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Welcome to the August 6, 2014 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Carnegie Mellon Photo Editing Tool Enables Object Images to Be Manipulated in 3D
Carnegie Mellon University (08/05/14) Byron Spice

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have added an extra dimension to photo editing by allowing editors to turn or flip objects any way they want, even exposing surfaces not visible in the original photo. This three-dimensional (3D) editing of objects in a single, two-dimensional photo is possible because there are thousands of 3D numerical models of many everyday objects available online. The researchers found they could create realistic edits by fitting these models into the geometry of the photo and applying colors, textures, and lighting consistent with the original image. "In the real world, we're used to handling objects--lifting them, turning them around or knocking them over," says CMU's Natasha Kholgade. "We've created an environment that gives you that same freedom when editing a photo." The system also offers similar 3D manipulation of objects in paintings and historical photos. Objects that can be manipulated in photos can also be animated, the researchers say. "Instead of simply editing 'what we see' in the photograph, our goal is to manipulate 'what we know' about the scene behind the photograph," Kholgade notes. The new system works because the researchers developed a semi-automatic method that aligns the model to the geometry of the object in the photo while preserving the object's symmetries.


Extracting Audio From Visual Information
MIT News (08/04/14) Larry Hardesty

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal by analyzing tiny vibrations of objects depicted in video. During testing, the researchers recovered intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato chip bag photographed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass. "The motion of this vibration creates a very subtle visual signal that's usually invisible to the naked eye," says MIT's Abe Davis. Reconstructing audio from video requires that the frequency of the video samples be higher than the frequency of the audio signal. The MIT researchers also measured the mechanical properties of the objects being filmed and found that the vibrations were about a tenth of a micrometer. The researchers borrowed a technique from earlier algorithms that amplifies small variations in video, making visible previously undetectable motions, such as the breathing of an infant in the neonatal ward of a hospital, or the pulse in a subject's wrist. They employed this algorithm to create a new program that infers the motions of an object as a whole when it is struck by sound waves. The new algorithm aligns all the measurements so they will not cancel each other out, assigning greater weight to measurements made at very distinct edges.


Computer Programming Is a Trade; Let's Act Like It
The Wall Street Journal (08/03/14) Christopher Mims

One million programming jobs in the United States could go unfilled by 2020 due to the enormous mismatch between the supply and demand for computer programmers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fortunately, a computer science degree is not necessary to get a job in programming. University courses in computer science favor theory rather than making websites, services, and apps that companies care about, writes Christopher Mims. Code-school founders say committed programming students are finding jobs whether or not they have a college degree. Computer programming is now a trade that someone can develop a basic proficiency in within weeks or months, secure a first job, and get onto the same path to upward mobility offered to in-demand, highly-paid peers, Mims says. He contends we have entered an age in which demanding that every programmer has a degree is like asking every bricklayer to have a background in architectural engineering. Anecdotal evidence also indicates that coding schools are more inclusive of women and people of color.
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10 Technologies That Will Transform PCs in 2015 and Beyond
InfoWorld (08/02/14) Jared Newman

There is much to get excited about computers when you consider all the things that go into PCs to make them faster, lighter, more powerful, and more convenient to use. Intel's next chipset, codenamed Broadwell, may strike a better balance for 2-in-1 PCs, as it will allow for 12.5-inch tablets that weigh less than 1.5 pounds and are thinner than an iPad Air. Over the next six years, AMD expects its processors to become 25 times more power-efficient, outpacing Moore's law by shifting some of the workload to the graphics processor. Meanwhile, a push by Intel for "wire-free" PCs by 2016 could enable wireless charging and low-latency screen sharing to gain some traction. The USB Implementers Forum will follow up Apple's Lightning cable with a standard cable that will be 3.1 times faster and offer fewer headaches. The International Electrotechnical Commission will publish a technical specification for universal laptop chargers this year. Other advances to look for include tear-free gaming with DisplayPort Adaptive Sync, DDR4 memory, hybrid memory cubes for faster speeds at lower power, SATA Express for faster SSD performance, and wireless 802.11ax for less-congested networks.


