Welcome to the December 20, 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."

People wearing masks on an escalator in a subway station in Seoul, South Koreal. South Korea to Test AI-Powered Facial Recognition to Track COVID-19 Cases
Sangmi Cha
December 13, 2021

South Korea in January plans launch a pilot project in the city of Bucheon that will use an artificially-intelligent algorithm, facial recognition technology, and nearly 11,000 CCTV cameras to track the movements of persons infected with COVID-19, anyone they had close contact with, and whether they were wearing a mask. The system can track up to 10 people simultaneously in five to ten minutes, according to a plan submitted by the city. There are concerns, however, that the government will retain and harness the resulting data far beyond the needs of the pandemic. "The government's plan to become a Big Brother on the pretext of COVID is a neo-totalitarian idea," said opposition lawmaker Park Dae-chul.

Full Article
PPPL Unravels Puzzle to Speed Development of Fusion Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
John Greenwald
December 17, 2021

A computational technique developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) can model the movement of free electrons during fusion-harnessing experiments. The algorithm would simulate pitch-angle scattering without losing the energy of the speeding electrons. PPPL's Yichen Fu said, "By solving the trajectories we can know the probability of electrons choosing every path, and knowing that enables more accurate simulations that can lead to better control of the plasma." PPPL's Hong Qin said the research findings offer a strong mathematical proof of the first working algorithm for solving the equation.

Full Article

An illustration of a seven-transmon superconducting quantum processor. Milestone in Quantum Computing With Error Correction
December 19, 2021

Scientists at Dutch quantum computing research institute QuTech have integrated high-fidelity operations on encoded quantum data with a scalable framework for repeated data stabilization, a key milestone in the development of quantum error correction. The resulting logical quantum bit (qubit) features seven physical qubits or superconducting transmons. QuTech's Jorge Marques said, "We do three types of logical-qubit operations: initializing the logical qubit in any state, transforming it with gates, and measuring it. We show that all operations can be done directly on encoded information. For each type, we observe higher performance for fault-tolerant variants over non-fault-tolerant variants."

Full Article

A robotic hand performing a hyperextended pinch on the top surface of an egg. Stanford Engineers Develop Robotic Hand with Gecko-Inspired Grip
Stanford News
Taylor Kubota
December 15, 2021

Stanford University engineers have designed a robotic hand that is strong and dexterous, equipped with four multi-jointed digits topped with gecko-like adhesives which create a grip via microscopic flaps to generate a Van der Waals force when in full contact with a surface. The farmHand's adhesives must contact the surface in a specific way, which is accomplished with finger pads that use collapsible ribs to consistently buckle and prevent premature slipping. Special tendons effect a hyperextended pinch, with the end of the fingers pressed pad to pad. The engineers refined the farmHand's design by three-dimensionally printing and testing hard and soft plastic components.

Full Article

A woman talking into her cellphone. Researchers Teach AI to Be Fluent in Finnish Dialects
University of Helsinki (Finland)
Paavo Ihalainen
December 15, 2021

A team of researchers at Finland's University of Helsinki (UH) has constructed artificial intelligence (AI) models to convert standard Finnish into one of 23 Finnish subdialects. The model focuses on detecting dialects from spoken audio as well as plain text, as audio eases identification because many dialects possess distinctive phonetic properties. UH's Khalid Alnajjar said normalizing dialects to standard text "allows analyzing dialectal materials using tools for the Standard Finnish, and we can also use the normalized version as a search item when we want to find something from the dialectal materials." UH's Niko Partanen said, "With this we can improve the current state of Finnish natural language processing solutions and build AI models tailored for individuals."

Full Article

A simulation showing the pairing of silicon and carbon vacancies. ALCF Supercomputers Shed Light on Defect Formation Processes for Qubit Candidate
December 16, 2021

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and the University of Chicago (UChicago) have taken a step toward better control over the formation of vacancies—defects left when atoms are removed from crystalline materials—in silicon carbide. A carbon vacancy in silicon carbide can pair with a neighboring silicon vacancy, and the resulting divacancy is a potential quantum bit candidate. The ANL-UChicago team modeled this pairing and discovered the best temperatures for creating stable divacancies and for non-destructively changing their orientation within the crystal structure. The researchers ran the simulations on several supercomputing resources, including the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility. UChicago's Giulia Galli said, "We are just at the beginning. We want to be able to do our computations much faster, simulate many more defects, and determine what the best defects are for different applications."

