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

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Robert Wolkow, a physics professor at the University of Alberta U of A Researchers Find a Way to Build Smaller, Faster, Cooler Computers
The Star Edmonton
Hamdi Issawi
May 26, 2018

Scientists at the University of Alberta (U of A) in Canada have taken a step toward smaller, faster, and more energy-efficient computers engineered at the atomic level via proton shuffling. The university’s Robert Wolkow and Moe Rashidi developed an algorithm to automate a time-intensive process, which involves employing an incredibly thin probe to sever and rearrange atomic bonds. "Every time you go to break the bond between atoms, so that you can pick up a target atom and put it somewhere else, you might unintentionally break a bond in your tools," Wolkow says. Rashidi's algorithm automatically spots and repairs probe damage as it occurs, making human monitoring unnecessary. Wolkow suggests building circuits at the atomic level would enable manufacturers to produce devices that circumvent the current energy and heat limitations of modern transistors.

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AI Chip Tests Binary Approach
EE Times
Rick Merritt
May 25, 2018

Imec has announced the development of a processor-in-memory architecture for a deep-learning inference chip via single-bit precision, with plans to collect data over 12 months on the design's efficacy. Whereas other firms' commercial designs for artificial intelligence accelerators concentrate on 8-bit and larger data types, Imec had the logic element of the 40-nanometer Low-Energy Neural Network Accelerator (LENNA) built in a foundry and is currently adding a magnetoresistive random-access memory (MRAM) layer in its own fab. The chip was created to directly address deep learning and act as a test chip, demonstrating the effectiveness of the architecture on different memory and binary data types. "Our mission is to define what semiconductor technologies we should develop for machine learning using emerging memories--we may need process tweaks" to elicit the best results, says Imec's Diederik Verkest.

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Silicon Breakthrough Could Make Key Microwave Technology Better, Cheaper
University of Waterloo News
May 24, 2018

C.R. Selvakumar at the University of Waterloo in Canada came up with the idea of using supercomputers to produce microwaves with inexpensive silicon, which researchers have theoretically demonstrated. Former Waterloo researcher Daryoush Shiri employed computational nanotechnology to demonstrate that silicon can be used to generate high-frequency microwaves. The new method applies voltage to extremely thin silicon nanowires, which computer simulations showed could trigger microwave emissions when stretched. "With the advent of new nano-fabrication methods, it is now easy to shape bulk silicon into nanowire forms and use it for this purpose," Shiri says. The stretching of the nanowires also could be used to switch the phenomenon on and off, or vary microwave frequency. Selvakumar thinks this research could be the foundation for developing more flexible and affordable devices for the production of microwaves.

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Ultrasound-Firewall for Mobile Phones
St. Polten University of Applied Sciences
Mark Hammer
May 24, 2018

Researchers working on the SoniControl project at St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences in Austria have developed the first ultrasound-firewall for mobile devices in the form of a mobile application that detects acoustic cookies, brings them to the attention of users, and blocks the tracking if necessary. The researchers had to come up with a method to detect different existing ultrasound-transmission techniques reliably and in real time. Such ultrasonic signals can be used for "cross-device tracking," which makes it possible to monitor a user's behavior across multiple devices, and relevant user profiles can be merged with one another. The new procedure transmits interference signals using the speaker of a mobile device, masking and blocking the ultrasonic data transfer. Acoustic cookies can be neutralized by this process before operating systems or mobile applications can access them, and users can selectively block cookies without affecting the functionality of their device.

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Purdue researchers Wenzhuo Wu and Peide Ye holding tellerene solution Rare Element to Provide Better Material for High-Speed Electronics
Purdue University News
Kayla Wiles
May 24, 2018

Purdue University researchers have discovered a new two-dimensional (2D) material called tellurene, derived from the rare element tellurium, which could enable the production of transistors better able to carry a current throughout a computer chip. "All transistors need to send a large current, which translates to high-speed electronics," says Purdue's Peide Ye, adding that a 2D material can send a current over a larger surface area. Tellurene achieves a stable, sheet-like transistor structure with faster-moving "carriers," which refers to electrons and the holes they leave in their place. Since electronics are typically used at room temperature, tellurene's high carrier mobility at room temperature makes it more practical and cost-effective than other 2D materials. Although tellurene is not highly abundant in the Earth's crust, it can grow on its own without the help of any other substance and could find use in applications such as flexible printed devices that convert mechanical vibrations or heat to electricity.