DOE to Fund Exascale Resilience Research
HPC Wire (07/30/14) Tiffany Trader

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is looking to spend approximately $4 million a year to fund research into improving the quality of large-scale computing systems as the computing world edges closer to the first exascale supercomputer. "Applications running on extreme scale computing systems will generate results with orders of magnitude higher resolution and fidelity, achieving a time-to-solution significantly shorter than possible with today's high-performance computing platforms," notes DOE's Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) "However...these new systems will experience hard and soft errors with increasing frequency, necessitating research to develop new approaches to resilience that enable applications to run efficiently to completion in a timely manner and achieve correct results." A request for proposals from the ASCR notes as much as 20 percent of large-scale computing systems' computing capacity is lost due to failures and recoveries, dramatically reducing their usefulness. The DOE is looking to fund four to six research awards in three specific areas--fault detection and categorization in existing computer systems so that those lessons can be applied to larger-scale systems; fault mitigation methods, and machine learning strategies that can be used to improve anomaly detection and fault avoidance.


Simulation Models Optimize Water Power
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (07/14)

Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies, and Image Exploitation (IOSB) researchers are developing information technology to boost the efficiency of water power generation systems, with the Advanced System Technology department producing simulation and optimization models that consolidate external variables and generate optimized plans for operational facilities. Such data helps operators refine each power station's generating power to fulfill current energy economics and to sell the power for the highest possible yield. The HyPROM project is being applied to an extensive dam system in the Columbia River basin in the United States. "Hydroelectric plants can be operated optimally only when you take all the variables into account," notes the IOSB's Divas Karimanzira. "As an additional challenge, HyPROM takes on the complexity of the extensively networked Columbia River basin dam system--it covers two different rivers with an average water flow of 7,500 cubic meters per second, 10 hydro plants, 10 reservoirs and an altitude difference of 350 meters." Researchers are currently striving to expand the simulation and optimization model to better weigh energy-economic factors. The project partners intend to integrate the HyPROM technology into a system that will help employees make the right decisions in running the facility.


Expanding the Breadth and Impact of Cybersecurity and Privacy Research
National Science Foundation (07/31/14)

The U.S. National Science Foundation's Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program has announced two new center-scale Frontier awards that will support large, multi-institution projects addressing grand challenges in cyber security and computer science. Frontier awards already support some 225 projects in 39 states with more than $74 million in funding. These projects include education and training initiatives, and both basic and practical computer science research. The first of the new awards will go towards the establishment of the Center for Encrypted Functionalities (CEF), a collaboration between the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford University, Columbia University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Johns Hopkins University. CEF is led by UCLA's Amid Sahai and based on research by his team that discovered the first mathematically sound approach to encrypting functionalities, with the specific goal of achieving program obfuscation. The second award will establish the Modular Approach to Cloud Security project, which seeks to build a modular, multi-layered cloud security system. The project is a collaboration of Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Connecticut, and Northeastern University researchers, and will use the Massachusetts Open Cloud as a testbed for its research. Both new projects also will help create new education and training programs focused on cybersecurity and computer science.


Smartphones as a Health Tool for Older Adults
Universitat Politènica de Catalunya (07/31/14)

Researchers from Spain's Catalunya Polytechnic University (UPC) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona are working on a smartphone application to help older adults understand their health so they can cultivate healthier habits. The two-year project aims to quantify physiological factors and combine that data with results for other variables so the final app supplies physiological, cognitive, and emotional information about users who are older than 60. The research team's first goal is "to validate algorithms that can measure physiological and psychological variables obtained non-intrusively via mobile phones and through cognitive tests or questionnaires on eating habits," says lead UPC researcher Miguel Angel Garcia. The researchers are currently developing, characterizing, and validating specialized software for measuring heart rate variability (HRV) and physical activity through mobile devices, using sensors already outfitted in standard smartphones. The information they produce will be integrated with data from global positioning system sensors or nearby networks to verify the user is moving rather than just handling the device, helping to promote greater mobility and giving users a greater sense of independence and confidence in their physical health. The complete app will be capable of real-time HRV measurement to determine whether a user's health is improving or declining.


Beyond GPS: Five Next-Generation Technologies
KurzweilAI.net (07/30/14)

U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director Arati Prabhakar says his agency is currently running five programs that seek to improve civilian and military GPS navigation technology through development of new methods for obtaining positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) data. The first is the Adaptable Navigation System project, which seeks to bring together data points from non-navigational sources such as electromagnetic signals from satellites and radio broadcasts with data from new sensors using techniques such as cold-atom interferometry. The Microtechnology for Positioning, Navigation, and Timing project leverages DARPA's micro-electromechanical systems technology to make extremely small sensors, such as chip-scale gyroscopes, clocks, and integrated timing and inertial measurement devices. The Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout project aims to miniaturize and make portable the technology behind the world's most accurate atomic clocks, which could have applications in new detection and ranging technologies. The Program in Ultrafast Laser Science and Engineering seeks to improve the accuracy and decrease the size of atomic clocks through the use of pulsed-laser technology. Finally, the Spatial, Temporal, and Orientation Information in Contested Environments project looks to develop PNT systems that will operate independently of global positioning systems, gathering long-range robust reference signals, using ultrastable tactical clocks, and developing systems to share PNT data between multiple users.


