Welcome to the April 5, 2017 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Photo of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, winner of 2016  ACM A.M  Turing Award Inventor of World Wide Web Wins Computing's 'Nobel Prize'
Associated Press
Michael Liedtke
April 4, 2017

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, credited as the inventor of the World Wide Web, will receive the 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award, often referred to as the "Nobel Prize of Computing." "It's a crowning achievement," Berners-Lee says. "I think the award is for the Web as a project, and the massive international collaborative spirit of all that have joined me to help." In addition to developing the Web's technical specifications, Berners-Lee "offered a coherent vision of how each of these elements would work together as part of an integrated whole," says ACM president Vicki Hanson. The award, announced Tuesday, comes with a $1-million prize funded by Google. Berners-Lee has been widely hailed for his work in making the Internet more accessible. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and was named as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century by Time magazine.

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Bristol and Bath to Build World's Largest ARM-Based Supercomputer
Nick Flaherty
April 3, 2017

Researchers at the universities of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, and Exeter in the U.K. are working together to build Isambard, the world's largest ARM-based supercomputer. Most conventional supercomputers use Intel x86 processors, but the new system will have 10,000 64-bit ARM cores. The Isambard supercomputer will sit between the large national Archer high-performance computing (HPC) service and the local HPC clusters within individual universities. Isambard will be one of the world's first systems to be based on the Vulcan server-class chip, which promises more memory bandwidth instead of higher peak performance. The researchers say Isambard's architecture will make it very enticing for scientists studying complex problems. In addition, the researchers are providing a service to enable algorithm development and the porting and optimization of scientific codes to ARM64 machines. Isambard also will be equipped with a small number of processors based on other advanced architectures.

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Synthetic Humans Help Computers Understand How Real People Act
New Scientist
Timothy Revell
April 3, 2017

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany are working to help computers understand human behavior by feeding the system videos and images of computer-generated bodies walking, dancing, and doing cartwheels. Although recognizing what is going on in images is natural for humans, enabling computers to do the same requires more effort, according to Max Planck researcher Javier Romero. He says using synthetic images to train computers could give them more meaningful information about the human world. The researchers created the synthetic humans using three-dimensional rendering software, basing the work on existing human figure templates and motion data collected from real people to keep the results realistic. The team then generated animations by randomly selecting body shapes and clothing, and setting the figures in different poses. The researchers generated more than 65,000 clips and 6.5 million frames.

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A phone with the Airbnb app in use Airbnb Fans and Critics Both Correct in Home-Sharing Debate, Says Study
Columbia University
April 4, 2017

A new study by researchers at Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences cites the legitimacy of two seemingly opposing facts about Airbnb, using long-tail frequency distribution. The researchers found most Airbnb hosts in Manhattan earn less than $10,000 annually, yet those who rent out their homes for more than 90 days a year make $20,000 or more, accounting for 80 percent of the revenue. "A majority of Airbnb listings are rarely used, but a small share of listings generates most of the revenue," notes Columbia professor Augustin Chaintreau. The researchers calculate that constraining Manhattan rentals to 90 days might lower revenue from $50,000 to $25,000 for the top 10 percent of earners, but keep income largely the same for most hosts making $10,000 a year or less. The study will be presented today at the ACM 2017 World Wide Web (WWW2017) conference in Perth, Australia.

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Photonics Breakthrough Paving the Way for Improved Wireless Communication Systems
University of Sydney
Vivienne Reiner
March 31, 2017

Researchers at the University of Sydney's Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology say they have made a breakthrough in achieving radio-frequency (RF) signal control at sub-nanosecond time scales on a chip-scale optical device. They say the research could unlock the bandwidth bottleneck faced by wireless networks worldwide. "By creating very fast tunable delay lines on chip, one eventually can provide broader bandwidth instantaneously to more users," says Sydney researcher Yang Liu. "The ability of rapidly controlling RF signal is a crucial performance for applications in both our daily life and defense." The researchers developed a technique based on optical control with response times faster than one nanosecond. Liu notes the technology could be used to build more efficient radars to detect enemy attacks. The researchers achieved the breakthrough on an integrated photonic chip, which they say makes possible ultrafast and reconfigurable on-chip RF systems.

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Warped Reality: Virtual Trip to Hyperbolic Space
Georgia Tech Research Horizons
Ben Brumfield
March 30, 2017

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Oklahoma State University (OSU) have created a virtual reality (VR) program for exploring hyperbolic geometries. "Visualizations can help to prove theorems that are purely abstract, and physicists want to get an intuition for what's going on," says Georgia Tech's Sabetta Matsumoto. "The virtual reality takes something that would normally live in a set of equations, and makes something you can interact with." Sabetta's VR program, developed in collaboration with OSU's Henry Segerman, detects head movements in three-dimensional (3D) Euclidean space and warps them into virtual motions in 3D hyperbolic space, providing the VR headset wearer with a Euclidean output. The virtual environment employs animated 3D tessellation, or repeated tiling, to communicate hyperbolic space. Matsumoto wants the final version of the project to be a walk-through museum installation, "like a house where everything is hyperbolic."

