ACM TechNews


Welcome to the October 11, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Please note: In observance of the U.S. Columbus Day holiday, TechNews will not be published on Monday, October 14. Publication will resume on Wednesday, October 16.

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Gymnastics' Latest Twist? AI Judges That See Everything Gymnastics' Latest Twist? AI Judges That See Everything
The New York Times
Andrew Keh
October 10, 2019


The gymnastics world championships in Germany, the biggest gymnastics meet outside the Olympics, for the first time used an artificial intelligence (AI) system to evaluate athletes' performance by measuring and analyzing skeletal positions, speed, and angles via three-dimensional laser sensors. International Gymnastics Federation president Morinari Watanabe envisions such robot judges eliminating human error and subjectivity from gymnastics contests; “this is a step toward the challenge of justice through technology,” Watanabe said. At the world championships, the AI system was a means for human judges to confirm scores when gymnasts either formally contested their score, or the score widely deviated between judges. International Gymnastics Federation sports director Steve Butcher said all athlete information collected at the competition would be discarded at a predetermined expiration date, to address privacy concerns.

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Biologically Inspired Artificial Skin Improves Sensory Ability of Robots Biologically Inspired Artificial Skin Improves Sensory Ability of Robots
Technical University of Munich (Germany)
October 10, 2019


Researchers at the Technical University of Munich in Germany have designed a system integrating artificial skin with control algorithms, which they used to create the first autonomous humanoid robot with full-body synthetic skin. The skin is composed of hexagonal cells about an inch in diameter, each with a microprocessor and sensors to measure pressure, acceleration, proximity, and temperature. The researchers use an event-based system to track the cells instead of continuous monitoring, with individual cells only sending data when values change; this cuts the processing load by up to 90%. Said the university’s Gordon Cheng, “Our system is designed to work trouble-free and quickly with all kinds of robots. Now we're working to create smaller skin cells with the potential to be produced in larger numbers.”

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Cybersecurity Giants to Combat Cyberthreats Under OASIS Umbrella
ZDNet
Charlie Osborne
October 8, 2019


IBM, McAfee, and 16 more firms have launched an effort to address fragmentation and interoperability problems in cybersecurity, by linking market products via the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) consortium. Each member of the Open Cybersecurity Alliance (OCA) has agreed to contribute cybersecurity resources to "develop open source security technologies which can freely exchange information, insights, analytics, and orchestrated responses." OCA goals include the development of open source content, code, tools, and practices aimed at enhancing the interoperability of cybersecurity solutions. Two OCA projects are currently underway: IBM Security's STIX-Shifter, aimed at developing a search function for cybersecurity solutions through an open source, standardized cybersecurity data model/library, and a McAfee initiative to create an interoperable messaging format backed by the OpenDXL messaging bus.

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Doctors Look to Eye-Tracking to Improve Care Doctors Look to Eye-Tracking to Improve Care
The Wall Street Journal
David M. Ewalt
October 10, 2019


Eye-tracking technology is increasingly being used by healthcare professionals for a variety of purposes, including teaching medical students, improving surgeries, and diagnosing eye-related issues such as nearsightedness. Companies like Sweden’s Tobii are selling technology that allows other companies to add eye-tracking capabilities to their own products. For example, a system made by Tobii client ControlRad employs eye-tracking hardware to direct x-ray scanners, lowering radiation dosage for patients and doctors during surgery. Israeli company NovaSight's vision-assessment system has patients wear liquid-crystal display eyewear to diagnose visual impairments. Gartner’s Werner Goertz anticipates more eye-tracking products will hit the market next year, as availability grows of low-cost hardware and safe, reliable technology.

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Researchers Use Game Theory to Identify Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance Researchers Use Game Theory to Identify Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance
WSU Insider
Tina Hilding
October 9, 2019


Washington State University (WSU) researchers have developed a new technique that taps machine learning and game theory to identify previously unknown antibiotic-resistance genes in bacteria. The team used a machine learning algorithm and game theory to examine interactions of several features of genetic material, including structure and physiochemical, evolutionary, and compositional characteristics of protein sequences. The application was able to detect antibiotic-resistant genes in three different types of bacteria with 93% to 99% accuracy. Said WSU Professor Shira Broschat, “This novel game theory approach is especially powerful because features are chosen on the basis of how well they work together as a whole to identify likely antimicrobial-resistance genes — taking into account both the relevance and interdependency of features."

