ACM TechNews

Welcome to the January 30, 2023, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Gen Z Says School Not Equipping Them with Skills to Survive in Digital World
Fast Company
Shalene Gupta
January 27, 2023

Dell Technologies surveyed more than 15,000 members of the Generation Z (Gen Z) cohort across 15 countries to find they have little faith in governments or educational systems to provide a better future. About 50% of respondents are willing to accept short-term economic hardship if policymakers can commit to long-term solutions, yet just one-third of those surveyed think current government investments will support a thriving digital economy. Meanwhile, less than half (44%) said school only gave them basic computing skills, with 37% saying it did not equip them with the technology skills they required for their planned careers.

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Memory Safe Programming Languages Are on the Rise. Here's How Developers Should Respond
Liam Tung
January 25, 2023

A Consumer Reports study found an increase in the use of memory safe programming languages in the last two years. The report said more projects, including those from Meta, Google's Android Open Source Project, and the Linux kernel, are adopting Rust for codebases written in C and C++ to make code more memory safe. The report said computer science professors could boost the weight of memory safety mistakes in assessing grades. Among other things, the report recommends developers list memory safety mitigations for a piece of software and provide a "nutrition label" of sorts that details the percentage of code covered by safe languages, audits, fuzzing, sandboxing, and least privilege, among other things.

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Tamara Broderick, whose team developed a new measure that can help scientists decide which estimation method can be used when modeling a particular data problem. When Should Data Scientists Try a New Technique?
MIT News
Adam Zewe
January 27, 2023

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have formulated the "c-value" measure to help scientists choose which estimation methods to apply when modeling specific data problems. C-value helps users decide between approaches based on the odds that a new method will yield greater accuracy for a particular dataset. The c-value equation employs the dataset to first compute the estimate with each technique, then to compute the c-value between techniques. Methods with a high c-value are unlikely to be less accurate than the original method on the data problem. The researchers assessed c-value using real-world data problems, including modeling ocean currents, calculating violent crime in neighborhoods, and approximating students' reading skills in school.

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F1 Champ Lost a Virtual Race to Lag. Is the Sport Ready for Primetime?
The Washington Post
Gregory Leporati
January 23, 2023

During the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual competition on Jan. 14-15, a sudden disconnection from the server resulted in two-time Formula One champion Max Verstappen's team dropping from first to 15th place. Verstappen immediately retired from the competition, which had been plagued by multiple technical issues, including random disconnects and distributed denial-of-service attacks. Such problems come as sim racing is gaining popularity as a pipeline for aspiring real-world racecar drivers. According to Cam Royal of Veloce, a team that competes in both real-life and virtual racing, motorsports scouts often watch sim races to identify emerging talent. “We look at driving habits and consistency,” said Royal.

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Researchers in Korea developed a quadrupedal robot that can walk even in deformable terrain such as a sandy beach. Robo-Dog 'RaiBo' Runs Through Sandy Beach
KAIST (South Korea)
January 26, 2023

Scientists at South Korea's Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) have developed a four-legged robot dog that can agilely traverse sandy beaches. The team simulated the force acting on the robot from granular ground and designed an artificial neural network controller that makes real-time decisions to adapt to variable terrain without prior information while walking. Calculating the force produced from one or more contacts at each time step efficiently models the deformable terrain, while the recurrent neural network architecture predicts terrain properties by analyzing time-series sensory data. After researchers mounted the learning-based controller on the "RaiBo" robot, it ran on a beach at a top speed of 3.03 meters (nearly 10 feet) per second.

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Artificial skin crafted from two layers of electrodes around an ion-infused sponge can detect nearby objects and the materials from which they are made. Artificial Skin Can Detect Nearby Objects Without Touching Them
New Scientist
Chris Stokel-Walker
January 25, 2023

A research team at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) created an artificial skin that can sense the presence of nearby objects without coming into physical contact with them. The skin features two nickel-coated conductive fabric layers surrounding a sponge bathed in ionic liquid, which functions as an electrical conduit. The electrode layers form a capacitor that quantifies changes in distance between them in order to detect physical contacts with objects. The skin relies on machine learning techniques to identify how an object it detects compares with data on known materials. In tests, the skin successfully classified a series of objects brought near it as being either polymer, metal, or skin.

