Welcome to the May 8, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Shoppers in Trader Joe’s Drones in Aisle 5? Grocery Stores Becoming Unusual Hotbeds of Innovation
The Washington Post
Peter Holley
May 3, 2019

Texas-based data subscription service Pensa has created a drone and its underlying artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance grocery operations. The drone can hover to scan grocery shelves and check inventory levels, and uploads this data to the cloud so grocers and brand manufacturers can leverage fine-grained information about customers' shopping habits. Walmart is testing in New York its Intelligent Retail Lab, which incorporates AI-driven cameras, sensors, and processors to flag out-of-stock items to internal apps monitored by workers. Pensa CEO Richard Schwartz said grocery stores are serving as a testbed for the growing overlap between online and offline domains.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivering the keynote address at Build Microsoft Offers Software Tools to Secure Elections
Associated Press
Frank Bajak
May 6, 2019

Microsoft has announced it is working with Galois, a firm producing a secure prototype voting system under the aegis of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to develop open source software to secure elections. Microsoft said the software, called ElectionGuard, will be released this summer, with early prototypes ready to be tested for the 2020 general elections. Microsoft Research's Josh Benaloh said the software kit "can be used with a ballot-marking device...[and] with an optical scanner, on hand-marked paper ballots." By registering an encrypted version of each vote, ElectionGuard will help guarantee accurate counting, as well as supporting dependable post-election audits and recounts. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the system would help “modernize all of the election infrastructure everywhere in the world.”

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Show Your Hands: Smartwatches Sense Hand Activity
Carnegie Mellon University
Byron Spice
May 6, 2019

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) can determine when a standard smartwatch wearer is typing on a keyboard, washing dishes, petting a dog, pouring from a pitcher, or cutting with scissors. After making a few changes to the watch's operating system, the researchers found they could use its accelerometer to recognize hand motions. In addition, in some cases, the researchers could identify 25 different hand motions at about 95% accuracy using bio-acoustic sounds. Said HCII researcher Chris Harrison, "A wide variety of apps could be made smarter and more context-sensitive if our devices knew the activity of our bodies and hands."

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Is AI a New Weapon in Breast Cancer Detection?
U.S. News & World Report
Amy Norton
May 7, 2019

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers suggest artificial intelligence (AI) can improve breast cancer risk assessment by employing a variant of an algorithm that could differentiate innocuous moles from malignant skin cancer better than dermatologists. The researchers fed more than 70,000 digital mammogram images to the AI, then designed two deep learning models. One model used mammography data alone, while the other "hybrid" model factored in additional variables like age, family history, and patient breast density. Both AI models outperformed the standard technique in identifying women at high risk of breast cancer, with the hybrid model offering superior accuracy.

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A woman weaving Technology Could Help Reduce Exploitation of Traditional Weavers in Malaysia
Lancaster University
May 7, 2019

Researchers at Lancaster University (LU) in the U.K. and Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia report that new smartphone applications, combined with greater usage of social media, could diminish the exploitation of traditional rural weavers in Malaysia. The researchers, who captured the stories of rural weavers to share on online platforms, point out that technology could help the weavers sell their wares directly. Said LU's Min Zhang, "Technological solutions will increase weavers' visibility in the market, and they will learn of the less exploitative transactions available, such as weaving for their own customers.”

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A model of a robo-Caudipteryx Why Is This Ostrich Wearing an Extra Set of Wings?
The New York Times
Cara Giaimo
May 2, 2019

Researchers used robotic technology and young ostriches wearing artificial wings to gain insight into how a dinosaur's running gait may have caused its wings to flap in what may have been an evolutionary precursor to flight. The researchers performed three experiments focused on Caudipteryx, which walked on two legs and had a pair of feathery "proto-wings." First, the team used fossil analyses to develop a simplified mathematical model of the dinosaur. They then simulated a running motion in the model's legs, and calculated how other parts of the body would respond. For the second test, the team created a robo-Caudipteryx and ran it on a treadmill; they observed consistent oscillation even as they increased and decreased wing length. Finally, the team built a harness with force sensors and a set of wings, and applied it to many different types of birds, before settling on a six-month-old ostrich. As the ostrich ran, flapping was evident, and sensors measured a small amount of lift.

