Welcome to the May 3, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

ACM TechNews mobile apps are available for Android phones and tablets (click here) and for iPhones (click here) and iPads (click here).

To view "Headlines At A Glance," hit the link labeled "Click here to view this online" found at the top of the page in the html version. The online version now has a button at the top labeled "Show Headlines."

The da Vinci Research Kit, a surgical robot designed to assist and train surgeons for minimally invasive surgery. The Robot Surgeon Will See You Now
The New York Times
Cade Metz
April 30, 2021

Scientists are developing autonomous surgical robots, using the underlying technologies of driverless cars, autonomous drones, and warehouse robots. Such projects aim to reduce surgeons' workloads and possibly raise surgical success rates by automating particular stages of surgery. Johns Hopkins University's Greg Hager said while total surgical automation is not possible without human oversight, "We can start to build automation tools that make the life of a surgeon a little bit easier." Upgrades to computer vision driven by artificial intelligence could enable robots to perform surgical tasks by themselves, without light-emitting markers to guide their movements. Key to this advancement are neural networks, which learn from images captured by surgical robots, and are incorporated into the University of California, Berkeley's da Vinci Surgical System.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration
'Bat-Sense' Tech Generates Images From Sound
University of Glasgow (U.K.)
April 30, 2021

The means for equipping everyday objects with a bat-like sense of their surroundings has been developed by scientists at the U.K.'s University of Glasgow. They used a machine learning algorithm to produce images via reflected echoes, by measuring the time it takes for sound blips emitted by speakers or radio waves pulsed from antennas to bounce within an indoor environment and return to the sensor. The program can infer the shape, size, and layout of a room, and identify the presence of objects or people, with the results displayed as a video feed that renders the echo data into three-dimensional vision. The researchers said the technique could be used to generate images through potentially any devices outfitted with microphones and speakers, or radio antennae.

Full Article
Breakthrough Army Technology is Game Changer for Deepfake Detection
U.S. Army Research Laboratory
April 29, 2021

Researchers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory and the University of Southern California (USC) have developed a deepfake detection method for supporting mission-essential tasks. The team said DefakeHop's core innovation is Successive Subspace Learning (SSL), a signal representation and transform theory designed as a neural network architecture. USC's C.-C. Jay Kuo described SSL as "a complete data-driven unsupervised framework [that] offers a brand new tool for image processing and understanding tasks such as face biometrics." Among DefakeHop's purported advantages over current state-of-the-art deepfake video detection methods are mathematical transparency, less complexity, and robustness against adversarial attacks.

Full Article

Exterior view of the 3D-printed home in Eindhoven, Netherlands. 3D-Printed Home in Dutch City Expands Housing Options
Associated Press
April 30, 2021

Elize Lutz and Harrie Dekkers' new three-dimensionally (3D) printed home in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, could become commonplace as the country deals with a housing shortage. The residence is composed of 24 concrete elements that were printed layer by layer through additive manufacturing at a factory in Eindhoven, before being transported to a neighborhood. The home is part of Project Milestone, an initiative of Eindhoven's city hall, its Technical University, and construction companies. The university's Theo Salet said the process uses concrete with the consistency of toothpaste, to ensure sufficient strength for construction and sufficient wetness so the layers stick together.

Full Article
Spectre Exploits Beat All Mitigations: Fixes to Severely Degrade Performance
Tom's Hardware
Anton Shilov
May 1, 2021

Three new variants of Spectre exploits that affect all modern chips from AMD and Intel with micro-op caches were discovered by researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of California, San Diego. The variants include a same-thread cross-domain attack that leaks across the user-kernel boundary; a cross-simultaneous multithreading (SMT) hack that transmits across two SMT threads operating on the same physical core, but different logical cores, through the micro-op cache; and transient execution attacks that can leak unauthorized secrets accessed along a misspeculated path, even before a transient instruction can be sent to execution. The researchers suspect mitigating the exploits will degrade performance more significantly than fixes for previous Spectre vulnerabilities. AMD and Intel were alerted, but have issued no microcode updates or operating system patches.

Full Article

The autonomous apple-harvesting robot. Advanced Core Processing: Robot Technology Appealing for Apple Growers
Monash University (Australia)
April 28, 2021

Researchers at Australia's Monash University have developed autonomous robotic technology capable of harvesting apples. At full capacity, the robot can identify, pick, and deposit an apple in as little as seven seconds, with a median rate of 12.6 seconds per apple. Trials showed the robot could harvest over 85% of reachable apples within a canopy as identified by its vision system, with less than 6% of the harvest damaged by stem removal. Monash's Chao Chen said the vision system uses deep learning to identify apples within its range, and to identify and categorize obstacles like branches. Said Chen, "We also implemented a 'path-planning' algorithm that was able to generate collision-free trajectories for more than 95% of all reachable apples in the canopy."