Carterette Receives Prestigious National Award for Research on Search Engines
University of Delaware (07/29/14)

University of Delaware professor Ben Carterette has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his work researching ways to make search engines that are better able to understand and correctly respond to human queries. "We use search engines for a wide range of tasks today, from planning a vacation to finding a good day care center," says Carterette. "Some of those tasks, like getting directions and or looking for a weather forecast, are relatively simple, while others, such as finding accurate medical information, are far more complex." The NSF grant will provide $550,000 over five years to support Carterette's research, which seeks to simulate the way in which users query search engines, with the goal of decreasing the number of steps a user must take to find whatever it is they are seeking. Carterette says this research will allow for the design of better search engines and improvements in human language technologies. The project also will have an educational component, seeking to improve understanding of experimental design and statistical analysis at all levels of computer science education.


1996 Research Article Deemed a Classic Paper
University of California, Riverside (07/29/14) Iqbal Pittalwala

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) has selected a 1996 research paper by University of California, Riverside's Michael J. Pazzani and two colleagues for its 2014 Classic Paper Award. "Pazzani and his colleagues are being recognized for significant contributions to the field of personalizing Internet content and learning user profiles," says AAAI president Manuela Velosa. The paper demonstrated how a user profile can be learned by any learning algorithm from a user's feedback on any Web page and how this profile can be used to anticipate the user's interest in other Web pages. The researchers also showed how combining the system with a search engine can produce personalized search results and how a query can be constructed to search for content that interests the user. "My colleagues and I developed one of the first general purpose systems for learning about a user's interests from the user's Web browsing behavior," Pazzani says. He notes in 1996 the Web experience was mainly a one-size-fits-all experience, while today content personalization could be the most popular artificial intelligence application the average person may encounter. The 1996 paper is noteworthy for its experimental approach to assessing several learning algorithms, and is often cited by researchers investigating advanced strategies for collecting feedback, representing documents, and learning profiles.


Wirelessly Charged Microchip Opens Doors Into 'Electroceutical' Devices
Wireless Design & Development (07/29/14) Melissa Barnes

A Stanford University project to examine the behavior of electromagnetic fields in biological tissues uncovered a technique for wirelessly charging tiny devices implanted in the human body to treat illness and alleviate pain, according to Stanford student John Ho. An almost two-year experimental period has yielded a workable electromagnetic structure through a combination of near-field and far-field waves, resulting in what Stanford professor Ada Poon terms mid-field wireless transfer. A power source Poon designed generates a specific wave that can shift its characteristics when moving from air to skin, and she successfully tested the technique by transmitting power directly to implanted medical devices. Ho says the device has no battery, and is powered instead by a flat metal plate positioned outside the body. Poon's new device is significant for its potential "electroceutical" capabilities, which could radically change drug administration within the body, as well as pain relief. "We envision that the powering method could pave the way for new generations of sensors and stimulators that can electrically treat some disorders in ways more effective than drugs," Poon says. Poon and Ho believe removal of the need for bulky batteries means implantable devices can be reduced even further in size.


Can Computing Keep Up With the Neuroscience Data Deluge?
IEEE Spectrum (07/29/14) Eliza Strickland

Scientists at the Janelia Farm Research Campus have developed a new set of analytical tools that they believe will be better able to handle the massive volumes of data that emerging neuroscience research is likely to generate. Imaging the brain and neural activity of a zebrafish larva alone generates an entire terabyte of data, and with initiatives in both the United States and Europe pushing for more extensive imaging of the vastly larger and more complex human brain, having tools capable of analyzing staggering amounts of data will be very important. The Janelia researchers have based their new tools, called Thunder, on the Apache Spark distributed computing platform. Distributed computing is one of the best ways to handle the analysis of massive pools of data, and the Janelia researchers say Apache Spark offers numerous advantages over more popular distributed computing models such as Hadoop and MapReduce. In particular, Apache Spark is able to cache data sets and intermediate results in computer memory, whereas data has to be loaded from the disk in MapReduce. This enables Apache Spark to offer much faster iterative computations. The Janelia researchers are making Thunder available to the neuroscience community.


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