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Welcome to the June 12, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Artworks next to one another About Faces: Geometric Style of Portrait Artwork
June 5, 2019

Researchers at the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel have developed a technique to automatically analyze portrait artwork, factoring in fine-grained detail, accuracy, and individual artistic style. The research aimed to furnish a computational methodology for detecting facial features in artwork, or facial landmarks like eye or mouth corners. The Efi Arazi School of Computer Science's Ariel Shamir said, "Our key idea was to create such data using what we call 'artistic augmentation.' We transform photographic face data to be more similar to artistic portraits and use it to train new models for neural networks that work better for artistic inputs." The researchers assessed their detection technique by producing a dataset of artistic faces, featuring 160 portraits by 16 artists in various genres and styles, with wide variance in geometry and texture.

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Computer Virus Has Thrown Philadelphia's Court System Into Chaos
The Verge
Colin Lecher
June 11, 2019

As Baltimore continues to deal with a malware attack, a computer virus has crippled Philadelphia's online court system for more than three weeks, raising issues about how cities can respond when essential services are suddenly cut off. Courts blame the problem on malware infecting "a limited number" of computers, which shut down the system as a precautionary measure. In addition to preventing electronic filing of court documents, the virus has blocked jury-duty signups, taken the court website offline, and temporarily closed the court email system. The outage is forcing attorneys to file paperwork in person, and Community Legal Services lawyer Rachel Gallegos warned a judge that "basic due process protections" are being curtailed, preventing homeowners from filing for foreclosure postponements, for example. The courts said they have contracted with a cybersecurity company to investigate the problem, but disclosing additional information "could jeopardize the remediation process."

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New Tool Shows Goodwill May Trump Profit as Work Motivator
University of Waterloo News
June 11, 2019

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada studying a new online work-sharing platform designed to give charities money found that people committing their skills and labor to a specific task tended to be more productive if they knew a preferred charity would be paid, rather than themselves. The PledgeWork platform lets employers post tasks, deposit the cost for the job, and select the charities to contribute the task’s cost to, or let volunteers choose. The volunteers select tasks, as well as the charity they want to support, unless pre-specified. Once the task is completed, the requester verifies the task results match their criteria, then approves a donation to the specified charity. Waterloo's Edward Lank suggests the platform may help people surmount perceived obstacles to charitable donations, "in a way that allows people to use their skills to benefit a charity anonymously."

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3-D printed objects A 3D Printer Powered by Machine Vision, AI
MIT News
Zach Winn
June 4, 2019

Inkbit, a startup out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working to bring the benefits of three-dimensional (3D) printing to a range of products never previously printed. The researchers paired the company's multimaterial inkjet 3D printer with machine vision and machine learning systems, allowing it to comprehensively scan each layer of an object as it is being printed to correct errors in real time. The machine learning system uses that information to predict the warping behavior of materials, in order to make more accurate final products. Said Inkbit CEO Davide Marini, "Our machine is the first one that can learn the properties of a material and predict its behavior."

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Python Predicted to Overtake C and Java in Next 4 Years
Liam Tung
June 10, 2019

In the most recent Tiobe programming language index, Java remains most popular, followed by C. Python ranks third with a rating of 8.5%, up 2.77 percentage points compared to the same time last year. Tiobe analysts believe this trend will continue, and Python probably will become the most popular programming language in the world within three or four years. Python's popularity is driven by strong growth in software engineering combined with its usability, especially when compared with Java and C. Another sign of Python's popularity is Microsoft's Visual Studio Code (VS Code) marketplace, where Python extension for VS Code is the top extension with over 9 million installs, up from 8 million in April.

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Europe Announces 8 Sites to Host Supercomputers
June 7, 2019

The European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC) has chosen eight European Union (EU)-based sites to host supercomputers to support scientific, industrial, and corporate application development projects. The sites will be in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain. The supercomputers will be used to help develop apps for personalized medicine, drug and material design, bioengineering, weather forecasting, and climate change. Nineteen of the 28 EU countries participating in the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking will be members of the consortia running the sites, which will have a total budget of €840 million (about $950 million).