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Innovative Software Converts Wi-Fi Data Into Energy Savings
UBC News
Lou Corpuz-Bosshart
March 30, 2017

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada have developed Bridge, software that uses Wi-Fi to determine the number of building occupants and adjusts ventilation accordingly, which can save energy without sacrificing air quality. Bridge anonymously counts the number of wireless devices in each room and passes the counts to a centralized building control system, which then adjusts airflow through the relevant building, in near real time. During testing, the researchers found Bridge reduced energy consumption by 5 percent over a period of 12 months while maintaining air quality and occupant comfort. They say the system could help the university reduce greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of tons and save as much as $100,000 in energy costs each year for core campus buildings. The project highlights the potential benefits of using Wi-Fi systems to create smart buildings, says UBC's Stefan Storey.

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Visualizing Scientific Big Data in Informative and Interactive Ways
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Ariana Tantillo
March 31, 2017

Wei Xu at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory is leading the development of visualization tools for analyzing large and varied datasets. "We are dealing with an unsolved problem: how can we most efficiently and effectively understand the data?" Xu says. In collaboration with Stony Brook University, Xu helped create an automated technique for mapping data with multiple variables to color, which she says would be useful for any multi-variable image dataset. Xu's team also is developing an interactive multilevel display for large image-set exploration, enabling researchers to see all levels in a single view so identifying relationships between the raw data and analyzing data across the entire sample is possible. A third tool developed with Xu's help can enable users to reconstruct all possible solutions to a given problem and pinpoint the subset of preferred solutions via interactive filtering.

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Researchers Control Soft Robots Using Magnetic Fields
Matt Shipman
March 29, 2017

Researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have found they can control soft robots using magnetic fields to remotely manipulate microparticle chains embedded in the devices. "By putting these self-assembling chains into soft robots, we are able to have them perform more complex functions while still retaining relatively simple designs," says NCSU professor Joe Tracy. The researchers introduced iron microparticles into a liquid polymer mixture and then applied a magnetic field to induce the microparticles to form parallel chains. The mixture was dried, leaving behind an elastic polymer thin film embedded with the aligned chains of magnetic particles. The researchers used this technique to create three kinds of soft robots, including a cantilever that can lift up to 50 times its own weight, an accordion-like structure that expands and contracts, and a tube that functions as a peristaltic pump.

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Image of neural network Understanding the Limits of Deep Learning
Mariya Yao
April 2, 2017

The capabilities of deep-learning neural networks are impressive, but these are tempered by significant constraints. U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency director John Launchbury sees deep learning occupying part of the second of three waves of artificial intelligence thanks to a "manifold hypothesis," which dictates that different types of high-dimensional natural data tend to cluster and be configured differently when visualized in lower dimensions. However, Google's Francois Chollet says, "current supervised-perception and reinforcement-learning algorithms require lots of data, are terrible at planning, and are only doing straightforward pattern recognition." Chollet also says scaling up current deep-learning methods will not achieve generalized intelligence. Deep-learning neural networks also can reflect biases and inaccuracies inherent in the data fed to them. Chollet suggests deep learning's limits could be overcome by initially using "super-human pattern recognition, like deep learning, to augment explicit search and formal systems."

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NASA Kennedy Partners to Help Develop Self-Driving Cars
Bob Granath
March 28, 2017

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has entered into an alliance to refine autonomous vehicles. NASA's capabilities for controlled testing of automated vehicles and corresponding technologies were a factor in the U.S. Department of Transportation's selection of a proposal from the Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partnership for trials of self-driving cars. "This project holds the potential to benefit NASA by promoting advanced technologies that may have agency mission-related applications," says NASA's Tom Engler. Experiments at Kennedy's Swamp Works lab enable researchers and manufacturers to understand how hardware and software will react under extreme conditions in a safe, controlled environment. "We believe that this partnership may enhance the advancement of autonomous vehicles through proven space technology, safety, and test procedures established by our center that likely mimic safety and equipment that has been used to launch man into space and return," says NASA's Bruce Chesson.

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Photo of three Harvard researchers Where Cooperation Thrives
Harvard Gazette
Peter Reuell
March 29, 2017

A new study by researchers at Harvard University and Emmanuel College examines how cooperation emerges in social networks, using an algorithm that can calculate the probability a network will nurture cooperation. "We can take any graph or social network, and if it has strong pairwise ties, that is what is most conducive for cooperation," says Harvard professor Martin Nowak. "This is a mathematical argument for stable families or for stable friendships." The algorithm enabled the researchers to both specify whether a given social network would support cooperation and also to anticipate whether changes to the network might make it easier for cooperation to develop. "Natural selection can also favor cooperation, and the winners in that situation are those who cooperate with each other," Nowak says. "This is a major extension of the story of evolution."

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Bill Gropp--Pursuing the Next Big Thing at NCSA
HPC Wire
John Russell
March 28, 2017

In an interview, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) acting director Bill Gropp says the purpose of the facility "is nothing less than to lead the transformation of all areas of scholarship in making use of advanced computing and data." Gropp says budget austerity and little appetite for covering costs are challenges for computing research and discovery. He cites the 13-petaflop Blue Waters supercomputer, the Extreme Science and Engineering Discover Environment, and the large synoptic survey telescope data facility as key NCSA projects. "At no time in our history have we been operating so many [high-performance computing]-scale systems," Gropp says. The construction of the National Petascale Computing Facility is a critical initiative, and Gropp is concerned about national support for basic research. He also says as NCSA director, he is focused on working with the National Data Service consortium to ensure its sustainable delivery of data resources "over the time we expect the data to be valuable."

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MIT Advances in CAD for Manufacturing

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