ACM TechNews

Welcome to the June 27, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Ken Knowlton, left, and his Bell Labs colleague Leon Harmon, in front of a computer-generated artwork they created in the mid-1960s titled “Computer Nude (Studies in Perception I).” Ken Knowlton, a Father of Computer Art and Animation, Dies at 91
The New York Times
Cade Metz
June 24, 2022

Computer art and animation pioneer Ken Knowlton has passed away at age 91. He created many of the first computer-generated pictures, portraits, and films at Bell Labs, where a machine that could print images onto film inspired him to develop Bell Labs Flicks, which he thought to be the first coding language for computer animation. Knowlton learned he could produce images by threading together dots, letters, numbers, and other computer-generated symbols selected for their brightness, and his algorithms assembled images by carefully changing brightness as they positioned each symbol. "He was the first man to fill a movie screen with pixels," said computer science pioneer Ted Nelson. "Now, every movie you see was created on a digital machine."

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Flawed AI Makes Robots Racist, Sexist
Johns Hopkins University Hub
Jill Rosen
June 21, 2022

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and the University of Washington found that a robot equipped with a publicly downloadable artificial intelligence model built with the CLIP neural network exhibited significant gender and racial biases. The robot was given 62 commands that involved selecting blocks with assorted human faces on them and placing them into a box. The researchers found the robot chose males 8% more frequently than females, and picked white and Asian men the most and Black women the least. The robot also identified women as "homemakers" over white men, Black men as "criminals" 10% more than white men, Latino men as "janitors" 10% more than white men, and men as "doctors" more than women of all ethnicities. Said Georgia Tech's Andrew Hundt, "The robot has learned toxic stereotypes through these flawed neural network models."

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Mars Probe Running Windows 98 Receives Software Update After Two Decades
Will McCurdy
June 24, 2022

Engineers from Italy's Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) updated the Mars Express spacecraft's Window 98-based system for the first time in 19 years. The European Space Agency probe uses the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument to send low-frequency radio waves down to the planet to help map subsurface structures while searching for liquid water. INAF officials said the update will allow Mars Express to view Mars and its moon Phobos in greater detail. INAF's Andrea Cicchetti said the spacecraft’s previous method for storing high-resolution data quickly took up its onboard memory. In contrast, "By discarding data that we don't need, the new software allows us to switch MARSIS on for five times as long and explore a much larger area with each pass," he said.

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FakeReporter said the Strava data identified a running track at an Israeli military intelligence facility in Moshav Ora. Strava App Flaw Revealed Runs of Israeli Officials at Secret Bases
BBC News
David Gritten
June 22, 2022

Israel-based disinformation monitor FakeReporter disclosed a flaw in American Internet service Strava's fitness application that allowed a suspicious party to identify and track Israeli security personnel at secret military bases. The app tracks a user's exercise activity via data like global positioning system coordinates, taken from their mobile phone or wearable fitness device. People can upload their running and cycling times and compare their performances with others following the same routes. The suspicious individual was able to upload fake running "segments" to compromise the identities and past routes of others active in the area, even with the most secure privacy settings activated. Data on roughly 100 individuals who exercised at six bases was accessible, although Strava said it had corrected the vulnerability.

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An autonomous electric freight truck at a logistics facility operated by GE Appliances in Louisville, KY. Sweden's Einride to Test Autonomous Trucks on U.S. Roads
The Wall Street Journal
Liz Young
June 23, 2022

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has granted permission to Sweden's autonomous-truck startup Einride AB to test self-driving freight vehicles on U.S. roadways in partnership with GE Appliances. The remotely operated electric vehicles will move along a one-mile stretch of road between two GE Appliances warehouses in Tennessee. Called Pods, the vehicles have no cabs for onboard drivers and can fit about 10 pallets (around 57,000 pounds) of freight. The remote operators can monitor multiple vehicles simultaneously. The two-week pilot program, slated for the third quarter, will see the Pods running on public roads with cars and trucks.

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An automated eye screening. Deep Learning Algorithms Deployed on Mobile Devices to Screen for Eye Disease
The Engineer
June 26, 2022

A deep learning (DL) algorithm developed by scientists at Japan's Tohoku University scans eye images to identify disease-related features. The lightweight DL model can be trained on small number of images, and can be employed on mobile devices. "Our developed model has better segmentation accuracy and enhanced model training reproducibility, even with fewer parameters—making it efficient and more lightweight when compared to other commercial software," explained Tohoku's Toru Nakazawa. The researchers used low-resource devices to acquire measurements of the eye's foveal avascular zone to augment screening for glaucoma. "Our model is also capable of detecting/segmenting optic discs and hemorrhages in fundus images with high precision," Nakazawa said.

