Welcome to the October 11, 2017 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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China's AI Awakening
Technology Review
Will Knight
October 10, 2017


China's state-sponsored artificial intelligence (AI) revolution can be a model for Western nations, and it involves wide-ranging investment in expertise, startups, research facilities, and advanced data centers. China is scouring the world, including the U.S., for AI talent to fill these centers, and at stake for the country is nothing less than global economic dominance. Sinovation Ventures founder Kai-Fu Lee says the convergent trends behind AI include more powerful computers, sophisticated algorithms, and massive data volumes. He notes North American AI experts are unparalleled, but "AI is an area where you need to evolve the algorithm and the data together; a large amount of data makes a large amount of difference." Lee says AI's transformative opportunities in China include updating technologically backward businesses. Stanford University professor Andrew Ng sees China's AI investment as an economic imperative, noting, "When you see the tech trends shift, you had better move quickly, or someone else will beat you."

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Careers for Women in Technology Companies Are a Global Challenge
The New York Times
Alina Tugend
October 10, 2017


Gender bias in technology is a problem for women on both sides of the Atlantic, although the challenges and opportunities they face can differ due to political and cultural divergences. For example, the wide availability of paid maternity leave and state-subsidized child care in Europe makes juggling motherhood and a career less of a factor, compared to the U.S. Meanwhile, discrimination in Europe is a reflection of the technology industry's predominantly elderly male makeup, while class systems encourage a basic condescension toward women. Although U.K. schools have a national science, technology, engineering, and technology (STEM) education curriculum, one female entrepreneur notes STEM teaching in the U.S. "might be more patchy, but it can also be more creative." Another notable difference in technology culture is a greater number of female role models in the U.S., says Vanessa Evers, a professor of computer science at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

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Jogger checking pulse on smartwatch Future Smartwatches Could Sense Hand Movement Using Ultrasound Imaging
University of Bristol News
October 11, 2017


Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. say they have found future wearable devices, such as smartwatches, could use ultrasound imaging of the forearm to recognize hand gestures. The team, led by Bristol professor Mike Fraser and others from the Bristol Interaction Group, used image-processing algorithms and machine learning to classify muscle movement as gestures. In addition, the researchers carried out a user study to find the best sensor placement for this technique. The study revealed a very high recognition accuracy, and the method worked well when the sensor was placed at the wrist, which is ideal for future smartwatches. "Our research is a first step towards what could be the most accurate method for detecting hand gestures in smartwatches," says Bristol researcher Jess McIntosh. The team presented its study in May at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2017) in Denver, CO.

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People in voting booths The Race to Secure Voting Tech Gets an Urgent Jumpstart
Wired
Lily Hay Newman
October 10, 2017


There is an urgent need to secure U.S. voting systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, according to a report by the Atlantic Council think tank and hacking conference DefCon. The report is based on DefCon's three-day Voting Village hacking event in July, during which hundreds of hackers were allowed to physically interact with, and try to compromise, U.S. voting machines for the first time ever. "The technical community...has attempted to raise alarms about these threats for some years," says Atlantic Council CEO Frederick Kempe. "Recent revelations have made clear how vulnerable the very technologies we use to manage our records, cast our votes, and tally our results really are." The report says a significant change is needed in the U.S. to address security issues at every point in the election workflow, from developing more secure voting machines to sourcing trustworthy hardware.

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Ada Lovelace Day Honors 'the First Computer Programmer'
Scientific American
Yasemin Saplakoglu
October 10, 2017


Pioneering 19th-century English mathematician Ada Lovelace is honored on the second Tuesday of every October for her contributions to computer programming, which include a seminal paper detailing the function of an "Analytical Engine." Former Open Rights Group executive director Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009 accorded this recognition to Lovelace to celebrate women's accomplishments in math, science, and engineering. In 1843, Lovelace translated a French paper about mathematician Charles Babbage's Difference Engine--a precursor to the Analytical Engine--and also provided annotations illustrating a description of the machine's workings. Her notes demonstrated how such a calculator might be able to compute Bernoulli numbers in a process that some describe as the world's first computer program. Randolph-Macon College professor Adrian Rice says a more accurate description of Lovelace would be the world's first debugger, since she unearthed a major error in Babbage's calculations. Lovelace is credited with inspiring improvements to Babbage's machine for both calculating tables and printing results.

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Digital Services Collect Unnecessary Personal Information
Karlstad University (Sweden)
Maria Wahl
October 6, 2017


Researchers at Karlstad University in Sweden say they have discovered methods service providers employ to collect personal information about users that may encroach on privacy. Although there are existing methods that can be built into these services to protect users' privacy, the researchers note many service providers opt to use other methods to collect as much information as possible. "We have, for instance, seen that some service providers ask for information that they do not need for the main purpose of the service they offer," says Karlstad's Lothar Fritsch. He also notes applications can be used to access information about users. Previous studies have demonstrated that it is difficult for users to understand the flow of information and what they actually agree to release. "We want to find ways to make users aware of what it means when apps receive access to certain types of data on our smartphones," says Karlstad's Nurul Momen.

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Organization to Teach Coding to Girls in Detroit Area
Associated Press
Corey Williams
October 10, 2017


The Oakland, CA-based Black Girls CODE organization, which introduces young African-American, Latino, and Native American females to computer sciences, is opening a chapter in Detroit. The organization has chapters in 13 U.S. cities and in Johannesburg, South Africa. Black Girls CODE has worked with 8,000 girls and hopes to train 1 million for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by 2040. In Detroit, Black Girls CODE is hosting workshops, classes, and discussions with young girls who want to learn about cyber technology. Young people today are "digital natives," according to Black Girls CODE founder Kimberly Bryant. "They are not afraid of technology," Bryant says. "They are comfortable with it. They use it as a tool." Although women are underrepresented in STEM careers, a 2014 assessment of technology and engineering literacy by the Nation's Report Card showed eighth-grade girls were better than boys at thinking through problems and using technology to solve them.

