ACM TechNews


Welcome to the December 10, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Top Computer Scientists Form European Lab Devoted to AI
Bloomberg
Jeremy Kahn
December 6, 2018


Prominent computer scientists have formed a coalition to establish a pan-European laboratory concentrating on artificial intelligence (AI). The European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLIS) will operate physical labs and design an education program for doctoral students studying machine learning, while forging links between universities and companies in the European Union. Said the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems' Bernhard Scholkopf, "We need this because we have faced this development with huge investments in artificial intelligence in China and also from America from large corporations." He also said ELLIS has a mission to develop AI "in a beneficial way and...the highest level of AI research is done in open societies." Scholkopf warned of European AI efforts lagging those of rival countries because many European AI researchers often end up employed by U.S. universities or technology firms.

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A machine making a burger The Chef That Can Make a Gourmet Burger Every 30 Seconds
BBC News
David Hambling
December 6, 2018


A new restaurant in San Francisco employs two robots to prepare gourmet burgers for diners, with each capable of making 120 burgers an hour. The Creator restaurant's robots grind the meat and shape the burgers, slice and add toppings and condiments to customers' specifications, and precision-grill the meat using sensors. Controlling the robots is a machine learning algorithm that taps information from 11 thermal sensors in the cooking compartment to ensure each beef patty is cooked to the customer's satisfaction; diners use tablets to order their personalized burger. Some entrepreneurs exploring culinary applications of artificial intelligence aim to put robotic chefs to work in domestic kitchens. For example, Moley Robotics in the U.K. is teaching robots to master recipes by recording the actions of a human chef with a motion-capture system.

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NUS team pointing at the computer NUS Engineers Invent Spin-Based Memory Device
NUS News (Singapore)
December 6, 2018


An international team led by engineers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has created a new magnetic device that can manipulate digital information with much greater efficiency and stability than commercial spintronic digital memories. NUS' Yang Hyunsoo said, "Our discovery could provide a new device platform to the spintronic industry, which at present struggles with issues around instability and scalability due to the thin magnetic elements that are used." The new device uses ferrimagnets, which can be cultured 10 times thicker than ferromagnet-based memories without sacrificing data writing efficiency. The researchers used an electronic current to successfully write information in a ferrimagnet memory element, offering 10 times more stability and 20 times more efficiency than a ferromagnet. Said Yang, "We hope that the computing and storage industry can take advantage of our invention to improve the performance and data retention capabilities of emerging spin memories."

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AI2 Joins Forces With Microsoft Research to Upgrade Search Tools for Scientific Studies
GeekWire
Alan Boyle
December 5, 2018


The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) is partnering with Microsoft Research to connect its Semantic Scholar academic search engine with the Microsoft Academic Graph. Semantic Scholar, a free online tool that uses artificial intelligence to maximize the relevance of search results for studies focusing on computer science and biomedicine, has a database of more than 40 million academic papers, among other resources, and more than 2 million monthly users. Microsoft Academic Graph charts the networks that compile more than 200 million academic documents and citations on a wide variety of scientific subjects. Doug Raymond, general manager of Semantic Scholar, said the new collaboration is part of an effort to combat information overload in the scientific community and aims to "make all science, and all scientists, more impactful."

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A smartphone and informations about Latinx and African-Americans on the side UC Berkeley Researchers Find Lending Algorithms Discriminate Against Ethnic Minorities
Daily Californian
Yao Huang
December 5, 2018


Money-lending financial technology (fintech) algorithms may discriminate against African American and Latinx borrowers, according to a study by the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business and School of Law. Adair Morse, co-author of the study, said, "Although algorithms remove biases where lenders can see faces, their use of strategic pricing data induces unintentional discrimination." The study found that African American and Latinx borrowers saw interest rates that were 5.6 basis points higher, with each extra basis point costing minority mortgage borrowers about $100 million annually. However, face-to-face lenders reject ethnic minorities about 4% more often than fintechs. Morse said, "I think it's provocative in where the future is headed in dominance of big data. It's the tip of the iceberg in how we need to think about human touch being involved in algorithm decision making."

