Welcome to the July 3, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Personalized Medicine Software Vulnerability Uncovered by Sandia Researchers
Sandia Labs News
July 1, 2019

Sandia National Laboratories researchers found an exploitable flaw in open source software for genomic analysis. The Sandia team said the vulnerability lies in the Burrows-Wheeler Aligner (BWA) program's process for importing the standardized genome sequence from government servers, which occurs over insecure channels. A hacker could potentially intercept the sequence and send it to a BWA user, along with malware that alters genetic data acquired from sequencing. The malware could then change a patient's genetic data during genome mapping, producing an incorrect final analysis. The Sandia researchers alerted BWA software developers, who issued a patch.

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Supercomputing Asteroid Impacts for Planetary Defenses
Inside HPC
July 1, 2019

Researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Planetary Defense Coordination Office are using one of the agency's most powerful supercomputers to produce three-dimensional (3D) simulations of hypothetical asteroid impact scenarios. The results could help first responders and other agencies make better decisions about how best to defend against life-threatening asteroid events. The simulations, created on the Pleiades supercomputer using NASA's Cart3D and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's ALE3D modeling software, allow researchers to model the fluid flow that occurs when asteroids melt and vaporize as they break up in the atmosphere. Said NASA researcher Donovan Mathias, "What's unique about our analysis is that we can rapidly assess so many scenarios while faithfully representing the key physics."

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Bunch of ads How E-Commerce Sites Manipulate You Into Buying Things You May Not Want
The New York Times
Jennifer Valentino-DeVries
June 25, 2019

E-commerce websites use devious techniques to manipulate consumers into purchasing items and online services they may not otherwise choose. These "dark patterns" range from outright deception to more middle-of-the-road strategies, with the issue of user consent a key point of debate. Princeton University researchers used software to scan more than 10,000 sites and found dark-pattern techniques on approximately 1,200 of them. These techniques include easy sign-ups that are difficult to cancel, and an online reseller site posting fake messages about recent purchases to encourage transactions. Regulatory discussions with lawmakers are also taking place, with one proposal aimed at outlawing certain dark-pattern techniques and broadening the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's enforcement authority.

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Teaching AI to Create Visuals with More Common Sense
MIT News
Adam Conner-Simons
July 1, 2019

Researchers at IBM and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a system that can automatically generate realistic photographic images and edit objects inside them. The system, called GANpaint Studio, could help computer scientists identify "fake" images, as well as helping artists and designers make quick adjustments to visuals. GANpaint Studio also could be used to improve and debug other generative adversarial networks (GANs) under development by analyzing them for "artifact" units that need to be removed. MIT Ph.D. student David Bau said the project was one of the first times computer scientists have been able to “paint with the neurons” of a neural network.

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Walmart Turns to VR to Pick Middle Managers
The Wall Street Journal
Sarah Nassauer; Chip Cutter
June 30, 2019

Virtual reality (VR) training is becoming more common in a range of industries, where it is being used to educate large numbers of workers quickly, or to assess the technical abilities of highly skilled workers. Walmart is using a VR skills assessment as part of its selection process for finding new middle managers. The system examines how workers respond in virtual environments to an angry shopper, a messy aisle, or an underperforming worker, among other situations they might encounter. Walmart's VR assessment produces a report for hiring managers that describes the strengths and weaknesses of job candidates and employees, which can help determine promotion decisions or the need for additional training.

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Security management system monitoring casino operations China's Big Brother Casinos Can Spot Who's Most Likely to Lose Big
Jinshan Hong
June 26, 2019

Some of the world's biggest casino operators in the Chinese territory of Macau are using hidden cameras, facial recognition technology, and digitally enabled poker chips and gaming tables to track which of their customers are likely to lose the most money. The technology uses algorithms that process the way customers behave in a casino to determine their willingness to take risks. These technologies track and rate every customer, building a massive dataset. For example, one system uses facial recognition to alert floor managers when a high-value customer walks into the casino or sits at a gaming table, allowing them to immediately send staff to serve that person. The technology can also help detect any dealer-player collusion to prevent fraud, and tracks the speed and accuracy of dealers as a performance management tool.

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Blurred image on the left lens and clear image on the right Stanford Develops 'Autofocals'—Glasses that Track Your Eyes to Focus on What You See
Stanford News
Andrew Myers
June 28, 2019

Stanford University researchers have developed prototype glasses that automatically restore proper vision to people who would ordinarily need multifocal progressive lenses. The autofocals work much like the lens of the human eye, with fluid-filled lenses that bulge or narrow as the field of vision changes. The device incorporates eye-tracking sensors that triangulate where a person is looking and determines the precise distance to the object of interest. While the researchers did not invent the lenses or eye-trackers, they did develop the software system that harnesses the eye-tracking data to keep the fluid-filled lenses in constant, perfect focus. The researchers tested the prototype on 56 individuals with presbyopia. In tests, subjects said the autofocals performed better and faster than traditional progressive lenses for reading and other tasks.

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A robot with a box in front of a door Robots Could Take 20 Million Manufacturing Jobs by 2030
Anneken Tappe
June 25, 2019

A study by Oxford Economics anticipates machines will replace human workers in about 20 million manufacturing jobs across the world over the next decade. The study found each new robot installed in the manufacturing sector displaces 1.6 manufacturing workers on average, and that the transition to robots tends to generate new jobs as fast as it automates them. In addition, the study found, robots are growing less expensive than many human workers; from 2011 to 2016, the average unit price per robot fell 11%. Oxford Economics also found that robots are increasingly capable of functions in more sophisticated processes and varied contexts.

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An illustration of a brain taking jobs while people stay on the sidelines AI Job Market Cools to a Steady Boil
IEEE Spectrum
Tekla S. Perry
June 28, 2019

In its annual review of artificial intelligence (AI) job postings, job search site Indeed found the number of AI jobs listed from May 2018 to May 2019 increased by 29% over the same period a year earlier. However, that figure was significantly less than the increase over the previous year (58%). Also during that prior year, AI job postings jumped 136% over the previous year's review, a rate with declined significantly in the year through May 2019. The Indeed study did not quantify the gap between job openings and job seekers, but the company says its data suggests that gap is growing and the shortage of AI-related workers is worsening. This trend is good news for engineers with AI expertise, and bad news for companies that need to hire them.

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Researchers Designed a Video Game That Changes on the Fly to Compensate for Lag
Andrew Liszewski
June 25, 2019

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Finland's Aalto University have created a means of eliminating lag in video games, with the game itself automatically adjusting to give players a fair chance of winning when faced with increased latency. The researchers artificially introduced lag to a relatively simply game, Flappy Bird, to study how it affected a player's success. Based on that study, the researchers developed a model that could predict players’ success given the level of latency affecting gameplay, and use those predictions to physically alter the game’s obstacles to compensate for reduced responsiveness in the controls as a result of lag and increase the player's chances of success.

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Declarative Logic Programming: Theory, Systems, and Applications
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