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Welcome to the November 8, 2013 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE


New Bucks for Bugs Program Focuses on Open Source Software, Internet Infrastructure
Dark Reading (11/07/13) Kelly Jackson Higgins

The Microsoft- and Facebook-sponsored Internet Bug Bounty program pays as much as $2,500 for a new vulnerability detected in key open source platforms, and offers a minimum reward of $5,000 to researchers who uncover working flaws in sandbox technologies, as well as bugs in the Internet's underlying infrastructure. "This program provides direct incentive for people to raise the quality of [software] flaw analysis," notes security researcher Dan Kaminsky. An Internet bug found under the program is only deemed worthy of compensation if it affects multiple products or a significant number of users, or is severe or novel. Researchers receive two rewards, one for bug discovery and another for correction. Veracode's Chris Wysopal says Microsoft and Facebook's collaboration reflects the pressing need for key players to counteract the black market for bugs, while also benefiting open source projects. Facebook's Alex Rice says the program is complementary to existing bounty initiatives, and covers areas of the Web that existing programs currently do not. "This bounty is a great way to support coordinated disclosure of critical vulnerabilities in shared components of the Internet stack," says Microsoft's Katie Moussouris. Kaminsky says the program "puts a stake in the ground that this is what a program should look like, these are the types of good bugs to pay for."
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New Framework for 3D Tele-Immersive Social Networking
CORDIS News (11/07/13)

The European Union-funded Real and Virtual Engagement in Realistic Immersive Environments (REVERIE) project is developing technologies that enable users to immerse themselves into a three-dimensional environment to interact with friends and share common experiences together, in real time. The REVERIE project is part of a joint learning and development process between institutions in Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, and Greece to meet the research challenges involving the development of ethically sound technologies for online human interaction. REVERIE integrates cutting-edge technologies related to a wide range of areas, which are combined into two scenarios that provide the basis for technical integration and demonstrate the validity and potential socio-economic benefits of REVERIE's vision for the future of social networking. REVERIE is designed to account for what the end user really wants from collaborative and online human interaction. RIVERIE proposes life-like naturalistic and real-time representations, collaborative gaming, interactive services, and integration with social networks, while also considering the impact of its technologies on end users from a social, legal, and ethical point of view.


Researchers Dare AI Experts to Crack New GOTCHA Password Scheme
Network World (11/07/13) Bob Brown

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have developed Generating panOptic Turing Tests to Tell Computers and Humans Apart (GOTCHA), a password system based on visual cues that typically only a human can decipher. GOTCHA is designed to prevent hackers from using passwords stolen from websites or other sources to gain illegal access to computers. "To create a GOTCHA, a user chooses a password and a computer, then generates several random, multi-colored inkblots," according to the CMU researchers. The user then describes each inkblot with a text phrase, which is stored in a random order along with the conventional password. "When the user returns to the site and signs in with the password, the inkblots are displayed again along with the list of descriptive phrases; the user then matches each phrase with the appropriate inkblot," the researchers say. They believe that most people can match phrases with inkblots if they are allowed to choose from those on a list, while computers cannot, and they have challenged other researchers to use artificial intelligence to break their system. The research was presented this week at ACM's Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Security in Berlin.


Monkeys Use Minds to Control Avatar Arms
Science (11/06/13) Emily Underwood

Duke University researchers have trained two monkeys to control virtual arms using only their minds, in a step forward for brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) that could eventually enable paralyzed people to walk. The researchers implanted electrodes into the right and left brain hemispheres of two monkeys to record the activity of up to 500 neurons acting together. To earn a reward, the monkeys had to control two avatar arms on a computer monitor, placing place both hands over two circles and holding them there for 100 milliseconds. The monkeys' brain activity was processed using an algorithm that focused on patterns of neurons firing as the learning occurred. After practicing for several weeks, including training on joysticks, the female monkey was able to complete the task more than 75 percent of the time, the researchers say. A male monkey was then tested without the joysticks, which paralyzed people would not be able to use. Although the male monkey took longer to accomplish the task, he eventually learned to control the virtual arms using only his thoughts. Performances improved over time and neuronal firing patterns changed, which indicate that the monkeys' brains were adapting to the BMI devices. "The animals literally incorporate the avatar as if the avatar was them," says Duke neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis.


