Welcome to the May 11, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Waterloo Chemists Create Faster, More Efficient Way to Process Information
University of Waterloo News
Ryon Jones
May 11, 2018

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have developed a method to store and process information more efficiently and in a shorter amount of time via light-triggered induction of magnetization in certain semiconductors. "We've basically magnetized individual semiconducting nanocrystals with light at room temperature," says Waterloo professor Pavle Radovanovic. "It's the first time someone's been able to use collective motion of electrons, known as plasmon, to induce a stable magnetization within such a non-magnetic semiconductor material." Radovanovic's group manipulated plasmon in doped indium oxide nanocrystals to demonstrate the feasibility of coupling magnetic and semiconducting characteristics without requiring ultra-low operating temperatures. Radovanovic predicts this finding initially could lead to highly sensitive magneto-optical sensors for thermal imaging and chemical detection, and in the longer term to quantum sensing, data storage, and quantum information processing applications.

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Google's Federated Learning Architecture Can Enhance Privacy While Ending the Centralized Dataset
Analytics India
Abhijeet Katte
May 9, 2018

Google engineers recently announced Federated Learning, a new cloud architecture for processing machine learning data for models that are trained from user interactions on mobile devices. In the past, machine learning has required that data be in the data center or on the machine on which the model is being trained. Federated Learning uses mobile phones to collaborate and learn a shared prediction model, with training data remaining on the device and not transmitted to the cloud. With the new architecture, the mobile device downloads the current model and improves it by learning from data on the phone. The phone then generates a summary of what it has learned, which is sent to the cloud and aggregated with other user summaries to refine the shared model. This type of architecture enables smarter models, reduced latency, and lower power consumption while ensuring data privacy through encryption. The researchers say Federated Learning "has only scratched the surface of what is possible" with this type of distributed prediction model.

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How the Power of Mathematics Can Help Assess Lung Function
University of Southampton
May 10, 2018

A novel mathematical method to analyze lung x-rays, developed by researchers at the University of Southampton in the U.K., could transform diagnosis and assessment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other respiratory maladies. The team combined computed tomography scans, high-performance computing, and algorithms to compute the three-dimensional properties of the bronchial trees of 64 patients classified as either healthy non-smokers, healthy smokers, patients with moderate COPD, or those with mild COPD. Topological data analysis of the bronchial trees' structure and size, their branches' length and direction, and comparative reconfigurations during deep inhalation and full exhalation revealed that a more-complex tree suggests improved lung function, while a smaller, distorted tree indicates poorer lung function. Not only does the technique differentiate between specific patient cohorts, their lung function characteristics, and different disease stages, but it also can detect properties hidden from the naked eye.

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How Even One Connected Vehicle Can Improve Safety, Save Energy
University of Michigan News
Angela Wegrecki
May 9, 2018

University of Michigan researchers have found that even one automated vehicle using connected cruise control among human-driven cars increases safety and cuts energy use. Connected cruise control can adjust a vehicle's speed using data from vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. An automated vehicle with connected cruise control uses 60 percent less G-force in braking than that required by a car with a human driver, boosting energy efficiency by as much as 19 percent, the researchers found. In experiments, some people hit the brakes heavily and decelerated at up to 0.8 G, causing anything in the vehicle not buckled down to fly forward. In comparison, the V2V-based automated driving algorithm did not spill a drop of coffee while keeping its decelerations to less than 0.3 G. The work also found that human-driven, non-automated cars following a V2V-equipped vehicle can achieve a reduction in energy use, as they experience a smoother speed profile.

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Grasp Sense: Re­search­ers Teach Ro­bots to Touch
University of Helsinki
Elisa Lautala
May 7, 2018

University of Helsinki researchers have developed an imaging method for measuring human touch using thermal and depth cameras. Grasp Sense can measure the heat signature left on the surface of objects by human touch, and this data can be employed in robotics. Past efforts to improve robots' sense of touch have been unsuccessful because it is difficult to find a balance between a robot maintaining its hold on an object and avoiding crushing it. Explains Grasp Touch co-creator Jukka Hakkinen, “Robots need to know exactly the object’s three-dimensional structure, material and weight distribution, whereas humans have the ability of intuitive grasp. Our goal is to transfer human skills to robots.” The researchers note the Grasp Sense method also could be applied to designing various utility articles or to creating models for hospital hygiene.

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Sensor Stickers Transform the Human Body Into a Multi-Touch Surface
Saarland University
May 4, 2018

A new skin sensor allows interaction designers to produce skin-like, sensitive multi-touch sensors for any part of the body. Developed by researchers at Germany's Saarland University, the Multi-Touch Skin sensor features two stacked electrode layers that form a coordinate system. Electrical capacitance is constantly measured at the intersections of the layers, as it drops when touched by a finger. The new sensor can capture touches from multiple fingertips simultaneously because the changes are sensed at each point of contact. The research team developed software for designers to create any sensor shape, so it can be made to fit all parts of the body. The work was presented last month at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2018) in Montreal, Canada.

