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Welcome to the July 6, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Simons Honored as Leading Voice in Technology Policy Arena
ACM Media Center
July 1, 2020


Barbara Simons has been named to receive the 2019 ACM Policy Award, in recognition of her long-standing, high-impact leadership as president of ACM from 1998 to 2000 and as founding chair of ACM's U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM), the forerunner of today's U.S. Technology Policy Committee (USTPC). Simons advanced technology policy over several decades, and in 2001 served on President Clinton's Export Council's Subcommittee on Encryption and the National Workshop on Internet Voting. She has written several papers on secure election technology, has been instrumental in persuading election officials to move to paper-based voting systems, and has contributed to proposals for reforms in election technologies. Simons has served as a U.S. Senate appointee to the Board of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission since 2008, and remains active with ACM as a member of the global Technology Policy Council and co-chair of USTPC's Voting subcommittee.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Australia Spending Nearly $1 Billion on Cyberdefense as China Tensions Rise
The New York Times
Damien Cave
July 1, 2020


On June 30, Australia announced an investment of AU$1.35 billion (US$930 million) over the next decade—its largest ever—to combat a surge of cyberattacks attributed to the Chinese government. The Australian government said it plans to recruit at least 500 “cyberspies.” Further, the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Cyber Security Center will increase their capacity to defend against attacks and build connections with the companies that run the country's digital networks. Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said the investment will be used to develop a rapid-response process that would "prevent malicious cyberactivity from reaching millions of Australians by blocking known malicious websites and computer viruses at speed." The Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Peter Jennings said this likely is a down payment as "the need for more investment in cybersecurity, both defense and offense, will keep growing."

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Redefine Meat has produced the world's first 3D-printed plant-based steak. World's First 3D-Printed 'Steak' to Hit Israeli Restaurants This Year
The Jerusalem Post
Maya Margit
July 1, 2020


The Israeli company Redefine Meat has unveiled what it calls the world's first three-dimensionally (3D)-printed meatless steak, which the company says replicates the texture, flavor, and appearance of real meat. The company spent two years developing the technology to produce the Alt-Steak by first digitally mapping roughly 70 sensorial parameters. A proprietary industrial-scale 3D food printer prints the steak layer by layer from a combination of soy and pea proteins, coconut fat, and sunflower oil, along with natural colors and flavors. Other Israeli companies like MeaTech and Aleph Farms hope to print steaks from real meat cultured from cow tissue, without slaughtering animals. Aleph Farms' Yoav Reisler said, "The pandemic has shined the spotlight on the importance of incorporating innovations that can promise food security and that are not dependent on climate change and that minimize the risk for food-borne illnesses."

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Researchers use skeletal keypoint data to match the movements of musicians. Identifying Melody by Studying Musician's Body Language
MIT News
Kim Martineau
June 25, 2020


Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory have developed an AI tool that can identify a melody by separating similar sounds, and matching individual musicians' body language to the tempo of individual parts. The second capability was facilitated by an earlier technology, PixelPlayer, which tapped motion cues in image sequences. The latest iteration adds keypoint data to tease nearly identical sounds apart. The research emphasizes the importance of visual cues in training computers to enhance their auditory perception, and using sound cues to improve their vision. MIT's Antonio Torralba said, "Multi-sensory processing is the precursor to embodied intelligence and AI systems that can perform more complicated tasks."

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'Hybrid' Quantum Networking Demonstrated for First Time
Scientific American
Dhananjay Khadilkar
July 2, 2020


Scientists at France's Kastler Brossel Laboratory and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated "hybrid" quantum networking. The researchers combined quantum data encoding via discrete variables (DVs) in particles and continuous variables (CVs) in waves to integrate their respective fault tolerance and efficiency. The team established and distributed entanglement between DV- and CV-encoded states of light within a quantum network, generating photons by splitting a single photon between two different paths and entangling a DV optical quantum bit (qubit) with a CV qubit. This entanglement was transferred to the two systems via Bell-state measurement, converting the qubits' quantum information from one encoding method to the other. Marco Bellini at Italy's National Institute of Optics said, "This experiment has demonstrated what could become an important ingredient of future networks versatile enough to connect memories and processors based on different physical quantum platforms."

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Using Your Phone's Microphone to Track Possible Covid-19 Exposure
Ohio State News
Laura Arenschield
June 30, 2020


Researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) have proposed a Covid-19 tracking system that would rely on signals sent and received from cellphone microphones and speakers. The system would generate random, anonymous IDs for each phone and automatically send ultrasonic signals between the microphones and speakers of phones within a certain radius. A person who has tested positive for Covid-19 would update their anonymous IDs and the timestamp when the IDs were generated in the past two weeks to a central database managed by a trusted health care authority. The data would be used for contact tracing. Said OSU's Dong Xuan, "The phone will periodically generate some kind of sound token and send that token to nearby phones—and the key advantage over other technologies is that the ultrasound could have limited range and will not penetrate obstacles such as walls."

