companies behind casual online games such as FarmVille and Fantastic Contraption. The automated accounts can pose as human players to amass the rewards needed to advance through the games, and can deprive companies of revenue from selling rewards to human players and online advertisements to advertisers. North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have developed a technique for detecting bots without alerting human players who log into automated accounts. The technique monitors game play to see how each player moves their mouse and clicks on the screen. The information can be used to identify bots because they do not have the same range of variability in how humans interact with virtual objects. "Depending on the sophistication of the bot program, it may have some variability, but not enough to fool our monitoring technique consistently," says NCSU professor David Roberts. "If this technique tracks game play for any significant amount of time, it should detect a bot."
'Green Brain' Project to Create an Autonomous Flying Robot with a Honey Bee Brain
University of Sheffield (09/27/12) Shemina Davis
University of Sheffield and University of Sussex researchers recently launched Green Brain, a project to produce the first accurate computer models of a honey bee brain in an attempt to advise the understanding of artificial intelligence. The researchers will build models of the systems in the brain that govern a honey bee's vision and sense of smell. Using their findings, the researchers hope to create the first flying robot able to sense and act as autonomously as a bee. The researchers hope the robot will be able to find the source of specific odors and gases. "Using NVIDIA's massively parallel GPU accelerators for brain models is an important goal of the project as they allow us to build faster models than ever before," says Sussex researcher Thomas Nowotny. The researchers anticipate that developing a model of a honey bee brain will offer a more accessible method of driving forward our knowledge of how a brain's cognitive systems work. "Not only will this pave the way for many future advances in autonomous flying robots, but we also believe the computer modeling techniques we will be using will be widely useful to other brain modeling and computational neuroscience projects," Nowotny says.
Digital Agenda: EU-Funded Research to Make the 'Cloud' Greener
The Eurocloud project aims to develop a three-dimensional (3D) microchip that can drastically cut the electricity and the installation costs of servers in cloud computing data centers. The Eurocloud project has adapted low-power microprocessor technologies, which are normally used in mobile phones, to work on a much larger scale. Initial testing shows that the new technology could reduce power needs by as much as 90 percent compared to conventional servers. The researchers say the results could make data center investment affordable to more companies, while saving the cloud computing customers of data centers billions of dollars. Eurocloud is targeting the development of server chips that cost 10 times less to buy and consume 10 times less energy when they operate compared to current cutting-edge servers. The project is focusing on virtual prototype specialization of 3D servers, characterization of cloud applications, scalable 3D architecture specifications, on-chip hierarchies, and reliability, availability, and fault tolerance. "Today's power-hungry cloud data centers are not sustainable in the long run," says the European Commission's Neelie Kroes. "The Eurocloud chip addresses the core of this energy consumption problem."
Beyond Software: Programmers Hope to Change Macon
Macon Telegraph (09/23/12) Mike Stucka
Three fellows with Code for America have spent nearly a year in Bibb County, Ga., writing software for various organizations. Their aim was to facilitate people's access to government information, such as through the online mapping of code enforcement violations, according to Nick Doiron, a Code for America programmer. He says he had to test solutions before implementing them to ensure they would operate on the city's aging computers, which use older operating systems. The code enforcement database software, for example, had not been updated since 1997, Doiron notes. Code for America also has updated Macon Transit's maps to display every bus route and expected arrival times. For Habitat for Humanity, Code for America developed an electronic map of every building's foundation through Bibb County's government, then created a way for Habitat to show houses that had been dismantled, rebuilt, or replaced. Another project is able to monitor houses with overgrown yards or other maintenance problems. Additionally, a new project is enabling the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency to map out damage from storms or other disasters, before which the agency relied on paper and colored pencils.
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