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Researchers Subtract a Single Quantum of Light From a Laser Beam
University of Southern Denmark
May 4, 2018

A team of researchers from Denmark's Aarhus University, the University of Southern Denmark, and the University of Maryland has found a way to remove a single quantum of light from a laser beam. The method builds a foundation for future quantum communication and computation using quantum mechanics. The team developed a photonic quantum memory in which photons can be temporarily stored and retrieved on demand, using a special form of atomic gas in which the constituent atoms feature strong interactions. This allows the photons to detect one another in the quantum memory, enabling the manipulation of light on a nonlinear level. Using this concept, the researchers demonstrated a method of subtracting a single photon from an optical beam by using another beam of light. The photons in the second beam interact with the stored photons in a way that tags a single photon to be discarded on retrieval. With the single photon eliminated, the original light beam is left in a unique quantum state, which holds potential for a variety of scientific and technological applications.

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A schematic picture of a crystal structure Making Layered Superconductors Using High Entropy Alloys
Tokyo Metropolitan University
May 4, 2018

Tokyo Metropolitan University researchers have created superconductors from layers of bismuth sulfide (BiS2) and a high-entropy rare earth (RE) alloy oxyfluoride. Compared to materials without high-entropy-alloy states, the new material retains superconducting properties over a wider range of lattice parameters. One approach to creating new superconducting materials is to use layered materials with a molecular structure consisting of alternating superconducting layers and "blocking layers" that act as insulating spacers. The team combined five RE elements to form a high-entropy alloy in the blocking layer. With different proportions of REs, the new materials exhibited enhanced superconducting properties. Because many superconducting layers are compatible with RE oxides, the work opens the possibility of a new approach to developing high-temperature superconducting materials.

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New Mexico to Count Computer Science as Graduation Requirement
Education Week
Sarah Schwartz
May 7, 2018

New Mexico's Public Education Department will make computer science courses a requirement for high school graduation in order to accommodate shifting workforce trends, according to state Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski. "Our kids are entering the 21st-century marketplace where more and more jobs require computer science skills," Ruszkowski said. Students must pass Algebra II and demonstrate proficiency on the PARCC Geometry or Algebra II tests in order to count computer science courses toward their graduation. High school students who want computer science classes to count as part of their science requirement toward graduation need to demonstrate proficiency in New Mexico's high school science assessment. Students meeting those requirements can count several computer science courses toward graduation, beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.

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Colorful fiber optic cables Fiber Network Breakthrough Has Implications for Data Security
Alex Scroxton
May 3, 2018

Researchers at Toshiba Research Europe's Cambridge Research Laboratory in the U.K. have extended the transmission range of quantum key distribution (QKD) over fiber to more than 500 km (310 miles), which could allow sensitive data to be transmitted securely across intercity optical fiber networks. The researchers discovered a way to improve key rate and transmission distance, meaning the final secure key rate can be significantly greater than what was previously possible. QKD's range had been limited because photons can be scattered and lost, but the researchers changed this with the development of twin-field QKD, which enables light pulses to be sent from both ends of the fiber to a central location. As long as it is possible to tell from which end the photon is coming, the technique effectively doubles the transmission distance without requiring physical protection in the central location.

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Combined frequency combs helped create optical frequency synthesizer. Shrinking the Synthesizer
The Current
James Badham
May 3, 2018

Significant advances in chip-based integrated photonics and nonlinear optics have been reported by University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers. These developments were achieved during research for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's (DARPA's) Direct On-Chip Digital Optical Synthesizer program, which aims to shrink the size, cost and power requirements of optical frequency synthesizers. Said UCSB’s John Bowers, “We took something that occupied a whole optical bench, weighed 50 lbs., and used a kilowatt of power and made it orders of magnitude more efficient by integrating the key elements onto silicon photonic integrated circuits.” DARPA program manager Gordon Keeper said that while optical frequency synthesis “has significantly enhanced our ability to accurately and precisely measure time and space,” the ability to leverage those capabilities has been limited. The goal of the program, Keeper said, “is to shrink laboratory-grade capabilities down to the size of a sugar cube for use in applications like LIDAR, coherent communications, chemical sensing, and precision metrology.”

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Duke University professor Amanda Randles. Randles Named to Receive 2017 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award
Duke Pratt School of Engineering
May 2, 2018

Duke University professor Amanda Randles has been named the 2017 recipient of the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award in recognition for her development of HARVEY, a massively parallel fluid dynamics simulation that can model the complete human arterial system at the subcellular level. The HARVEY project combined Randles' expertise in applied physics, computational techniques, and parallel computing to create a physiologically accurate simulation of red blood cell movement throughout the body. The tool was employed to map out 500 billion fluid points via a supercomputer with 1.6 million processors, and represented the first-ever instance of a scientist effectively simulating the flow of blood with cellular resolution. Randles is currently collaborating with researchers at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School to apply HARVEY to cancer biology and cardiovascular treatment planning.

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A rabbit as a photobomber. AI that Deletes People From Photos Makes Rewriting History Easy
New Scientist
Chris Baraniuk
May 1, 2018

Nvidia researchers have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that can edit objects, people, or other unwanted details out of photos. They say the new algorithm, which relies on an AI technique known as partial convolution, is able to remove objects by learning to fill in the gaps that are left behind. The system recognizes what content is present in photos it is asked to retouch, having been trained on images that include human faces, animals, and landscapes. The researchers note as the system fills in the gaps left after editing, it checks that the resulting image looks acceptable. Partial convolution enables the system to check at successive stages to determine whether its attempts to smooth over editing relate accurately to the rest of the image.

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