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The first megapixel-resolution deepfakes. Disney's Deepfakes Closer to Big-Screen Debut
The Verge
James Vincent
June 29, 2020


Disney researchers have demonstrated what they described as the first photorealistic deepfake at megapixel resolution. The maximum-resolution videos the scientists could create using the open source DeepFakeLab model were just 256 x 256 pixels in size, while their latest model can generate video with 1,024 x 1,024 resolution. The model can swap the semblance of two individuals while maintaining the target's facial expressions, although videos indicate it can only generate deepfakes of well-lit individuals looking more or less directly at the camera at present. The researchers said their goal is to produce deepfakes of sufficient quality for commercial projects, as a less time-consuming and more affordable alternative to traditional visual effects for film. Deepfakes need far less supervision once the original model is assembled, and can produce video in just hours.

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Michigan Law Would Make It Illegal for Companies to Force Employees to Be Implanted With Microchips
Daily Mail (U.K.)
Michael Thomsen
June 29, 2020


The Michigan House has passed the Microchip Protection Act, which would prohibit employers from requiring workers to be implanted with microchips. Although the practice is rare, some companies in other states use small radio-frequency identification (RFID) microchip implants to replace key cards, unlock workstations, and make purchases in company cafes. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bronna Kahle, said while no companies in Michigan currently use microchip implants for employees, the state must "take every step possible to get ahead of these devices" to protect employees' privacy. Ten other states already have banned mandatory worker implants. In 2017, Wisconsin's 32M firm allowed workers to be implanted voluntarily with RFID chips the size of a rice grain to access restricted areas and pay for snacks; about 50 employees, or half the workforce, opted for the chips.

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By delivering odorless chemicals into your nose, this system can make you perceive different temperatures. VR System Hacks Your Nose to Turn Smells Into Temperatures
IEEE Spectrum
Evan Ackerman
June 26, 2020


University of Chicago (UChicago) researchers have developed a power-efficient technique for generating different temperature sensations in virtual reality (VR) by essentially hacking the user's nose. The system disperses atomized chemicals to access the trigeminal nerve in the nose in order to replicate hot and cold sensations through odors. The device can produce discrete levels of hot and cold, and vary their intensity by tuning the frequency of the chemical dispersal. UChicago's Jas Brooks said, "Ultimately, any kind of new modalities for VR/AR (augmented reality) will only succeed if they are feasible in a mobile/untethered context. If we want to have thermal experiences that are portable, the device needs to be power-efficient."

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AI Could Help Improve Performance of Lithium-Ion Batteries, Fuel Cells
Imperial College London
Caroline Brogan
June 25, 2020


Researchers at Imperial College London in the U.K. have developed a new machine learning algorithm to virtually explore designs for fuel cell and lithium-ion battery microstructure prior to running three-dimensional (3D) models that help engineers upgrade performance. Their deep convolutional generative adversarial network algorithm learns to produce 3D image data of microstructure based on training data from nanoscale imaging performed by synchrotrons. Imperial's Andrea Gayon-Lombardo said, "Our technique helps us zoom right in on batteries and cells to see which properties affect overall performance." Imperial's Sam Cooper predicted these results will help researchers in the energy community design and fabricate optimized electrodes for improved cell performance.

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Analysis of Complex Geometric Models Made Simple
Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
Byron Spice
June 29, 2020


Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have developed an efficient technique for quickly analyzing complex geometric models by borrowing a computational strategy that enabled photorealistic animated films. CMU's Keenan Crane and Rohan Sawhney employed Monte Carlo methods to model how particles, heat, or other elements move through or within a complex shape, making the arduous division of shapes into meshes unnecessary. Their work revives a little-used "walk on spheres" algorithm in order to simulate a particle's long, random walk through a space without determining each movement, by calculating the size of the largest empty space around the particle and labeling it with the diameter of each sphere. The algorithm simply jumps from one random point on each sphere to the next to simulate the random pathway. This technique can generate an approximated preview of the solution in seconds.

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Singapore Issues Covid-19 Contact Tracing Wearables to 'Vulnerable Seniors'
ZDNet
Eileen Yu
June 29, 2020


Covid-19 contact tracing wearables are being issued to Singapore's "most vulnerable seniors," who are not digitally connected and at higher risk of catching the coronavirus. The Bluetooth-enabled devices, called TraceTogether Tokens, each have a unique QR code and do not depend on someone owning a smartphone, as they lack Internet or cellular connectivity and GPS. The tokens hold encrypted data of close contacts for up to 25 days. TraceTogether Tokens exchange Bluetooth signals with other TraceTogether Tokens, and mobile phones running the TraceTogether app, that are within 2 meters of each other for more than 30 minutes. The Health Ministry's contact tracing team will extract data from devices handed over to authorized health officials and inform users if they are identified as a close contact of a person with Covid-19.

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Stanford-Led Team Shows How to Store Data Using 2D Materials Instead of Silicon Chips
Stanford News
Andrew Myers
June 29, 2020


Stanford University researchers led a project to store data by sliding two-dimensional (2D) metal layers over each another, which could increase data density with greater energy efficiency than silicon chips. Working with University of California, Berkeley and Texas A&M University scientists, the researchers stacked three-atom-thick layers of tungsten ditelluride and injected a tiny bit of electricity, causing each odd-numbered layer to slightly shift relative to the even-numbered layers above and below. Another electrical injection realigned the layers, enabling generation of the 1s and 0s that make up binary data. The researchers read the digital data stored between the shifting layers using the quantum property of Berry curvature, which means writing a 0 or 1 to the new device should use less power than current non-volatile memory.

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