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New Technology Helps the Visually Impaired Reach for the Stars
University of Queensland
Paige Ashby
December 5, 2018


Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have developed an app that helps the visually impaired navigate the stars and planets in the solar system. The app is designed so the user can obtain "an ephemeris," or astronomical information about an object in the solar system. The app relies on data from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as multiple Earth data maps representing various dynamic and non-dynamic graphs of satellite surveys. The team, led by Queensland's Yuma Decaux, won the Brisbane leg of the NASA Space App Challenge. Said Decaux, "We are now ramping up for the national challenge, and hopefully the international one, too."

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The U.S. National Academies Reports on the Prospects for Quantum Computing
IEEE Spectrum
David Schneider
December 5, 2018


A task force organized by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine evaluated the feasibility of developing a functional quantum computer, with emphasis on "the time and resources required, and how to assess the probability of success." However, the panel ultimately doubted a quantum system for compromising RSA 2048 or comparable discrete logarithm-based public key cryptosystems will be built within the next 10 years. Challenges the committee acknowledged as potentially insurmountable include creating a self-reinforcing cycle of technical progress that gives rise to commercial applications that feed into private-sector investment and drive further technical progress. The experts also predicted the near-term creation of a "noisy intermediate-scale quantum computer," which would likely be impractical, given the current lack of any known algorithms or apps that could effectively use it. Still, the committee said efforts to develop quantum computing remain valuable as foundational research for yielding "transformative new knowledge and applications."

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A child holding a teddy bear and a shadow of a robot behind him The 'Weird Events' That Make Machines Hallucinate
BBC News
Linda Geddes
December 5, 2018


Computers can be tricked into misidentifying objects and sounds, raising issues about the real-world use of artificial intelligence (AI); experts call such glitches "adversarial examples" or "weird events." Said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s Anish Athalye, "We can think of them as inputs that we expect the network to process in one way, but the machine does something unexpected upon seeing that input." In one experiment, Athalye's team slightly modified the texture and coloring of certain physical objects to fool machine learning AI into thinking they were something else. MIT's Aleksander Madry said the problem may be rooted partly in the tendency to engineer machine learning frameworks to optimize their performance on average. Neural networks might be fortified against outliers by feeding them more challenging examples of whatever scientists are trying to teach them.

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An actor standing in the field with drones in the sky behind him Using Drones to Simplify Film Animation
ETH Zurich
Felix Wurtsen
December 5, 2018


Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland and the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands are using drones to streamline the production of realistic animated figures. Traditional motion capture requires either installing numerous cameras in different places, of which only a few can be used simultaneously, or other complex arrangements. The researchers utilized two commercially available drones and a laptop, with the drones following a performer's movements and adjusting their position so the target is always shot from two angles; the system predicts these movements in real time, then calculates where the drones need to fly so the performer remains in the frame. The performer wears infrared diode markers that the drones pick up with true light filters to simplify data processing. Said ETH Zurich's Tobias Nageli, "What makes our system so unique is that it can also reliably capture sudden and fast movements."

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Robot, Drone Spending to Total $115.7 Billion in 2019: IDC
ECN Magazine
Spencer Chin
December 4, 2018


The Worldwide Semiannual Robotics and Drones Spending Guide from market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) projects worldwide spending on robotics systems and drones to reach $115.7 billion next year, up 17.6% from 2018, and reaching $210.3 billion by 2022, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.2%. The study forecasts investment in robotic systems will total $103.4 billion next year, while investment in drones will total $12.3 billion. Discrete manufacturing will account for nearly half of all robotics systems spending worldwide in 2019, generating $50.2 billion in revenues. Consumer spending on drones is expected to total $5.1 billion in 2019, or slightly more than 40% of the worldwide total, while industry spending on drones will be led by utilities ($1.4 billion), construction ($1.05 billion), and discrete manufacturing ($913 million).

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