Full Article
ML Algorithm Helps Unravel the Physics Underlying Quantum Systems
University of Bristol News (U.K.)
April 29, 2021

Scientists in the Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QETLabs) of the U.K.’s University of Bristol have designed an algorithm that provides insights into the underlying physics of quantum systems. The algorithm is an autonomous agent, using machine learning to reverse-engineer Hamiltonian models to overcome multiple complexities; it designs and conducts experiments on a targeted quantum system, with the resulting data fed back to the algorithm. The algorithm then proposes candidate Hamiltonian models to characterize the target system and differentiates them using statistical metrics. QETLabs' Anthony Laing said the researchers "have potentially turned a new page in scientific investigation by bestowing machines with the capability to learn from experiments and discover new physics. The consequences could be far-reaching indeed."

Full Article

People wear facemasks as they walk near Macy’s flagship store in New York City. As More Retailers Turn to Tech, Macy's Store Employees Score Victory in Challenging Self-Checkout in Mobile App
Melissa Repko
April 30, 2021

A union for employees at department store chain Macy's has won a victory against automation, as an independent arbitrator ruled the retailer breached its bargaining agreement and must exclude departments that have commission-based pay from self-checkout. The United Food and Commercial Workers union sued on behalf of about 600 of its members at Macy’s stores in Boston and Rhode Island on the grounds the mobile scan and pay self-checkout application prevented plaintiffs from earning commissions on sales. The suit highlights the tension between technology and retail employees as electronic commerce steals business from brick-and-mortar stores, a situation compounded by the pandemic. Santiago Gallino at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania said retailers are facing pressure "to reinvent themselves and rethink the role of employees," or risk being driven out of business.

Full Article
Using Naturalistic Driving Data for Early Detection of Mild Cognitive Impairment, Dementia
News-Medical Life Sciences
Emily Henderson
April 28, 2021

Columbia University researchers used machine learning (ML) algorithms to analyze naturalistic driving data to identify mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia in older drivers. The team trained the ML models on driving data captured by in-vehicle recording devices from 2,977 participants of the Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers project. Columbia Engineering's Sharon Di said, "Based on variables derived from the naturalistic driving data and basic demographic characteristics, such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, and education level, we could predict mild cognitive impairment and dementia with 88% accuracy." Further analysis found age to be most predictive of MCI and dementia, followed by the number of trips traveled within 15 miles of home, race/ethnicity, minutes per trip chain, minutes per trip, and number of hard-braking events.

Full Article
Drones Provide Bird's Eye View of How Turbulent Tidal Flows Affect Seabird Foraging Habits
University of Plymouth (U.K.)
Alan Williams
April 28, 2021

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast and the University of Plymouth in the U.K. and Bielefeld University in Germany used drones and machine learning to determine how a seabird's behavior changes based on the movement of tidal flows. Their research was focused on a popular foraging spot for terns in the wake of a tidal turbine structure set in a tidal channel in Northern Ireland. Using drone tracking in conjunction with advanced statistical modeling, they found that terns actively foraged over swirling patches of water, but would stay on course when eruptions of upwelling water were detected ahead of their flight path.

Full Article
Microsoft Finds Memory Allocation Holes in Range of IoT, Industrial Technology
Chris Duckett
April 30, 2021

The security research unit for Microsoft's new Azure Defender for IoT product discovered a number of poor memory allocation operations in code used in Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT), like industrial control systems, that could fuel malicious code execution. Dubbed BadAlloc, the exploits are associated with improperly validating input, which leads to heap overflows. The team, called Section 52, said the use of these functions becomes problematic when passed external input that can trigger an integer overflow or wraparound as values to the functions. Microsoft said it alerted the affected vendors (including Google Cloud, ARM, Amazon, Red Hat, Texas Instruments, and Samsung Tizen) and patched the vulnerabilities in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The team recommended the isolation of IoT devices and OT networks from corporate information technology networks using firewalls.

Full Article

Using virtual reality to assess and improve balance in older adults. VR Could Help Improve Balance in Older People
University of Bath (U.K.)
April 28, 2021

Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Bath and Portugal's FIFA Medical Center of Excellence are exploring the use of virtual reality (VR) to improve balance and prevent falls in older people. The researchers reviewed data from 19 studies to investigate the validity, reliability, safety, feasibility, and effectiveness of head-mounted display systems for assessing and training balance in older adults. They found VR could not only effectively evaluate balance and help prevent falls and improve postural control and gait patterns, but also differentiate between healthy and balance-impaired individuals. Bath's Dr. Pooya Soltani said, "VR gives us the flexibility to add disorientating effects or resize and remove elements, to test how well participants maintain their balance."

Full Article
Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics
AI-Curated Custom Feeds by Subject

Association for Computing Machinery

1601 Broadway, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10019-7434

ACM Media Sales

If you are interested in advertising in ACM TechNews or other ACM publications, please contact ACM Media Sales or (212) 626-0686, or visit ACM Media for more information.

To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: [email protected]