Full Article
Voice Technology for the Rest of the World
Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Leah Burrows
December 16, 2021

Academic and corporate researchers are helping to make voice-enabled applications universally available by assembling a multilingual speech dataset encompassing the languages spoken by over 5 billion people. The Multilingual Spoken Words Corpus contains more than 340,000 keywords in 50 languages, with over 23.4 million audio examples compiled so far. The researchers assembled the dataset using recordings from the Mozilla Common Voice Website, then used an algorithm to "automatically identify and extract keywords and synthesize them into a dataset," said Vijay Janapa Reddi of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Reddi said the team aims to "build the voice equivalent of Google search for text and images; a dataset search engine that can go and find what you want, when you want it on the fly, rather than rely on static datasets that are costly and tedious to create."

Full Article

Researchers atop a mountain looking at eruptive bursts from a new, unnamed volcano in Reykjavik, Iceland. Researchers Weave Optical Fibers into Seismic Sensors Science
Paul Voosen
December 9, 2021

Researchers at Switzerland's ETH Zurich used a fiber optic cable extended to a volcano in Iceland to study its interior fluctuations and eruptions. They tapped the fiber with an "interrogator" box that sends a laser pulse and records the pattern of reflections coming back from defects along the cable. This method allows the researchers to generate an image of a passing seismic wave at a distance of 100 kilometers or more. Researchers across the globe are laying fiber optic cables on glaciers, volcanoes, permafrost, and earthquake fault zones due to their low cost, ruggedness, and density. Such fiber has enabled researchers to find previously unknown earthquake faults, study the interior workings of volcanoes and the movements of glaciers and avalanches, and detect shifting pressures from ocean tides and currents.

Full Article
DHL Doubles Robots as Humans Alone Can't Handle Holiday Crunch
Michael Sasso
December 10, 2021

DHL's supply-chain unit has doubled the number of robots it uses in the U.S. to about 1,500 ahead of the holidays, in addition to hiring 15,000 seasonal workers. The move has enabled the parcel delivery company to keep up with orders even as bottlenecks and labor costs grow. DHL's Oscar de Bok said, "The supply-chain disruption that we're seeing at the moment is not a one-time thing. Because of the growth of e-commerce, supply chains are now organized differently because you get major hops and jumps at the end of the supply chain, because that's the end-consumer. All the stores and the wholesalers and distributors that used to be in between are now less, and that's why you get more disruptions in supply chains."

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration

Researchers record gunshot-like sounds in a park. Gunfire or Plastic Bag Popping? Trained Computer Knows the Difference
Florida Atlantic University News Desk
Gisele Galoustian
December 13, 2021

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) researchers studied the reliability of acoustic gunshot sound detector systems based on a dataset of audio recordings of plastic bag explosions in different environments and conditions. They found that gunshot sound detector systems misclassified 75% of plastic bag popping sounds as gunshot sounds. The researchers also developed a classification algorithm based on a convolutional neural network and trained a model to differentiate between gunshots and plastic bag explosions. The model was trained on 374 gunshot samples from an urban sound database. The researchers found the model performed well in distinguishing gunshots from plastic bags popping. Said FAU's Hanqi Zhuang, "We used different environments to give the machine learning algorithm a better perception sense of the differentiation of the closely related sounds."

Full Article

An illustration of a car and its route as depicted on a smartphone. ML Speeds Up Vehicle Routing
MIT News
Becky Ham
December 10, 2021

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a machine learning approach that could speed up vehicle routing algorithms, which tend to slow down when applied to large urban datasets. The new "learning-to-delegate" approach could increase the speed of the strongest algorithmic solvers by determining the most useful subproblems to solve, rather than having the algorithm solve all subproblems. The researchers created a neural network that automatically identifies those subproblems that, when solved, result in the greatest gain in solution quality. The researchers said the approach could be used with a variety of solvers and resource allocation problems. Said MIT's Cathy Wu, "We may unlock new applications that now will be possible because the cost of solving the problem is 10 to 100 times less."

Full Article
University of Cincinatti Open Positions
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]