Welcome to the August 9, 2017 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Quantum computer IC. prototype / concept chip Crypto Researchers Brace for Quantum Computing's Threat to Security
The Wall Street Journal
Sara Castellanos
August 7, 2017

Cryptography experts at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and elsewhere are developing new encryption systems to deter cyberattacks by quantum computers, which could easily crack problems that foil classical supercomputers. Microsoft Research's Brian LaMacchia says the RSA encryption algorithm used to secure electronic communications would be particularly vulnerable to decryption. RSA's reliance on integer factorization, which a scalable quantum system could solve vastly faster than classical computers, is at the core of its vulnerability. NIST is taking submissions for research into quantum-resistant cryptography as part of a multi-year plan to study and standardize such methods. LaMacchia says the objective is to find a complex mathematical problem for which there is no known efficient algorithm that a quantum or classical computer could use to solve it, and then convert that into a cryptographic system.

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Drone camera flying over Paris Spectacular Images Thanks to an Efficient Algorithm
ETH Zurich
Samuel Schlaefli
August 7, 2017

Tobias Nageli at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, working with researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, have developed an algorithm that enables drones to film dynamic scenes independently to directors and cinematographers' specifications. Visual parameters would be defined prior to the drone's flight, with the precise trajectory and the timing of directional changes recalculated 50 times each second, using global-positioning system sensor data. The algorithm runs on a laptop connected via radio to the drone. In collaboration with a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nageli demonstrated the drone can execute predefined shots independently, accounting for the image area and the position and angle of a performer within it. The drone also can automatically identify and evade obstacles. Nageli notes by simultaneously syncing up 50 drones "using our algorithm, they can all be programmed to shoot precisely the images that the director wants."

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Hacking Cybersecurity to Anticipate Attacks
Allie Nicodemo
August 8, 2017

The ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (WiSec 2017), hosted at the Northeastern University College of Computer and Information Sciences in July, highlighted developing a hacking model for anticipating cyberattacks. Conference organizer and Northeastern professor Guevara Noubir says this year's event featured the reproducibility label, emphasizing the need for replicable cybersecurity studies. One successful paper in this area focused on smartphone jamming, with the authors demonstrating that a combination of tools enabled them to remotely gain access to a cellphone's computer chip and change the Wi-Fi chipset code to transmit radio jamming signals. "You want to understand what is possible so you can defend against these kinds of things," Noubir says. Northeastern's John Manferdelli warned password-based online self-authentication is one of the biggest pitfalls of cybersecurity. He also cited a virtual security breach's lack of immediate obviousness as another key challenge.

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AI, Machine Learning Tapped for Imagine Cup
The Straits Times
Yuen Sin
August 7, 2017

Microsoft's Imagine Cup brings together software developers, entrepreneurs, and technologists to help them develop new technology applications, create a business plan, and understand what is needed to bring an idea to market. Team HeartSound from Nanyang Polytechnic University in Singapore made it to the competition's quarterfinals with a device that detects abnormal sounds in the heart. Meanwhile, a team from the Bandung Institute of Technology in Indonesia built Hoax Analyzer, an application that can screen text and images to detect fake news by cross-checking them with information sources online. A team from the Philippines University-Laguna developed Minerva, a system that uses cognitive services to help the visually impaired identify their surroundings. The winning team came from the Czech Republic's Czech Technical University, for a glucose meter that can be customized with different colored or printed cases to appeal to kids. The system also transfers data collected on glucose levels to the cloud via near-field communication technology.

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Women Who Are Elite Mathematicians Are Less Likely Than Men to Believe They're Elite Mathematicians
The Washington Post
Devin G. Pope
August 8, 2017

Barriers to entry and gender differences in test scores often are credited as two of the main reasons why women are underrepresented in mathematical fields, but a new analysis highlights confidence as a leading factor. The analysis found young women, including those who are exceptionally talented in math, tend to underestimate their ability, and that lack of confidence likely pushes some of the field's best minds to other sectors. Part of the study focused on a questionnaire that high school students fill out when they take the SAT college admission test. An older version of the questionnaire asked students if they thought they were in the highest 10 percent in math ability. The researchers found no matter how well students scored on the SAT, men are more confident in their math ability than women. These differences are likely an important factor in creating gender imbalance in college majors and occupations.

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Set of social people on World map with speech bubbles in different languages. How Google's Go Language Could Be Improved
Paul Krill
August 8, 2017

Contributors to Google's open source Go language recommend making improvements to development tools by adopting language server integrated development environments (IDEs) and other instruments to index and display code and package data. The Go discussion group also suggests setting up a "counter" application programming interface to report statistics, rewriting some of Go's assembly code, and rewriting the crypto code to span the gap between assembly and Go. In addition, the contributors call for expanding the math/bits package planned for the Go 1.9 release to accommodate the rewrite. Other recommendations include refactoring garbage collection and related tools in the compiler and runtime to cut overhead in core tools and IDEs, and possibly embedding the compiler within the IDEs for rapid syntax-checking. The contributors also note compiling code in memory would benefit environments that have no file system, while developers could run tests on a continuous basis.

