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Welcome to the August 16, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Trilce Estrada Trilce Estrada Wins 2019 ACM SIGHPC Emerging Woman Leader in Technical Computing Award
Inside HPC
August 15, 2019

University of New Mexico researcher Trilce Estrada has received the 2019 ACM SIGHPC Emerging Woman Leader in Technical Computing award. Estrada is recognized for her innovative and transformative deployment of machine learning for knowledge discovery in molecular dynamic simulations and in situ analytics. The Emerging Woman Leader in Technical Computing Award recognizes mid-career women in the technical and high-performance computing communities. In addition to her research efforts, Estrada served for five years as the chair of the International Parallel and Distributed Process Symposium's PhD Forum, as well as Chair of the Mentor/Protégé program for SC19. She is also committed to increasing the participation of women and Latinx in the high-performance computing field, serving as a role model for other women and minorities.

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comm-connected vehicles A 'Living Lab' for Connected Vehicles
Government Computer News
Stephanie Kanowitz
August 12, 2019

Two autonomous vehicle testbeds in Georgia have partnered on a living laboratory for connected-vehicle technology. The Ray lab and the city of Peachtree Corners enlisted an 18-mile segment of I-85, with access to fiber optics and 5G networks, for exploring the performance of future autonomous vehicles on urban and rural roads, via a test track. Peachtree Corners' Curiosity Lab will investigate reduced speeds and pedestrian encounters. Peachtree Corners city manager Brian Johnson said, "All of it is going to be tied in through the city's own fiber-optic network that we own into a network operations center so all of this will be and under video surveillance." The Ray is working with the Georgia Transportation Department on a platform for managing data culled from connected vehicles with roadside equipment. The Ray's Allie Kelly said data from the platform and Peachtree Corners "can be shared with our data management system, and we can help Peachtree Corners have some informed insight into that data strength."

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Cashierless Stores Make Inroads in U.S.
The Wall Street Journal
John Murawski
August 12, 2019

U.S. retailers are moving forward with artificial intelligence (AI) systems to track what products shoppers pick up and then automatically bill their accounts when they leave the store. A recent International Data Corp. survey of about 400 retailers from around the world found that 28% are testing or piloting cashierless AI systems. For example, Sam's Club plans to offer AI-powered cashierless shopping later this month at a 32,000-square-foot store in Dallas, Texas. After the AI system is in place, customers will use their smartphone cameras to scan a product; the cloud-based system will use computer vision and machine learning to recognize the products by matching them to a database of stored images.

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DSLR camera Hackers Could Use Wi-Fi to Install Ransomware on DSLR Cameras
New Scientist
Donna Lu
August 11, 2019

Eyal Itkin, a researcher at the Israel-based firm Check Point, found that digital cameras with built-in Wi-Fi have a vulnerability in the way they transfer information, known as the Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP). An external device, such as a laptop, uses PTP to ask the camera for pictures and other information, and the camera responds with the requested information. Itkin found that by sending specific requests, he could take control of the camera. The hack can occur via two methods: an attacker could place a fake public Wi-Fi access point in a public location and then take control of any camera that connects to it; or if the camera is plugged into a computer that an attacker already has control of or has infected with malware.

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AR work in Central Park Apple Transforms Central Park Into an Augmented Reality Gallery
The New York Times
Sophie Haigney
August 9, 2019

Apple has launched an intiative called [AR]T, a curation of augmented reality (AR) art featured in a series of guided walks in New York City's Central Park. Apple worked with the New Museum to select artists to create an AR work that has been choreographed into the landscape of the tour, using public space as a canvas. The walking tours will be free and open to the public, and similar events will be offered in San Francisco, London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Viewers will be provided with headphones and an iPhone; along the route, in specific places, works of art appear on the screen against the backdrop of the viewer's surroundings. Said New Museum director Lisa Phillips, "The New Museum has always led at the intersection of art and tech and we could not have asked for a better partner in Apple to support the fantastic visions of these pioneering artists."

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Milinda Fernando, Staci A. Smith Named Recipients of 2019 ACM-IEEE CS George Michael Memorial HPC Fellowships
Association for Computing Machinery
Jim Ormond
August 15, 2019

ACM announced the University of Utah's Milinda Shayamal Fernando and the University of Arizona's Staci A. Smith as recipients of the 2019 ACM-IEEE Computer Society George Michael Memorial High-Performance Computing Fellowships. Fernando is being recognized for research into high-performance algorithms for applications in relativity, geosciences, and computational fluid dynamics. His work focuses on making computer simulations on high-performance computers easy to use, portable, and scalable. Smith's fellowship credits her development of a novel dynamic rerouting algorithm for fat-tree interconnects. The algorithm improves execution time up to 46%, compared with other default routing algorithms.

