ACM TechNews

Welcome to the December 2, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A businessman holds a virtual tablet computer. We Will See a Completely New Type of Computer, Says AI Pioneer Hinton
Tiernan Ray
December 1, 2022

Artificial intelligence pioneer and 2018 ACM A.M. Turing award recipient Geoffrey Hinton envisions a "mortal" neuromorphic computer combining hardware and software. Speaking at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference, Hinton said mortal computation means "the knowledge that the system has learned and the hardware, are inseparable." Hinton said such computers could be grown, forgoing costly chip fabrication, and he imagines they will be "used for putting something like GPT-3 in your toaster for $1, so running on a few watts, you can have a conversation with your toaster." He suggested a forward-forward neural network model, eliminating the backpropagation common to most neural networks, might suit mortal computation hardware.

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Disney’s Face Re-Aging Network technique can make an actor look younger or older. Disney Neural Network Can Change an Actor's Age with Ease
Ars Technica
Benj Edwards
November 30, 2022

A neural network developed by researchers at Disney offers a cheaper, faster way to make actors look older or younger in TV or film. Disney said the artificial intelligence technique called FRAN (Face Re-aging Network) is "the first practical, fully automatic, and production-ready method for re-aging faces in video images." The researchers trained FRAN to learn how a person's appearance changes with age by feeding it thousands of images of faces synthetically aged from 18 to 85 years old by StyleGAN2. Disney said the “production-ready” system is the first able to age an actor’s image in various expressions, lighting conditions, and viewpoints.

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Ultra-Sensitive Optical Sensor Can Reduce Hydrogen Risks
Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden)
December 1, 2022

Researchers at Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology and the Netherlands’ Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Eindhoven University of Technology have developed an optical sensor to detect extremely low hydrogen levels. The sensor incorporates metal nanoparticles that detect ambient hydrogen particles in response to the activation of plasmons, which trigger color changes. The researchers used a particle swarm optimization algorithm to generate the best interaction between the particles based the distance between them, as well as their diameter and thickness. The sensor can detect shifts in hydrogen concentrations as small as 250 parts per billion.

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New York University will revamp the labs and student spaces at its Tandon School of Engineering’s Brooklyn location. NYU Putting $1 Billion into Its Engineering School in Brooklyn
The New York Times
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura
November 30, 2022

New York University (NYU) has announced plans to invest $1 billion in its Brooklyn-based Tandon School of Engineering to boost its ranking among competitors and raise New York City’s technology profile. The funds, to be distributed over a decade, will be used to renovate labs and student spaces at NYU Tandon, as well as hiring 40 tenure-track faculty members and expanding the school's focus on cybersecurity, wireless technology, and artificial intelligence. Said NYU president Andrew Hamilton, "Engineering education is a force for social mobility, an economic engine for the borough, and a vital contributor to the city's effort to be a world center of tech."

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Why Researchers Are Teaching AI to Play Minecraft
Popular Science
Andrew Paul
November 28, 2022

OpenAI has developed a Minecraft-playing bot that can build pixelated tools and buildings in the game that require more than 20,000 consecutive actions via a combination of imitation and reinforcement learning. The bot, trained on 70,000 hours of human gameplay, is the first to build "diamond tools," which take human players 20 minutes and 24,000 actions, on average, to construct. Imitation learning requires each step to be hand-labeled, but the researchers used a separate neural network to handle labeling via Video Pre-Training. The researchers said the use of imitation and reinforcement learning in combination could pave the way for advancements in self-driving vehicles and nuclear fusion research.

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Catheter-shaped robotic devices could be guided remotely within the body, or exercise semi-autonomous control. Steerable Soft Robots Could Enhance Medical Applications
EPFL (Switzerland)
November 28, 2022

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) and the U.K.'s Imperial College London have produced catheter-shaped soft robots with sophisticated motion control. When used as catheters, the fiber-based robots could be guided remotely or semi-autonomously to a specific destination within a patient's body. The researchers used thermal drawing to generate fibers from thermoplastic elastomers, with multiple micrometer-scale channels grooved along their length to accommodate mechanisms like tendons. "In addition to the tendons, the fibers can integrate optical guides, electrodes, and microchannels that enable drug delivery, imaging, electrical recording and stimulation, and other tools commonly used in robotics and medical applications," explained EPFL's Andreas Leber.

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A PlaneWave Instruments CDK-700 telescope as a purpose-built optical communications ground station [left] and the drone [right] used in test flights. Free-Space Optics System Could Boost Space Comms
IEEE Spectrum
John Boyd
December 1, 2022

Researchers at Australia's International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) established a laser-guided free-space optical (FSO) link with the potential to enhance communications for space missions. The researchers maintained the FSO link despite stormy atmosphere between an optical ground terminal and a retroreflector on an airborne drone. ICRAR's Shane Walsh explained the framework supports "an uninterrupted 100-gigabits-per-second optical-data link. We do this by tracking the drone at angular rates up to 1.5 degrees a second—the equivalent of tracking a satellite in low Earth orbit [LEO]." Walsh said this clears a path for realizing terabit-per-second communications between LEO satellites and ground stations.

