Welcome to the March 30, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Editor's Note: In the March 26 edition of TechNews, it was mistakenly mentioned that Technische Universität Wien is in Germany, when it actually is in Austria. We regret the error.

ACM TechNews mobile apps are available for Android phones and tablets (click here) and for iPhones (click here) and iPads (click here).

To view "Headlines At A Glance," hit the link labeled "Click here to view this online" found at the top of the page in the html version. The online version now has a button at the top labeled "Show Headlines."
France to Spend $1.8 Billion on AI to Compete with U.S., China
Mathieu Rosemain; Michel Rose
March 29, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised $1.85 billion in public funding dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI) research by 2022, as part of an effort to reverse a brain drain in the country and catch up with the U.S. and China in the field. The investment is part of an AI strategy that is based on a report highlighting the assets and drawbacks of France in the AI space. Macron says he wants to turn France into a "start up nation" by easing labor laws and making bigger investments in technology. These moves should create jobs, alleviate the domination of Google and Facebook, and lay the groundwork for France to become a worldwide leader in the field. The first goal of the new funding plan is to make better use of the French higher education system that trains scientists, only to watch them leave for jobs at top U.S. technology companies.

Full Article

Watch a Computer Learn to Play 'Doom' Inside a Dream Watch a Computer Learn to Play 'Doom' Inside a Dream
Jordan Pearson
March 28, 2018

Researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland have taught a machine to "hallucinate" its idea of what the video game "Doom" looks like, and then got a virtual agent to play its own dream version of the game so it could learn how to play the real thing. The process first uses a deep-learning model that creates a compressed version of the game environment based on a snapshot, then another model takes that information to output a probability distribution of what the next frame might resemble. These models collectively constitute the virtual agent's abstract perspective of the "world," and a controller model with access to the reward functions of the game is employed to make selections on the next course of action based on the previous model's predictions. The researchers think this strategy could make it possible for the engines that render video games to rapidly calculate complicated physics in the background.

Full Article
NASA Achieves Optimal Energy Efficiency With First Modular Supercomputer
Bill Mannel
March 28, 2018

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has realized new levels of water and power efficiency and performance in its Modular Supercomputing Facility (MSF). With a blend of natural resources and adiabatic technology, the MSF uses less than 10 percent of the energy used in traditional supercomputing facilities. The supercomputer employs outdoor air and rooftop adiabatic coolers for rapid system cooling, drawing warm air through water-moistened pads, then chilling and venting it as the water evaporates. The module also features four HPE E-cells (which use a closed-loop cooling technology to release heated air outside the datacenter) for greater thermal efficiency. Says NASA's Bill Thigpen, configuring the MSF in this manner "makes it possible for us to be flexible and add computing resources as needed, and we can save about $35 million--about half the cost of building another big facility."

Full Article
Microsoft Edges Closer to Quantum Computer Based on Elusive Particle
Jeremy Kahn
March 28, 2018

Microsoft researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have generated elusive Majorana fermions, which could be used to create quantum computers with much lower error rates. The researchers say they have evidence of the particles' existence in a tiny wire comprised of both semiconducting and superconducting materials, and Microsoft will now attempt to braid these fermions to create quantum bits (qubits). Delft's Leo Kouwenhoven says his team's goal is to create a working qubit using Majorana fermions by the end of this year. Kouwenhoven says Microsoft is convinced that the calculations of its quantum computer will feature between 1,000 and 10,000 times greater accuracy than existing machines have been able to achieve.

Full Article

Overcoming a Battery's Fatal Flaw Overcoming a Battery's Fatal Flaw
Texas Advanced Computing Center
Aaron Dubrow
March 28, 2018

Researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) and Texas A&M University are using the Stampede and Lonestar supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center to develop next-generation lithium-metal batteries. These batteries could eventually be used for electric vehicles, wind turbines, and smart grids, which require significantly more energy capacity than the consumer devices for which lithium-ion batteries have proven successful. The team is using supercomputers to understand the core chemistry and physics at work in the formation of dendrites (clumps of lithium atoms that can cause batteries to heat up) and to engineer new materials that can mitigate dendrite growth that occurs with extended battery cycling. A new coating material could solve the dendrite problem by protecting the lithium metal and making the ion deposition smoother. The researchers say a graphene oxide nanosheet sprayed onto a glass fiber separator can be inserted into the battery, allowing lithium ions to pass through it but slowing and controlling how the ions combine with electrons from the surface to become neutral atoms.

