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Welcome to the April 12, 2024 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for computer professionals three times a week.
As Google, Microsoft, and other tech firms work on education-related AI tools, Satya Nitta at IBM's Watson Research Center cautions that AI is "not great as a replacement for humans." A five-year project at IBM’s Watson Research Center to create an AI-driven tutoring system using Watson ultimately found the Watson system lacked the ability to engage, motivate, inspire, and keep children focused on their lessons.
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The74; Greg Toppo (April 9, 2024)

Trudeau Unveils $1.8-Billion Package for Canada's AI Sector The Canadian government announced C$2.4-billion (US$1.8-billion) in measures to bolster the nation's AI sector, including C$2 billion for "computing capabilities and technological infrastructure." The government also proposed the creation of a Canadian AI Safety Institute. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the initiatives in Montreal, one of a number of AI hubs that has emerged in Canada. ACM A.M. Turing Award laureate Yoshua Bengio said during the Montreal event, "Canada places itself on the right side of history with this announcement."
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Bloomberg; Mathieu Dion; Brian Platt (April 7, 2024)

Insurers Spy on Homes from the Sky Insurance companies in the U.S. increasingly are using drones to take aerial images of homes and analyze them using computer models, which can result in policyholders being dropped for signs of roof damage, yard debris, overhanging tree branches, and undeclared swimming pools or trampolines, among other things. While insurers say aerial images allow them to better assess a property's risk, some industry insiders and consumer advocates contend the images can be misinterpreted, while others argue such surveillance creates privacy concerns.
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The Wall Street Journal; Jean Eaglesham (April 6, 2024)
The growth of large language models has fueled the need for knowledgeable humans to train them. Companies that specialize in data curation hire contractors and sell their training data to bigger developers. Developers of AI models also recruit in-house data annotators. As with other types of gig work, benefits for employees come with challenges, such as being cut off from the work with no explanation. Researchers also have raised concerns over a lack of standards.
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The New York Times; Yiwen Lu (April 11, 2024)

Waterproof e-Gloves Could Help Scuba Divers Communicate Researchers at Qingdao University in China designed a waterproof e-glove that could help scuba divers better communicate with each other and with people on boats on the surface using hand signals. Powered by AI, the "hand gesture recognition glove" is equipped with sensors that produce electrical pulses in response to 16 hand gestures commonly used by divers underwater. The pulses are then transmitted to a computer capable of translating them into words.
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LiveScience; Sascha Pare (April 10, 2024)

Robot Uses Touch to Foster Social Engagement in Children A touch-based robot developed by researchers at Cornell University and Portugal's University of Lisbon could facilitate the creation of more inclusive learning environments. The Touchibo robot was designed to foster equal engagement in group activities among children with and without visual impairment. A study of 107 children compared responses, touch behaviors, and group dynamics during storytelling exercises led by Touchibo and by an audio-only storyteller. The researchers found Touchibo helped create a multi-sensory storytelling environment that increased engagement and allowed for meaningful interactions.
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AZo Robotics (April 8, 2024)

Big Tech's Grip on Social Media The Kansas Reflector newspaper saw every link it had ever posted on Facebook disappear for about seven hours on April 4 after it published a report criticizing the social media platform. Anyone who attempted to post a Reflector link was warned those links contained potential malware, which Meta attributed to an error without elaboration. When independent journalist Marisa Kabas republished the column's text on her website and posted the link on Threads, it was flagged as malicious content and all links to her website on Meta's platforms were blocked for at least two hours. This situation highlights concerns about Meta's ownership of multiple social media platforms.
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CNN; Allison Morrow (April 9, 2024)

Georgia Tech Unveils AI Supercomputer for Student Use The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and NVIDIA Corporation created what they say is the first AI supercomputer for student use. "The launch of the AI Makerspace represents another milestone in Georgia Tech's legacy of innovation and leadership in education," said Georgia Tech's Raheem Beyah (front row, center), during the announcement of the school's first minor degree program in AI and machine learning.
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UPI; Chris Benson (April 10, 2024)
NASA researchers have determined that about 3% of the memory of Voyager 1's flight data subsystem (FDS) has been corrupted, explaining the unintelligible messages it has been sending to Earth since last November. The response to a poke-command sent to the FDS in March led researchers to believe the corruption is largely confined to a single chip in the craft’s memory system. They said it could take months to formulate a strategy to address the corruption.
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ScienceAlert; Carly Cassella (April 9, 2024)

Nonstop Drone Operations Enabled by Overhead Power Line Recharging An autonomous self-recharging drone system developed by researchers at the University of Southern Denmark can operate for an extended period by harvesting energy from power lines. The drone's onboard perception and navigation system allows it to locate and approach power lines, and then to use a passively actuated power-line gripper and a magnetic manipulating circuit to hold it firmly to a power line while charging.
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Interesting Engineering; Jijo Malayil (April 9, 2024)

Robots Are Slicing Your Barbecue Ribs Meatpackers like Smithfield Foods are turning to robots to address labor shortages in the U.S. meatpacking industry. Smithfield has used automated rib pullers for several years at its pork plant, which not only helps fill physically demanding jobs but also reduces waste. Automation is not expected to replace workers, but rather to allow meat processors to shift them into more skilled and harder-to-fill positions.
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The Wall Street Journal; Patrick Thomas (April 9, 2024)

AI Generates 3D City Maps from Single Radar Images A machine learning system developed by researchers at Germany's University of the Bundeswehr uses a single synthetic aperture radar (SAR) image to create complete 3D city maps. The SAR2Height framework was created using SAR images from the TerraSAR-x satellite and height maps for 51 cities. The researchers performed one-to-one, pixel-to-pixel mapping between the height maps and SAR images to train a deep neural network. SAR2Height can predict building heights in SAR images within about 3 meters and could be used to help assess earthquake damage.
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IEEE Spectrum; Mark Harris (April 4, 2024)
Circuits, Packets, and Protocols: Entrepreneurs and Computer Communication, 1968-1988
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