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Model of MIT’s blind spot camera that can see around corners An Algorithm for Your Blind Spot
MIT News
Adam Conner-Simons
October 9, 2017


Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed CornerCameras, an imaging system that uses information about light reflections to detect objects or people hidden in a scene and measure their speed and trajectory in real time. Objects hidden behind corners reflect a small amount of light on the ground in the line of sight of people on the other side of the corner, creating a fuzzy shadow called the penumbra. The researchers say CornerCameras uses a video of the penumbra to create a series of one-dimensional images that reveal information about the concealed objects. "Even though those objects aren't actually visible to the camera, we can look at how their movements affect the penumbra to determine where they are and where they're going," says MIT's Katherine Bouman. The researchers also have shown CornerCameras works in many challenging environments, including under adverse weather conditions.

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Boy with tablet taped to his back and ‘kick me’ on tablet screen This AI Can Tell True Hate Speech From Harmless Banter
New Scientist
Douglas Heaven
October 5, 2017


Researchers at McGill University in Canada have taught machine-learning software to identify hate speech by acquiring knowledge on how members of hateful communities speak. The system was trained on a data dump containing most of the Reddit posts made over a decade, focusing on primary targets that included African Americans, overweight people, and women. For each target, the researchers selected the most active support and abuse groups on Reddit to train their software, while also feeding it comments from the Voat forum site and individual websites committed to hate speech. The team found its strategy yielded fewer false positives than keyword-based detectors. "Comparing hateful and non-hateful communities to find the language that distinguishes them is a clever solution," notes Cornell University's Thomas Davidson. However, Joanna Bryson at the University of Bath in the U.K. says the method will not catch every instance of offensive speech, although she does think it could help human moderators.

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A smiling mouth New Technology Uses Mouth Gestures to Interact in Virtual Reality
Binghamton University
Lijun Yin
October 5, 2017


Binghamton University researchers have developed a technology that enables users to interact in a virtual reality (VR) environment using only mouth gestures. The researchers say they created a new framework that interprets mouth gestures as a medium for interaction within VR environments in real time. "We hope to make this applicable to more than one person, maybe two," says Binghamton professor Lijun Yin. "Think Skype interviews and communication." During testing, the system was able to describe and classify the user's mouth movements, and it achieved high correct recognition rates. In addition, the researchers' system has been demonstrated and validated via a real-time VR application. Although the technology is still in the prototype phase, the researchers say it could be applied to a range of fields. "Medical professionals or even military personnel can go through training exercises that may not be possible to experience in real life," Yin says.

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Georgia Tech Researchers Support DARPA's New 'CHIPS' Initiative
Georgia Tech News Center
John Toon
October 3, 2017


Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) are participating in the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's new Common Heterogeneous Integration and Intellectual Property Reuse Strategies (CHIPS) initiative, which aims to enable future generations of integrated circuits (ICs) to be assembled from plug-and-play modules known as "chiplets." The team says reusing aspects of existing microelectronics technology, such as memory modules or signal processors, could reduce the need to design complex monolithic chips from scratch for new applications. The CHIPS initiative could help reduce the cost of new ICs for government agencies and accelerate the application of new technology. "The goal of this program is to make the design more modular so we can reuse existing components, making the design process much faster, easier, and cheaper," says Georgia Tech professor Sung Kyu Lim. The four-year CHIPS initiative involves 11 teams, including those at the University of Michigan and North Carolina State University.

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7 Ways to Get More Girls and Women Into STEM (and Encourage Them to Stay)
Campus Technology
Dian Schaffhauser
October 2, 2017


A recent forum of industry and academic experts offered proposals for encouraging girls and women to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Eric Klopfer suggested incorporating the arts and humanities into STEM programs. Children's author Andrea Beaty said stories also could be persuasive, especially to young children. Christine Cunningham from Boston's Museum of Science suggested the engineering field could be made more appealing to girls by demonstrating "explicit connections" between engineering and "people, animals, the environment." Meanwhile, Harvard Medical School's Joan Reede said people promoting a vision of more inclusive STEM should add race and ethnicity to the equation. Including a STEM curriculum for girls' clubs such as the Girl Scouts will help provide mentors, while companies giving frontline female employees the reins to find solutions tend to benefit. Finally, Katherine Newman of the University of Massachusetts recommended a "vector of persistence" in research teams, in which women reinforce each other's commitment.

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For Fighting Cybercrime and Boosting Internet Security, UCSD's Stefan Savage Wins a MacArthur Award
Los Angeles Times
Deborah Netburn
October 10, 2017


University of California, San Diego professor Stefan Savage recently won a five-year, $625,000 "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation for his work on projects to protect computer systems from attackers. The MacArthur Foundation praised Savage for his "deep insights into Internet security" and his "commitment to tackling problems of immediate, real-world importance." In an interview, Savage says he chooses projects that appear to have the most potential to make a difference, along with some reason why he and his team are uniquely suited to address it. He notes that although computing-based technological advances have been beneficial for society, they also create the systematic risk that if someone sends a bad command, it can have unforeseen consequences. For example, Savage says cars and other vehicles work better and more efficiently with computer systems, but they also have "a lot of fragility against someone who educates themselves about the details of how they work and is interested in disrupting them."

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