How Smart Cities Must Plan for Electric Cars
Technology Review (11/06/13)

As demand for electric cars rises, smart cities will need to provide charging stations for every electric vehicle within driving range. Charging stations cannot be added to existing gas stations due to limited gas station space, and the fact that most electric cars have a lower range than gasoline-powered cars, which might make the existing network of stations inadequate. Instead charging stations will likely need to be located in designated parking spots along the road and in car parks. Hong Kong Baptist University computer scientists have written several algorithms to help determine where to locate the charging stations. The team began by defining conditions that a grid of charging stations must satisfy to be properly planned for electric vehicles, with the first being that the distance between stations must be less than the range of the vehicle. The next condition relates to the number of electric cars in the area around a charging station, which impacts the local charging demand that must be met by the local charging station and a certain percentage of other stations within range. Although there is no easy solution to locating the stations, the researchers approach would randomly distribute charging stations and test to see if the network meets the criteria.


Researchers Build Flexible Batteries From Carbon Nanotubes
Computerworld (11/06/13) Lucas Mearian

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) researchers have built a flexible battery out of carbon nanotubes that could power electronic devices with flexible organic light-emitting displays. The researchers say they used standard electrochemicals to produce the charge in a flexible form factor that has no size limits. "This battery can be made as small as a pinhead or as large as a carpet in your living room, so its applications are endless," says NJIT professor Somenath Mitra. "You can place a rolled-up battery in the trunk of your electric car and have it power the vehicle." The flexible battery also could be fabricated at home by consumers using only a kit comprised of electrode paste and a laminating machine, according to the researchers. They say their nanotube battery could be used to power a new generation of bendable electronics. "Our current work that is going to be published utilized over 92 percent of active ingredients, so that is important," Mitra says. The battery is made from carbon nanotubes and micro-particles that serve as active components, similar to those found in conventional batteries. "The idea is to put a conventional battery in a flexible platform," Mitra says.


Georgia Tech Develops Inkjet-Based Circuits at Fraction of Time and Cost
Georgia Tech News Center (11/05/13) Joshua Preston

Researchers at Georgia Tech, the University of Tokyo, and Microsoft have developed a way to quickly and inexpensively create electrical circuits by printing them with commodity inkjet printers and off-the-shelf materials. The technique, called instant inkjet circuits, enables the printing of arbitrary-shaped conductors onto rigid or flexible materials. "Unlike existing methods for printing conductive patterns, conductivity in our technique emerges within a few seconds and without the need for special equipment," say Georgia Tech professor Gregory Abowd. The researchers found that printing the circuits on resin-coated paper, PET film, and glossy photo paper worked best. "The method can be used to print circuitboards, sensors, and antennas with little cost, and it opens up many new opportunities," says University of Tokyo professor Yoshihiro Kawahara. Once the circuits are printed, they can be attached to electronic components using conductive double-sided tape or silver epoxy adhesive, allowing full-scale prototyping in a few hours. "Using this technology in the classroom, it would be possible to introduce students to basic electronics principles very cheaply, and they could use a range of electronic components to augment the experience," says Microsoft's Steve Hodges.


Computer Science Team Wins Challenge to Improve Reading Process of Reviews
Virginia Tech News (11/04/13) Lynn Nystrom

Virginia Tech researchers say they have developed a better method of summarizing text through the mining or retrieval of key data, which won a Yelp-sponsored contest. The goal was to help guess a review's rating from its text alone. The researchers developed software that enabled them to cluster specific types of words to summarize the product reviews, and infer relations from the text that would guide users to more insight and pertinent information. The researchers also were able to embed the semantic information of a grammatical dependency graph into a word cloud. "Our specific word cloud is designed to provide more insight about user-generated reviews by creating clusters based on semantic information," says Virginia Tech researcher Ji Wang. He notes that word clouds are very popular text visualization tools. "They provide the frequency data of a variety of text sources and encode the frequency into the word's font size," Wang says. "The clustered layout cloud we developed embeds semantic information to the clustered layout to present the review content." The researchers hope to add more interactions to the technique, which would enable user to modify the natural language processing results, visualization results, and raw data by interaction to obtain customized visual analytics.


Vehicle-To-Vehicle Tech Hits Speed Bumps
InformationWeek (11/06/13) Elena Malykhina

Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technologies have the potential to provide significant safety benefits if widely deployed. However, several challenges could create problems for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the automobile industry, which are jointly developing V2V applications, according to a recent government report. The DOT also is developing a national communication security system that would enable data to be transmitted among vehicles. If broadly deployed, V2V technologies could warn drivers in up to 76 percent of potential multi-vehicle collisions involving a passenger car, DOT says. Examples of V2V safety applications include emergency electronic brake lights warning, blind spot warning, forward collision warning, do not pass warning, intersection movement assist, and left turn assist. Such V2V technologies already are being tested in the field, but several challenges could hinder their deployment. DOT officials say the challenges include finalizing the technical framework of a V2V communication security system, ensuring that the radio-frequency spectrum used by V2V communications will not adversely affect V2V technology performance, and getting drivers to respond appropriately to warnings.