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Making a 'To Do' List for Trauma Docs
Drexel Now
Britt Faulstick
May 6, 2019

Researchers at Drexel University, working with doctors at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., have created and implemented the first digital procedural checklist for trauma centers. The tablet-based digital checklist, based on nearly a decade of research, design, development, and testing, can help doctors stay on track and record valuable data without slowing trauma resuscitation processes. The team found that implementing the digital checklist did not slow the work of trauma teams, and that the teams using the digital list more frequently completed the 18 most critical tasks. Said Drexel University researcher Aleksandra Sarcevic, "We consider this a success for the digital checklist, because our results show that it did not slow trauma resuscitation time, and it even boosted compliance with the critical tasks."

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An African farmer using a silver device Smart Tech the New Tool for African Farmers
Agence France-Presse
May 5, 2019

Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are embracing technology to improve productivity, reduce costs, and smooth out issues in the market. For example, Senegal's Lifantou offers a one-stop platform that draws on a database of crop production and schools to match potential demand with supply. Another project, called Pix Fruit, aims to help farmers better estimate their mango crops. Farmers take photos of a selection of trees in their fields with a smartphone; fruit-recognition technology calculates the likely overall harvest, based on data compiled with the help of drones. The system was developed with help from CIRAD, the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development.

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Software Eases the Pain of Multiple UI Designs
University of Bath
Chris Melvin
May 7, 2019

Researchers at the University of Bath in the U.K., Simon Fraser University in Canada, and the University of Maryland have developed software that permits user interface (UI) design based on flexible principles to intelligently suggest layouts for different screens. Two current approaches to help automate this process each have limitations. The first—traditional constraint-based layout—applies rigid rules to design, but that rigidity can cause problems when changing sizes and orientations. The second method, flow layout, in which components of screen design automatically move into new rows or columns as space runs out, is limited in the way alignment of those components can be specified. The new ORC Layout software allows designers to use all the best features of constraint-based layout and flow layout together, while specifying flexible alternatives for UI components and widgets.

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Google Will Give Users More Control Over Who Tracks Them Online
Gerrit De Vynck
May 7, 2019

Google is modifying its Chrome Web browser to give users more control over parties who track their online habits. The changes will require developers to specify the scope of their online tracking software, or cookies, to let users specify which cookies can and cannot follow them. Google's move comes as regulators and consumers worldwide clamor for greater transparency on how their personal data is being used, as well as more privacy to protect against online monitoring. Google envisions an environment in which websites can recognize, recall, and track users, provided those people are aware and can choose to opt out.

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Two business people standing in server room with laptop and discussing Technology Could Widen the Gender Employment Gap, IMF Warns
Karen Gilchrist
May 7, 2019

A new report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) determined that women are in greater danger of having their jobs automated, compared to men. According to the report, up to 26 million women in major economies could be replaced by automation in the next 20 years, if current technological innovation rates continue. IMF researchers said they found that "women, on average, perform more routine or codifiable tasks than men across all sectors and occupations—tasks that are more prone to automation. Moreover, women perform fewer tasks requiring analytical input or abstract thinking (e.g., information-processing skills), where technological change can be complementary to human skills and improve labor productivity." Job automation also threatens older, less well-educated women more than any other demographic.

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GM's Driverless Car Unit Receives $1.2-Billion Equity Investment
The Wall Street Journal
Mike Colias
May 7, 2019

General Motors (GM)'s driverless-car developer unit has attracted $1.2 billion more in international equity investment, for a total valuation of $19 billion. GM established its Cruise division as an independent legal entity, to get venture capitalists to invest in emerging technology apart from the automaker's core manufacturing operations. Cruise said it will almost double its headcount as it works toward deploying a commercial autonomous taxi service by year's end. Cruise is testing approximately 180 driverless cars on San Francisco streets, and has built prototypes that lack steering wheels or brake pedals, suggesting an eventual deployment without safety drivers.

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