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Machine Vision System Can Locate King Flowers on Apple Trees
Penn State News
Jeff Mulhollem
January 26, 2023

A machine vision system developed by researchers at Pennsylvania State (Penn State) and Washington State universities can locate apple king flowers in blossom clusters on trees. Penn State's Xinyang Mu used the Mask R-CNN deep learning algorithm to identify and locate king flowers by conducting pixel-level segmentation to detect partly obscured objects. Mu recorded hundreds of apple blossom cluster photos, then devised a king flower segmentation algorithm to extract the flowers from the dataset. The system's accuracy varied from 98.7% to 65.6% compared to identification by eye. Penn State's Long He said, "We think this result will provide baseline information for a robotic pollination system, which would lead to efficient and reproducible pollination of apples to maximize the yield of high-quality fruits."

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Researchers Find Ways to Improve Storage Time of Quantum Information in Spin Rich Material
University of Cambridge (U.K.)
Pooja Pandey
January 26, 2023

An international team led by researchers at the U.K.'s University of Cambridge demonstrated that a lattice-matched semiconductor material system can improve quantum storage time. Until now, optically active semiconductor quantum dots had a storage time of just a few microseconds at most. The researchers were able to achieve a nearly two-order magnitude improvement in storage time using their material system. Cambridge's Claire Le Gall said, "For spins in quantum dots, short coherence times were the biggest roadblock to applications, and this finding offers a clear and simple solution to that."

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The smart operating room tracks and manages inventory, reduces waste, conducts patient-safety recalls, and issues expiration warnings. Israel Opens First 'Smart Operating Room' That Manages Inventory
The Jerusalem Post (Israel)
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
January 25, 2023

The Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, Israel, has opened a "smart room" for the management of inventory in operating rooms through a partnership between Florida-based automation provider Autonomi and Israeli group purchasing organization Sarel. The smart room can track items assigned to the medical team and medical cases without requiring assistance from end users. It also monitors inventory usage for each procedure; prevents depletion of supplies through automated reorders; performs real-time patient-safety recalls, and posts warnings of upcoming expiration dates. The hospital said the room will help optimize the performance of the medical team while reducing the costs of equipment and drugs by up to 15% annually.

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In a new study, ChatGPT found bugs in sample code better than existing programs. ChatGPT Finding, Fixing Bugs in Code
PC Magazine
Emily Dreibelbis
January 27, 2023

Computer science researchers from Germany's Johannes Gutenberg University and the U.K.'s University College London found the ChatGPT chatbot can detect and correct buggy code better than existing programs. The researchers gave 40 pieces of bug-embedded software to ChatGPT, and to three other code-fixing systems for comparison. ChatGPT's performance on the first pass was similar to that of the other systems, but the ability to dialogue with the bot after receiving the initial answer ultimately helped it overtake the others. The researchers explained, "We see that for most of our requests, ChatGPT asks for more information about the problem and the bug. By providing such hints to ChatGPT, its success rate can be further increased, fixing 31 out of 40 bugs, outperforming state-of-the-art."

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K-pop singer Aiki serves as a judge in the virtual “Girl’s Re:verse” competition, during a taping outside Seoul. Will the Metaverse Be Entertaining? Ask South Korea
The New York Times
Jin Yu Young; Matt Stevens
January 29, 2023

South Korea's entertainment industry is producing virtual content as a gateway into the metaverse. South Korean producer Kakao Entertainment aims to expand the virtualization of K-pop artists by creating a wholly virtual, interactive band through a partnership with mobile gaming company Netmarble. Kakao also produces the "Girl's Re:verse" virtual K-pop show, and is considering potential album releases, brand endorsements, videogames, and digital comics. South Korea's government is investing more than $170 million to develop virtual entertainment through a "metaverse alliance" with hundreds of businesses. With nations like South Korea often considered a testbed for future technologies, Andrew Wallenstein at online media industry resource Variety Intelligence Platform suggests the country is the likeliest springboard for trends like metaverse entertainment.

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Robot Pets, VR Headsets Can Reduce Older Adults' Loneliness. So Why Don't They?
The Wall Street Journal
Julie Jargon
January 28, 2023

Technologies like robot pets and virtual reality (VR) platforms could alleviate social isolation among older adults, yet sustainable adoption has proven challenging. Rendever provides VR to long-term care communities, with experiences like meet-ups with avatars of loved ones in virtual homes. Drawbacks, however, include a non-intuitive software setup. Tombot is developing a robotic Labrador retriever puppy due out late next year that is intended to offer people with mild cognitive impairment the companionship of a pet without the upkeep of a real animal. “We saw older adults adopt virtual engagement at a much faster pace than we thought during the pandemic because there was no other choice,” said the National Council on Aging's Dianne Stone.

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