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Drones as Detectives: Surveying Crime Scenes for Evidence Drones as Detectives: Surveying Crime Scenes for Evidence
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
October 8, 2019


Researchers at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil are designing drones to perform forensic examinations at crime scenes by recording evidence from multiple angles. The AirCSI drone first sweeps the scene, scanning the environs with a stereo camera, as a visual self-localization and mapping system tracks the drone's position. A secondary system with another camera captures images from multiple angles. The drone then plots a zigzag path, making additional sweeps to gather finer information on each piece of evidence. Tests with simulation software found that using multiple angles to detect evidence is up to 18% more effective than using a single angle.

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Engineers Solve 50-Year-Old Puzzle in Signal Processing Engineers Solve 50-Year-Old Puzzle in Signal Processing
Iowa State University News Service
October 10, 2019


Iowa State University researchers have solved the mystery of the inverse fast Fourier transform (IFFT) algorithm, which along with the FFT algorithm comprise the core of signal processing. Iowa State's Alexander Stoytchev and Vladimir Sukhoy developed the inverse chirp z-transform (ICZT) algorithm to generalize the IFFT algorithm, as the FFT was generalized into the CZT. The ICZT plots the output of the CZT back to its input, matching the computational complexity or speed of its counterpart so it can be employed with exponentially decaying or growing frequency elements. Sukhoy said the inverse algorithm was a harder challenge than the original forward algorithm, and "we needed better precision and more powerful computers to attack it." Sukhoy added that visualizing the algorithm within the mathematical framework of structured matrices was critical.

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Algorithm Helps Autonomous Vehicles Avoid Pedestrians Algorithm Helps Autonomous Vehicles Avoid Pedestrians
The Engineer (UK)
October 10, 2019


Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have developed a decision-making and motion-planning algorithm to help autonomous vehicles (AVs) minimize injuries and damage when accidents with pedestrians are unavoidable. When such a collision is anticipated, the model predictive control (MPC) algorithm evaluates all available actions, selecting the one with the least serious consequences. Waterloo's Amir Khajepour added that the system is a necessity, disputing the notion that AVs can avoid all collisions. The MPC algorithm determines the most appropriate AV response in emergency situations, in accordance with pre-defined mathematical calculations accounting for injury severity and damage.

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Flaw in iTunes for Windows Abused for Ransomware Attacks Flaw in iTunes for Windows Abused for Ransomware Attacks
PC Magazine
Michael Kan
October 10, 2019


Hackers behind the BitPaymer ransomware are exploiting a vulnerability in iTunes for Windows' Bonjour updater to bypass antivirus software detection, say researchers at security firm Morphisec. The researchers also found an "unquoted path vulnerability" within the app that causes the updater to indiscriminately run files, whether harmless or malicious. Apple has corrected the unquoted path vulnerability via iCloud updates for Windows 7 and 10. However, Morphisec said many users may still be running unpatched versions of the Bonjour updater on their PCs, even with the removal of iTunes.

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Caltech's Latest Creation: A Hovering, Bird-Like Robot That Could Someday Explore Mars
The Washington Post
Peter Holley
October 9, 2019


California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researchers have developed a robot drone that can traverse rough terrain. A team at Caltech's Center for Autonomous Systems and Technology designed Leonardo (LEg ON Aerial Robotic DrOne) as a bipedal/aerial hybrid, taking birds' ability to walk on two legs and fly as inspiration. Leonardo features two torso rotors enabling the robot to lift off when it loses balance, then recover via thrust-facilitated weight shifting. Caltech's Morteza Gharib said Leonardo's stabilizing legs also would allow the machine to carry bulkier batteries, expanding its power and versatility. Said Gharib, "They'd be able to carry equipment and then fly overhead and take steady images, becoming a scientists or an engineer's companion."

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International Team Uses Deep Learning to Create Virtual ‘Super Instrument’
Southwest Research Institute
October 7, 2019


Researchers at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and nine other institutions, in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Frontier Development Laboratory, have developed a deep learning algorithm that analyzes ultraviolet images of the Sun and measures the energy the Sun emits as ultraviolet light. The algorithm is already in use as part of a Frontier Development Laboratory project for forecasting ionospheric disturbances. Said SwRI's Andrés Muñoz-Jaramillo, "In essence, deep learning involves sophisticated transformation of data. We can make these transformations into scientifically useful data and modernize the way we view not just the Sun, but a great number of scientific questions."

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