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universe generated on a supercomputer, illustration Virtual 'Universe Machine' Sheds Light on Galaxy Evolution
University of Arizona
Daniel Stolte
August 9, 2019

Researchers at the University of Arizona (UA) have used supercomputer simulations to understand how galaxies such as the Milky Way come into existence. The researchers generated millions of different simulated universes on a supercomputer, each of which obeyed different physical theories for how galaxies should form. The team evaluated each simulated universe to determine how similar galaxies appeared compared to the true universe. The universes most like our own all had similar underlying physical rules, demonstrating a powerful new approach for studying galaxy formation. The researchers utilized computing resources at the Ames Research Center, the Leibniz-Rechenzentrum, and the "Ocelote" supercomputer at the UA High Performance Computing cluster. Two-thousand processors analyzed the data simultaneously over three weeks, generating more than 8 million simulated universes.

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Which U.S. State Has Narrowed STEM Gender Gap Most?
Eileen Brown
August 9, 2019 analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey to evaluate progress in closing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields across the U.S. Not one state had women outnumbering men in STEM fields, and New York ranked second among states with the smallest gender gap in STEM degrees. Washington, D.C., ranked first, with a gender gap slightly under 7%, while Wyoming made the most headway of any state, shrinking the STEM worker gender gap by 18.2% between 2015 and 2017. The lowest gender gap among STEM employees nationwide was in D.C., at 13.8%. Meanwhile, Rhode Island's gender gap has risen 21.6% since 2015—the highest in the U.S.—followed by Delaware, with a 10.4% wider gap in STEM gender pay.

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robotic characters Disney Research Makes Dynamic Robots Less Wiggly, More Lifelike
IEEE Spectrum
Evan Ackerman
August 8, 2019

Disney Research scientists have created a new dynamic vibration-damping technique for robots, to make their movements less wiggly, and more natural. The computational tool predictively models robotic motions (which are designed by animators) that suppress vibrations. Afterward, the tool commands the motors to make small, additional motions to cancel out those vibrations, without interfering with the robot's intended movements. The methodology's efficacy greatly relies on the accuracy of the robot model. To accommodate the challenge of dealing with increasingly complex robotic characters, the researchers prioritize damping out the most visible large-amplitude vibrations.

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Seeing How Computers 'Think' Helps Humans Stump Machines
University of Maryland
August 6, 2019

University of Maryland (UMD) researchers have developed a technique for reliably generating questions that challenge computers, and mirror the complexity of human language via human-computer collaboration. The researchers invented an interface that shows words the computer uses as a basis for its guesses as a person types a question, then edits the question to exploit weaknesses. The researchers compiled a dataset of 1,213 questions that humans can easily answer, yet are beyond the capabilities of the best modern computer-answering systems. UMD's Jordan Boyd-Graber said tests on the dataset "will reveal if a computer language system is actually reading and doing the same sorts of processing that humans are able to do." A computer that masters these questions will be better enabled to understand language than any current system, and the dataset also could be used to train improved machine learning algorithms.

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Schrodinger's Cat with 20 Qubits
Forschungszentrum Jülich
August 13, 2019

An international team that includes researchers at Forschungszentrum Julich in Germany has converted 20 entangled quantum bits (qubits) into a cat state of superposition, which is seen as a key milestone in quantum-computer development. A cat state—named after the Schrodinger's cat analogy—is a quantum state with two diametrically opposed conditions, existing simultaneously. The team generated the cat-state qubits via a programmable quantum simulator, establishing a new record that supports validity, even if other physical strategies with optical photons, trapped ions, or superconducting quantum circuits are accounted for. Said Julich's Jian Cui, "The secret of the enormous efficiency and performance expected of future quantum computers is to be found in this superposition of states." The creation of 20 qubits means the number of superimposed states surpasses one million.

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virtual character You Can Now Practice Firing Someone in VR
Technology Review
August 8, 2019

Virtual reality (VR) workplace training provider Talespin has developed virtual characters to train people in soft management skills. One such character is an avatar designed to familiarize learners with the experience of firing employees. The avatar, Barry, is a virtual worker, whose body language, voice, and other expressions can guide trainees as they interact with him in a firing situation. Tailspin CEO Kyle Jackson says, "We are seeing repeated interest in building training products around interviewing skills, navigating difficult conversations, consultative selling, performance reviews, and identifying diversity and inclusion best practices, to name a few." Jackson added that the Barry avatar follows a set script, precluding the character from natural engagement with trainees.

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Researchers Find Flaw in Highly-Secure Industrial Computers
The Jerusalem Post
Eytan Halon
August 12, 2019

Scientists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel said they have found "critical vulnerabilities" in a highly secure programmable logic controller (PLC) used to run manufacturing processes. The team successfully hacked the Siemens S7 Simatic PLC, by reverse-engineering the controller's cryptographic protocol. The researchers used a rogue engineering workstation that posed as a Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal engineering framework, to engage the Simatic S7-1500 PLC governing an industrial system. TAU's Avishai Wool said, "The station was able to remotely start and stop the PLC via the commandeered Siemens communications architecture, potentially wreaking havoc on an industrial process. We were then able to wrest the controls from the TIA and surreptitiously download rogue command logic to the S7-1500 PLC."

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The Handbook of Multimodal-Multisensor Interfaces - Volume III
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