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Object being 3D printed Designing the Microstructure of Printed Objects
MIT News
Larry Hardesty
August 3, 2017

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a new design system for cataloging the physical characteristics of a huge number of tiny cube clusters that can function as building blocks for larger printable objects, using microscale measurements and enabling computationally efficient assessment of macroscopic designs. The process starts by first defining a three-dimensional space of physical properties, in which any given microstructure will assume a specific location. The MIT algorithm explores the entire space of properties by randomly generating new clusters and altering clusters whose properties are known, producing a point cloud that defines the space of printable clusters. The researchers then calculate the level set function to define the cloud's shape, after which the object to be printed is optimized using custom-developed software. The CSAIL research was presented at the ACM SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles.

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IBM Breaks Tape Storage World Record With 330 TB of Uncompressed Data on Palm-Sized Cartridge
Conner Forrest
August 3, 2017

Researchers at IBM have introduced a new tape storage solution that holds 330 TB of uncompressed data in a palm-sized cartridge, using sputtered magnetic tape in the prototype. The team achieved 201 GB per square inch of areal density, surpassing that of some of the top solutions currently on the market by a factor of 20, and IBM's first magnetic tape solution by 165 million. IBM employed special signal-processing algorithms for the data channel to facilitate operation at a very specific linear density, as well as advanced servo control technologies to provide extremely accurate head positions and a new low-friction tape head. "While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape that uses Barium ferrite, the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per TB very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud," says IBM fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou.

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Grid of emojis An Algorithm Trained on Emoji Knows When You're Being Sarcastic on Twitter
Technology Review
Will Knight
August 3, 2017

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a deep-learning textual sentiment algorithm that was trained on emoji, and which can analyze tweets to pick up sarcasm and general emotional subtext. "The neural network learned the connection between a certain kind of language and an emoji," says MIT professor Iyad Rahwan. The DeepMoji algorithm was trained on 1.2 million tweets containing some combination of 64 popular emoji. The team trained the system to anticipate which emoji would be used with a particular message, based on whether the emoji reflected a particular emotion or sentiment. The researchers then taught DeepMoji to recognize sarcasm using an existing set of labeled examples. Testing showed DeepMoji outperformed both other top sentiment-detecting algorithms and humans in the identification of sarcasm and other emotions on Twitter. Experts say the research demonstrates that computers are gradually becoming more adept at sensing human emotion.

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The Future of Search Engines
Texas Advanced Computing Center
Aaron Dubrow
August 3, 2017

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) aim to improve information retrieval (IR) systems and enhance search engines by integrating artificial intelligence with annotation insights and information encoded in domain-specific resources. One IR method combines input from multiple annotators to ascertain the best overall annotation for a given text. UT Austin professor Matthew Lease's team was able to train a neural network to accurately predict named entities and extract pertinent information in unannotated texts. The second technique proposes exploiting existing linguistic resources via weight sharing to augment natural language processing models for automatic text classification. "If you could somehow reason about some words being related to other words a priori, then instead of having to have a parameter for each one of those words separately, you could tie together the parameters across multiple words and in that way need less data to learn the model," Lease says.

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Aussies Win Amazon Robotics Challenge
IEEE Spectrum
Evan Ackerman
August 2, 2017

Amazon's 2017 Robotics Challenge was held at RoboCup in Nagoya, Japan, last month, with 16 teams from around the world participating. The teams were asked to build a robot that could identify items, remove target items from storage and place them into boxes, take target items from totes and place them into storage, and then do both at once. Points were awarded for successful picks, successful stows, neat packing, and overall quickness, while points were deducted for "major damage" to items. Team ACRV, from the Australian Center for Robotic Vision at the Queensland University of Technology, won the final combined task, taking home the $80,000 grand prize. Meanwhile, Team NimbRo from the University of Bonn Institute for Computer Science in Germany took second place, and third place went to a team from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University for achieving a first in the picking task and a second in the stowing task.

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A Radical Innovation That Could Reduce Data Density by 50 Percent
Network World
Patrick Nelson
July 25, 2017

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University propose a radical concept for compacting data storage using polymer films with colored dyes to optically house data. They also recommend discarding classical binary coding in favor of four-symbol quaternary code. "The four symbols are the absence of color and three colors--fluorescent green, ultramarine, and cyan," the researchers say. The team says it has produced these hues "when dyes contained in a common polymer are exposed to heat, ultraviolet (UV) light, or both." Once the dye molecules are deposited on a transparent film sheet, the code is incorporated by overlaying diminutive templates, and then heat and UV light are applied. The researchers believe they could slash data density by 50 percent overall using this method. Although the code is durable, the team says it requires further miniaturization, which it plans to accomplish via lasers.

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How Can Humans Keep Control of AI?
The Nation (Thailand Portal)
August 8, 2017

In an interview, Osaka University president Shojiro Nishio stresses the need to keep artificial intelligence (AI) under human control. Nishio notes a key issue is a lack of human understanding of how an AI arrives at certain answers, and he says a major area for researchers is improving how to check all processes the AI went through. Nishio also says this "black box" problem demands an international response, given that AI will eventually be connected to the Internet and have a global impact. Nishio cites a draft plan from Japan's Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry directing developers to ensure they can explain the results of their AI's judgments, and that they can control their AI. "I am more concerned about what happens if AI produces incorrect answers or develops in a way that humans cannot control," Nishio notes. "That sort of thing happens more and more often as AI starts getting used to real-life situations."

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