Are Racks-on-Chip the Future of Data Centers?
UCSD News (CA) (11/04/13) Doug Ramsey

Increasing the scale and decreasing the cost and power of data centers requires greatly boosting the density of computing, storage, and networking within those centers, according to University of California, San Diego researchers. The researchers say that one promising avenue to deliver increased density involves racks on a chip, or devices that would contain many individual computer processing cores integrated with sufficient network capability to fully utilize those cores by supporting massive amounts of data transfer into and out of them. However, to shrink data centers down to the size of a chip, a new data center network design is needed. "These integrated racks-on-chip will be networked, internally and externally, with both optical circuit switching [to support large flows of data] and electronic packet switching [to support high-priority data flows]," the researchers note. Each processor in the rack-on-chip design must have a transceiver, which converts the electrical signals in the processing core with the optical photons that travel through fiber-optic cables. "Once this optical networking technology is integrated with electronic processors as a rack-on-chip design, the number of such chips can then be scaled up to meet the needs of future data centers," the researchers report.


8 Apps That Turn Citizens Into Scientists
Scientific American (11/05/13) Elena Malykhina

Mobile applications for devices such as smartphones and tablets are helping ordinary citizens contribute to scientific endeavors by serving as remote data sensors. Smartphones can automate data collection and capture images, audio, and text, marking the data with the date, time, and geographic coordinates, says Michigan Technological University (MTU) professor Alex Mayer. Mayer and MTU professor Robert Pastel are leading the Cyber Citizens project, which is creating mobile and Web-based tools that enable people to collect environmental information. Cyber Citizens currently has four beta apps, including Beach Health Monitor, Lichen AQ (Air Quality), Mushroom Mapper, and Ethnographer. "All our mobile apps are for the Android platform, since it's open, so developers have more freedom," Pastel says. Scientists around the world are creating mobile apps for citizen science projects due to the ease and popularity of collecting useful information with mobile devices. The Citizen Science Alliance, for example, develops citizen scientist initiatives such as the Zooniverse Web portal launched in 2009, which spawned more than a dozen other projects. "[Scientists] are overwhelmed with data, and need people--citizen scientists--to help sort through it," says Zooniverse founder Chris Lintott. "It's undoubtedly true that using mobile apps can be effective with this; the small experiments we've done show that already."


Brain-Machine Interface Allows Anesthesia Control
Cornell Chronicle (10/31/13) Anne Ju

Cornell University researchers have developed a brain-machine interface (BMI) that monitors a patient's brain activity and adjusts the anesthetic infusion rate to precisely control the level of brain activation in a medically induced coma. The researchers have shown how the BMI maintains reliable and accurate real-time control of a medically induced coma in rodents. The study suggests that this system could be applied to human patient care. The BMI consists of estimation and control algorithms that use an electroencephalogram (EEG) to estimate the level of brain activation in a coma. The algorithms then use this estimate as feedback to control the drug infusion rate in real time. "Our work demonstrates the feasibility of automatic, reliable, and accurate control of medical coma that can provide considerable therapeutic benefits," says Cornell professor Maryam Shanechi. Reliable and accurate control of medically induced comas could ensure adequate brain protection for patients, while using the least amount of anesthetic. The researchers note their system could be adapted to control states of general anesthesia and sedation for patients requiring surgical or nonsurgical procedures.


NASA's Curiosity Rover Completes Two-Day Drive Using Navigation Software Developed at Carnegie Mellon
Carnegie Mellon News (PA) (10/31/13) Byron Spice

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Mars rover Curiosity recently completed its first two-day autonomous drive using navigation software developed at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. The software enables the vehicle to safely drive itself across terrain not previously assessed by Earth-based rover drivers. The high-level planning executed by the autonomous navigation software is based on the Field D* program, which constructs a large-scale map of the terrain a robot contends with, helping it not only evaluate paths forward, but supplying a memory so that it can retrace its steps or plot a new path if it encounters an obstacle. "Autonomous drives over multiple days will allow Curiosity to keep moving, even on weekends and holidays when staff members aren't available," says rover driver Mark Maimone. He reports that Curiosity has already added almost 500 meters to its odometer using autonomous navigation. Humans plan the first segment of each drive based on high-resolution images from the vehicle, and once that segment is complete the autonomous navigation assumes control, enabling the robot to analyze the images it has captured during the drive to calculate a safe driving path.


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