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Quantum Network Nodes with Warm Atoms
University of Basel (Switzerland)
June 23, 2022

Physicists at Switzerland's University of Basel have created a network node for quantum communication networks capable of storing individual photons in a vapor cell for later transmission. The quantum memory holds an atomic gas within a glass cell, which makes special cooling unnecessary. The researchers engineered a dedicated single-photon source that emits one photon at a time, while a second photon is emitted simultaneously so the quantum memory can be activated at the correct moment. The single photon is steered into the quantum memory and a control laser beam, where it induces over 1 billion rubidium atoms to assume a superposition state. A laser pulse can read out the data contained in the photon and convert it back into a photon; the team reduced the noise to maintain single-photon quality after storage times of several hundred nanoseconds.

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Journals on shelves. Scientists can now check whether a journal website has been cloned before submitting a manuscript to it. Hijacked-Journal Tracker Helps Researchers to Spot Scam Websites
Holly Else
June 22, 2022

Researchers can check whether a journal website has been cloned onto a scam site before submitting their work through the Retraction Watch hijacked journal checker. Anna Abalkina at Germany's Free University of Berlin and scientific-misconduct blog Retraction Watch built the online spreadsheet, which will be updated as more hijacked journals are detected. Abalkina said addressing the problem is critical because research databases often import articles from the Scopus citation database, which can accidentally include non-peer-reviewed research posing as legitimate work. Mehdi Dadkhah at Iran's Ferdowsi University of Mashhad said although the hijacked-journal checker will prevent some scientists from being exploited by cybercriminals, many will be unaware of the tool or even of hijacked journals.

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Inspired by fireflies, MIT researchers have created soft actuators that can emit light in different colors or patterns. Robotic Lightning Bugs Take Flight
MIT News
Adam Zewe
June 21, 2022

Fireflies inspired researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and China's Ningxia University to build flying, light-emitting robots that facilitate motion tracking and communication. The researchers designed soft actuators to control the robots' wings, and embedded electroluminescent particles within the actuators, which emit colored light when exposed to the robots’ electrical field. The team used this light and three smartphone cameras with a computer program to track the robots' position and attitude to within 2 millimeters of cutting-edge infrared motion capture systems. "This is a major step toward flying these robots in outdoor environments where we don’t have a well-tuned, state-of-the-art motion tracking system," said MIT's Kevin Chen.

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AI Generates Photorealistic 3D Scenes, Lets You Edit Them
New Scientist
Alex Wilkins
June 22, 2022

Artificial intelligence (AI) models capable of generating or editing three-dimensional (3D) photorealistic scenes could simplify and expedite the creation of animated films. Stanford University's Eric Ryan Chan and colleagues developed the EG3D AI model to produce high-resolution random images of faces and other objects, along with an underlying geometric framework. Chan said the model offers near-photorealistic rendering, and can be run on a laptop in real time. His team used features from existing high-resolution two-dimensional generative adversarial networks, and added a component that can convert these images into three dimensions. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the GiraffeHD model developed Yong Jae Lee and colleagues attempts to extract controllable features of a 3D image, which could be used to edit 3D-generated images.

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Algorithms Track Ships in Harbors
Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands)
June 23, 2022

Amir Ghahremani at the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology has developed algorithms to improve the tracking of vessels in harbors. As part of the international Applying Plug & Play Surveillance project, Ghahremani worked to enhance automated maritime surveillance systems with algorithms trained to recognize ships. He trained a neural network to help the self-learning algorithms improve their precision. The algorithms also are useful for re-identifying vessels across non-overlapping camera views. Said Ghahremani, "The continuous improvement and training of the network will enable maritime surveillance systems to analyze the behavior of vessels, which will increase the security of port areas and other maritime regions."

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Internet Explorer Shutdown to Cause Japan Problems 'For Months'
Financial Times
Kosuke Toshi; Masaharu Ban
June 24, 2022

Microsoft's recent termination of the Internet Explorer (IE) browser has sparked panic among businesses and government agencies in Japan that had delayed updating their Websites. Tokyo-based software developer Computer Engineering & Consulting (CEC) has been flooded with help requests since April, mainly from government agencies, financial institutions, and manufacturing and logistics companies that operate sites that only work with IE. In a March poll by IT resource provider Keyman's Net, almost half of respondents said they used the IE browser for work, and more than 20% of those respondents said they did not know how to transition to another browser.

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