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Illustration of a wormhole with golden light entering it. Physicists Observe Wormhole Dynamics Using Quantum Computer
California Institute of Technology
November 30, 2022

Physicists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Harvard University created a quantum experiment to study the dynamics of a specific type of theoretical wormhole that can predict quantum gravity. "We found a quantum system that exhibits key properties of a gravitational wormhole yet is sufficiently small to implement on today's quantum hardware," said Caltech's Maria Spiropulu. The experiment considered the concept that information traveling between two points in space can be described in terms of gravity or quantum physics. The researchers observed the dynamics of a "baby" Sachdev-Ye-Kitaev (SYK) model engineered to preserve gravitational properties on Google's Sycamore quantum processor. They inserted a quantum bit into a SYK-like system and watched information emerge from another quantum system via quantum teleportation.

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Arma 3 Devs: Stop Using Our Game to Spread Fake News
Mack DeGeurin
November 29, 2022

Developers at Prague-based Bohemia Interactive are calling for users and media outlets to stop using footage from its Arma 3 military simulation game to spread misinformation. They said footage from the game has been cited in news coverage as purportedly depicting actual scenes of war. Bohemia Interactive's Pavel Križka said, "While it's flattering that Arma 3 simulates modern war conflicts in such a realistic way, we are certainly not pleased that it can be mistaken for real-life combat footage and used as war propaganda." Added Križka, "We found the best way to tackle this is to actively cooperate with leading media outlets and fact-checkers (such as AFP, Reuters, and others), who have better reach and the capacity to fight the spreading of fake news footage effectively."

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A multicolored stream of lights. Breaking the Scaling Limits of Analog Computing
MIT News
Adam Zewe
November 29, 2022

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a method to significantly reduce error in analog optical neural networks, which could enable their upscaling for commercial purposes. The researchers designed new tunable mirrors (Mach-Zehnder Inferometers, or MZIs) to form an optical neural network. The 3-MZI has three beam splitters rather than two, enabling each device to reach the required setting to transmit all light through its bottom port without additional wiring more easily. Simulations showed the 3-MZI can eliminate much of the uncorrectable error that inhibits network accuracy; the extent of error also decreases as the network's size increases.

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Novel 3D Printing Method to Fabricate Metal-Plastic Composite Structures
Waseda University (Japan)
November 30, 2022

A new multimaterial digital light processing three-dimensional printing (MM-DLP3DP) technique developed by scientists in Japan and Singapore can manufacture complex metal-plastic composite structures. The process starts by adding palladium ions to light-cured resins to prepare active precursors for the three-dimensional (3D) printing process that promote electroless plating (ELP), in order to form a metal coating. The MM-DL3DP apparatus then fabricates microstructures containing nested areas of the resin or the active precursor. These materials are directly plated, with 3D metal patterns added through ELP. The process allows the deposition and precise control of highly specific metal patterns on the composite structures.

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Scalable Model Makes for Smarter, More Efficient Grid Use
Penn State News
Ashley WennersHerron
November 29, 2022

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)'s Greg Pavlak said his research team has developed a scalable computational model "to control large portfolios of buildings in an intelligent way, using renewable energy and thermal storage." Pavlak said the model factors in uncertainties like weather, human activity, and energy cost to devise the best strategy. The framework produces a day-ahead plan for building operations based on various real-world scenarios, then an optimized solution to adapt to actual conditions. Pavlak said the algorithm used by the model is more scalable than current state-of-the-art solvers in terms of computer memory use and processing time, which means “We can now solve real-world decision-making problems that involve uncertainty across many buildings, systems, and devices.”

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A blurred photo of a crowd of people. Google Moves to Block Invasive Spanish Spyware Framework
Lily Hay Newman
November 30, 2022

Google's Threat Analysis Group announced action to block Heliconia, a suspected Spanish hacking tool that can spy on desktop computers by exploiting flaws in Chrome, Windows Defender, and Firefox. Anonymous submissions to Google's Chrome bug reporting program indicated the vulnerabilities could be leveraged to deploy spyware on target devices, including Windows and Linux systems. Google said the evidence indicates Barcelona-based technology company Variston IT was Heliconia's developer. Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla corrected the bugs in 2021 and 2022, while Google said no instances of current exploitation are evident. However, the bug submissions contained evidence suggesting the framework was likely being used to abuse the vulnerabilities starting in 2018 and 2019.

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