Full Article

Future Electric Cars Could Recharge Wirelessly While You Drive Future Electric Cars Could Recharge Wirelessly While You Drive
University of Colorado
Trent Knoss
March 27, 2018

University of Colorado-Boulder (CU Boulder) researchers are working on the development of electric vehicles that may one day be able to recharge while driving down the highway, drawing wireless power directly from plates installed in the road. Such an arrangement could allow cars to drive thousands of miles without having to plug in for a recharge. CU Boulder professor Khurram Afridi and colleagues have spent the past two years creating a proof of concept for wireless power transfer that transfers electrical energy through electric fields at very high frequencies. Enabling the transfer of large amounts of energy across greater physical distances to in-motion platforms from low-cost charging plates would expand the technology's potential applications beyond small consumer electronics. The technology can now transmit kilowatts of power at megahertz-scale frequencies. In the near future, Afridi says, the technology could help warehouses eliminate the need to idle robots and forklifts for recharge.

Full Article
Improving Information Security by Giving Employees Options
Washington State University
Eric Hollenbeck
March 26, 2018

A recent study suggests information security managers could help motivate employees to prioritize security by avoiding, authoritative commands in favor of providing relatable messages offering how employees can better protect their data and systems. Washington State University researcher Rob Crossler says employees might not realize they are jeopardizing company data, or be less interested in security because they are not handling personal data. Crossler recommends information systems managers avoid messaging that is too rigid, focusing instead on different strategies for protecting information and responding to threats. Organizations should provide security training on a year-round basis, and encourage employees to immediately report security issues without fear of reprimand, he says.

Full Article

Miniaturized sensor mounted on a tooth Scientists Develop Tooth-Mounted Sensors That Can Track What You Eat
Tufts Now
Mike Silver
March 23, 2018

Tufts University researchers have built miniaturized sensors that, when mounted directly on a tooth, transmit information to a mobile device on one's glucose, salt, and alcohol intake. Such sensors could enable the tracking of an individual's consumption of a wide range of nutrients and chemicals, as well as their physiological states, the researchers say. The 2mm x 2mm sensors easily fit on a tooth and can flexibly conform to its irregular surface. The sensors are equipped with a central "bioresponsive" layer that absorbs the nutrient to be detected, and two square-shaped gold rings as outer layers. These layers function as a tiny antenna, collecting and transmitting radio waves; an incoming wave hits the sensor, and some of the wave is cancelled out while the rest is transmitted back. The sensor can change its "color," shifting its electrical properties to allow nutrients and other analytes to be detected and measured.

Full Article
Ultrasound Patch Could Make it Easier to Inspect Damage in Odd-Shaped Structures
UC San Diego News Center
Liezel Labios
March 23, 2018

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a flexible patch that could help perform ultrasound imaging on objects difficult to inspect with conventional ultrasound equipment, such as machine and building parts. Current ultrasound devices are difficult to use on objects that lack perfectly flat surfaces. The new device is a thin patch of silicone elastomer on which an array of small electronic parts is connected by spring-like structures. In testing on a wavy aluminum block with defects two to six centimeters beneath the surface, the probe was able to image the 2-millimeter-wide holes and cracks inside the block. The researchers say the device could be used on different parts of a bridge to continuously monitor for cracks.

Full Article

Automatic robot arm in a factory Robotic Arm Could Service Satellites or Pick Apples
American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
March 22, 2018

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel have developed the minimally actuated serial robot (MASR), which uses only two motors to travel along a structure and rotate the joint it needs to flex. "This unique minimalistic configuration, which can be applied to any serial robot with two or more links, reduces weight, size, and cost," says BGU professor David Zarrouk. He notes the MASR design is ideal for space applications due to its light weight, and could be used to repair satellites; another potential application he envisioned was picking fruit. "The configuration of the MASR robot combines the best characteristics of existing robot technologies to achieve a high level of accuracy and control," Zarrouk says.

Full Article
Groundbreaking Research Results in Artificial Intelligence
University of Agder (Norway)
Atle Christiansen
March 22, 2018

Ole-Christoffer Granmo, a professor at the University of Agder in Norway and director for the university's Center for Artificial Intelligence Research, has proposed a new method for finding algorithms for artificially intelligent machines. Granmo has created a Tsetlin Machine that uses a number to remember experiences, which learned picture recognition with the help of adding or subtracting from a number. Controlled by sentence logic, the Tsetlin Machine was able to best established pattern recognition methods in both precision and speed. "This find means that everyone gets a new tool to work with," Granmo says. He adds that the tool "can be used on language, power production, and the understanding of pictures, for example in the interpretation of x-rays."

Full Article
April 2018 Issue of Communications of the ACM
ACM Publications

Association for Computing Machinery

2 Penn Plaza, Suite 701
New York, NY 10121-0701

ACM Media Sales

If you are interested in advertising in ACM TechNews or other ACM publications, please contact ACM Media Sales or (212) 626-0686, or visit ACM Media for more information.

To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: [email protected]