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A collaborative robot targeting laser therapy on the patient Swinburne Researchers Train Robots to Relieve Chronic Pain
Swinburne University of Technology (Australia)
June 7, 2019

Researchers at Swinburne University in Australia have developed a collaborative robot system that can treat back, neck, and head pain caused by soft tissue injury automatically. The system analyzes the patient with a thermal camera, then uses a collaborative robot to apply targeted laser therapy to identified pain "hot spots." The researchers created a fully working prototype that provides such photobiomodulation therapy for chronic pain. Said Swinburne’s Mats Isaksson, "Using the same technology used in cricket to show whether the ball has made contact with the bat, a thermal camera scans the patient and locates injuries and inflammation by identifying hot spots in a thermal image."

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Trucks on road Life on the Road Easier as Truckers Adopt Digital Tech
The Wall Street Journal
Angus Loten
June 5, 2019

Trucking, logistics, and supply-chain operators are adopting digital tools, including artificial intelligence (AI), to improve long-haul freight shipping. Fleet operator Hub Group has introduced AI-powered capabilities to ensure more efficient delivery and raise productivity; these capabilities exploit more than 10 million data points gathered by sensors and other equipment the company has been incorporating into its truck fleet over the past two years. Hub CIO Vava Dimond said the initiative hopes to mitigate truckers' paperwork burden with an app that tracks and automatically fills out route logs and proof of delivery notices. Older transportation companies are being pressured to modernize by developing platforms that combine various datasets to track orders, truck locations, and other vital information in real time, and boosting fuel expenditure and scheduling efficiency.

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Data Science Analysis Finds Beethoven's Style in His String Quartets
Eva Amsen
June 6, 2019

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland determined Beethoven’s unique musical style by analyzing an annotated archive of the composer’s 16 string quartets, because the unique sounds they produce can be defined as combinations of data. This data analysis technique's feasibility was demonstrated by picking out well-known patterns in how chords in the quartets followed each other. EPFL's Martin Rohrmeier said, "The aim of our lab is to understand how music works. New state-of-the-art methods in statistics and data science make it possible for us to analyze music in ways that were out of reach for traditional musicology."

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Dynamics of Key Viral Attack Strategy Visible for First Time
Colorado State University
Anne Manning
June 6, 2019

Detailed imaging technology and computational analyses developed by researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) can visualize, quantify, and understand frameshifting mechanisms at the level of single molecules in living cells. The CSU researchers were able to simultaneously monitor the translation of single RNAs into two unique protein chains during frameshifting, using the HIV-1 virus's binding fragments rather than the whole virus. Then, the team recreated the frameshifting observations through detailed computer simulations of ribosome traffic along RNA molecules. Said CSU’s Tim Stasevich, “Our hope is that these integrated experimental and computational methods, allowing us to observe and predict unique aspects of viral replication, can offer strategies for future antiviral therapies.”

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Creating an AI can be 5x Worse for the Planet than a Car
New Scientist
Donna Lu
June 6, 2019

The training of a single artificial intelligence (AI) program can amount to as much as 284 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or about five times the lifetime emissions of an average car, according to researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A common approach to training AI involves feeding the program billions of written articles so it learns to understand the meaning of words and how sentences are constructed. The researchers measured the environmental impact of this approach by training four different AIs for one day each, and sampling the energy consumption of each. The team then calculated the total power required to train each AI, and estimated the resulting carbon footprint based on average carbon emissions of power production in the U.S.

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Microsoft symbol inside a cloud shape Microsoft Wants More Security Researchers to Hack Into Its Cloud
Dina Bass
June 7, 2019

Microsoft is encouraging security researchers to try hacking its flagship Azure cloud-computing service, so the company can find and correct vulnerabilities. Microsoft's Kymberlee Price said too few "white hat" hackers are focusing on this problem, so the company plans to issue a Safe Harbor statement promising no legal action against researchers who report a bug. Microsoft also is designing a game-like reward system for those who find security flaws. Azure CTO Mark Russinovich said the cloud currently is a less enticing target for hackers, but "The level of sophistication of the attackers and the interest in [attacking] the cloud just continues to grow as the cloud continues to grow."

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Hardness of Approximation Between P and NP
2019 Stanford University Frontier of AI-Assisted Care Scientific Symposium

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