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Xbox console and controller Xbox Kinect System to Help Parkinson's Patients
Scientific Computing World
May 24, 2018

A team at Brunel University London in the U.K. have created an assistive walking system for Parkinson's disease patients incorporating Microsoft's Kinect peripheral. The system monitors and detects freezing of gait (FOG), with detection triggering a laser to project linear cues on the floor perpendicular to the direction the patient is facing. This helps the patient release their gait and improve their movement. The prototype can monitor a patient's leg movements in their own residence, tracking the angle of their knee and head orientation, delivering greater accuracy and fewer false positives than other products. "The main reason that Microsoft Kinect was used is that it doesn't require the patients to attach any sensors to their bodies in order for the system to detect FOGs," says the university’s Amin Amini. "The Kinect can unobtrusively detect and track subjects' body movements without any attachments, which makes it an ideal device for such applications."

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Security notifications on mobile phones How to Get People to Pay Attention to Mobile Security Notifications
Brigham Young University
Todd Hollingshead
May 24, 2018

Brigham Young University researchers have confirmed that the more frequently users see security warnings on computers and phones, the more they ignore them. The research represents the most complete study to date on the problem of habituation. The study included a five-day lab experiment in which participants' neural and visual responses to warnings were recorded, as well as a 15-day field study of users interacting naturally with privacy permission warnings. For the field study, each time subjects selected an app to download, a warning popped up that listed permissions the app requested, some of which represented threats. Participants exposed to polymorphic warnings (which change in appearance) still adhered to them 76% of the time at the end of the 15 days, while those who saw static warnings only followed them 55% of the time. The team suggests system designers include warnings judiciously and add some visual novelty.

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Anatomical heart 3D printed using isomalt sugar 3D-Printed Sugar Scaffolds Offer Sweet Solution for Tissue Engineering
Illinois News Bureau
Liz Ahlberg Touchstone
May 23, 2018

University of Illinois engineers have constructed a three-dimensional (3D) printer that can generate a delicate scaffold of hardened sugar alcohol isomalt ribbons. The water-soluble, biodegradable structures generated by the printer have potential applications including biomedical engineering, cancer research, and device fabrication. The free-form isomalt printer is equipped with a nozzle that moves as it prints while the melted material solidifies. The engineers partnered with Wolfram Research's Greg Hurst to develop an algorithm to design scaffolds and plot out printing paths. "This is a great way to create shapes around which we can pattern soft materials or grow cells and tissue, then the scaffold dissolves away," says the University of Illinois' Rohit Bhargava.

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Columbia Researchers Squeeze Light Into Nanoscale Devices
Columbia University
Holly Evarts
May 23, 2018

Columbia University researchers have created a "home-built" cryogenic near-field optical microscope that allowed them to directly image, for the first time, the propagation and dynamics of graphene plasmons at variable temperatures down to negative 250-degrees Celsius, an advance that could boost optical communications and signal processing. One particularly surprising discovery made with the new microscope was that compact nanolight can travel along the surface of graphene for distances of many tens of microns without scattering, which could lead to new applications in sensors, imaging, and signal processing, says Columbia’s Dimitri N. Basov. To restrict light to the nanoscale, the researchers used the microscope to explore plasmon-polariton waves at high resolution while they cooled the graphene to cryogenic temperatures. By reducing the temperatures, they "turned off" various scattering mechanisms as they cooled down the samples to discover which mechanisms were relevant. The team is now studying superconducting plasmonics in the "magic angle" system of twisted bilayer graphene.

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Autonomous Boats Could Service Some Cities, Reducing Road Traffic
MIT News
Rob Matheson
May 23, 2018

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and MIT's Senseable City Lab have designed a fleet of highly maneuverable autonomous boats that, in waterway-rich cities, could be used to transport people or deliver goods. The researchers also envision the driverless boats performing city services overnight, instead of during busy daylight hours, to minimize congestion. "Imagine shifting some of infrastructure services that usually take place during the day on the road—deliveries, garbage management, waste management—to the middle of the night, on the water, using a fleet of autonomous boats," says CSAIL's Daniela Rus. The boats have rectangular 4-by-2-meter hulls equipped with sensors, microcontrollers, GPS modules, and other hardware. They could be programmed to quickly self-assemble into floating bridges, concert stages, platforms for food markets, and other structures in a few hours. In addition, environmental sensors could allow the boats to monitor a city's waters. The boats can be printed using an inexpensive three-dimensional (3D) printer, offering potential for mass manufacturing.

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Tunable Diamond String May Hold Key to Quantum Memory
Harvard University
Leah Burrows
May 22, 2018

A new solution from researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. uses a process similar to guitar tuning to improve storage time of quantum memory. Using diamond strings, the researchers calmed the environment of a quantum bit (qubit) to improve memory from tens to several hundred nanoseconds, which is sufficient time to perform many operations on a quantum chip. To accomplish this, the researchers carved the diamond crystal housing the color center into a thin string with electrodes on both sides. When a voltage is applied, the diamond string stretches and increases the frequency of vibrations to which the electron is sensitive, in the same manner that tightening a guitar string increases the string's frequency or pitch. In the future, the researchers hope to lengthen the memory of the qubits to a millisecond, which would permit hundreds of thousands of operations, as well as long-distance quantum communication.

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How Technology Companies Alienate Women During Recruitment
Stanford University
Chana R. Schoenberger
May 22, 2018

Stanford University researchers have determined that the way in which technology companies recruit candidates during on-campus information sessions could play a role in dissuading women from such jobs. The researchers sent a team of observers to 84 recruitment sessions in which 66 companies were seeking technical roles, mostly as entry-level engineers. Although these sessions welcome both men and women, the recruiters missed opportunities to attract women and often pushed them away instead, according to the researchers, potentially deterring women from technology careers. The team noted presenters focused the conversation on only the highly technical aspects of the job, and often referenced aspects of "geek culture" in their remarks that often are exclusionary to women. In addition, men overwhelmingly led the sessions, while women focused on discussing company culture.

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Brookings Survey Finds Worries Over AI Impact on Jobs and Personal Privacy, Concern U.S. Will Fall Behind China
Brookings Institution
Darrell M. West
May 21, 2018

Americans' concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) include job reduction and threats to humanity and personal privacy, with 42% of 1,535 adult Internet users saying AI should be government-regulated, according to a new Brookings Institution survey. Although 14% of respondents were very positive about AI, 27% were only somewhat positive, 23% were not very positive, and 36% were uncertain. In terms of AI's impact on employment, 12% of respondents thought it would create jobs, 13% foresaw no effect, and 38% expected AI to lead to job loss. Nearly half of the respondents felt AI would undermine personal privacy, while 34% expected the technology to make their lives easier, and 13% said it would make their lives harder. Nearly a third of respondents said they considered AI a threat to mankind, compared to 24% who did not.

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New Algorithm Can Help Spot Faked Photos Before They Go Viral
New Scientist
Chris Baraniuk
May 18, 2018

A new system developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University, can identify inconsistencies in doctored images. Image metadata, known as EXIF data, can record variables such as camera and lens make and flash settings. The metadata of 400,000 Flickr photos was used to teach the system to distinguish imagery from two different sources. The researchers say digital imagery must be determined by the particular technologies or processes behind it, and the effects of those processes are generally consistent across the whole image. If the system can learn which devices produce which aspects of an image, it can ascertain whether an image has been altered by combining data from multiple devices. Neal Krawetz, whose online FotoForensics tool can check a photo for evidence of changes, says the team’s work is impressive, but questions its utility in determining changes to images that have been uploaded to social media sites, which may doctor or compress images in ways that could make the new algorithm less accurate.

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