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Welcome to the January 10, 2022 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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System Recognizes Hand Gestures to Expand Computer Input on a Keyboard
University of Waterloo News (Canada)
January 5, 2022

A new system developed by researchers at Canada's University of Waterloo responds to users' hand gestures as computer commands. The "Typealike" system uses a standard laptop Webcam equipped with a mirror. The system allows different gestures and combinations of gestures to be programmed to trigger various operations. For example, the system could be programmed to increase the volume when it recognizes the user's right hand beside the keyboard with the thumb pointing up. Typealike was trained using machine learning. The program could eliminate the need for keyboard shortcuts and the use of a mouse and trackpad, as well as the need for hand-held controllers in virtual reality.

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Self-driving cars race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Self-Driving Racecars Zip Into History at CES
Yahoo! News
Julie Jammot
January 8, 2022

Self-driving racecars sped around an oval track at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as teams of students from around the world competed against each other in the high-speed Indy Autonomous Challenge. "Minerva," the winning Formula 1 racecar from the Italian-American PoliMOVE team, raced at nearly 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). Markus Lienkamp with Germany's Technische Universität München said the teams programmed the software driving each racecar by analyzing sensor data, in order to anticipate other vehicles' behaviors and maneuver accordingly. Lienkamp said each race “plays out in seconds,” as the computer driving each vehicle “has to make the same decisions as a human driver, despite the speed," he said.

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The three-dimensionally printed flexible organic light-emitting diode display prototype is about 1.5 inches on each side and features 64 pixels. Researchers Develop First Fully 3D-Printed, Flexible OLED Display
University of Minnesota College of Science & Engineering
January 7, 2022

University of Minnesota Twin Cities (U of M) researchers three-dimensionally (3D)-printed a flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display on a tabletop printer, which could lead to low-cost OLED displays manufactured at home. The researchers integrated two printing modes to print six device layers: the electrodes, interconnects, insulation, and encapsulation were extrusion-printed, while active layers were spray-printed in the same 3D printer at room temperature. The prototype display was roughly 1.5 inches on each side and had 64 pixels, with each pixel functional and displaying light. Former U of M researcher Ruitao Su said the flexible display “exhibited a relatively stable emission over the 2,000 bending cycles, suggesting that fully 3D printed OLEDs can potentially be used for important applications in soft electronics and wearable devices.”

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Health Datasets Could Help AI Predict Medical Conditions Earlier
Financial Times
Madhumita Murgia
January 3, 2022

The Nightingale Open Science health dataset cache launched in December by the University of California, Berkeley's Ziad Obermeyer could help train artificial intelligence to forecast medical conditions earlier. The datasets, each curated around an unsolved medical mystery, include 40 terabytes of imagery from patients, with each image annotated with the patient's medical outcomes. Obermeyer compiled the datasets over two years from hospitals in the U.S. and Taiwan; he made them free to use, and intends to expand the trove to Kenya and Lebanon in the months ahead. "What sets this apart from anything available online is the datasets are labeled with the 'ground truth,' which means with what really happened to a patient and not just a doctor's opinion," Obermeyer said.

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Mass Production of Revolutionary Computer Memory Moves Closer with ULTRARAM on Silicon Wafers
Lancaster University (U.K.)
January 6, 2022

The first deployment of ULTRARAM computer memory on silicon wafers by researchers at the U.K.'s Lancaster University and University of Warwick marks a key step toward mass production. ULTRARAM integrates the non-volatility of a data storage memory with a working memory's speed, energy efficiency, and endurance, by harnessing the properties of compound semiconductors. Lancaster's Manus Hayne calls the achievement "a huge advance for our research, overcoming very significant materials challenges of large crystalline lattice mismatch, the change from elemental to compound semiconductor, and differences in thermal contraction."

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People voting in a polling station at a school in Stockholm, Sweden. Sweden’s Psychological Defense Agency to Fight Fake News, Foreign Interference
The Washington Post
Adela Suliman
January 6, 2022

Sweden on Jan. 1 created the Swedish Psychological Defense Agency to fight the spread of disinformation campaigns. The agency will work alongside the Swedish military and government in battling fake news and disinformation. The agency’s Magnus Hjort said it aims to bolster the country’s “ability to identify and counter foreign malign information influence, disinformation, and other dissemination of misleading information directed at Sweden." Hjort explained the agency will work to "protect Sweden against foreign malign information influence" ahead of the country's elections in September. Among the skeptics to the new agency’s agenda is the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Martin Bauer, who said, “I suspect policing the Internet is indeed a lost cause.”

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Apple’s AirTags, one of the earliest consumer applications of UWB technology, are about the size of four half-dollar coins stacked. The End of Car Keys, Passwords, Fumbling with Phones at Checkout
The Wall Street Journal
Christopher Mims
January 8, 2022

Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology being developed by the nonprofit FiRa Consortium could revolutionize interaction with devices, if privacy and other issues can be addressed. UWB adds a centimeter-level sense of location to three-dimensional space by triangulating objects' positions through radio waves' travel times between devices and beacons. Companies like Apple, luxury automaker BMW, and others have used UWB to allow users to unlock and start cars via handheld devices. University of California, San Diego researchers demonstrated that a new type of beacon could speed UWB about 10-fold and reduce power consumption commensurately. FiRa's Ardavan Tehrani said overcoming privacy concerns about objects and devices constantly broadcasting locations would remove a key hurdle to augmenting awareness through smart glasses and other interfaces.

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A quantum computing chip. France Opens Access to Quantum Computing to Researchers, Startups
Mathieu Pollet
January 5, 2022

The French government has launched a program to make quantum computers and supercomputers available to researchers and French and EU startup companies, in order to sustain France's technological relevance. Government officials announced the launch of a new quantum computing platform to maximize accessibility, to be installed at the French Atomic Energy Commission's High-Performance Computing Center. French Secretary of State for Digital Cédric O said the government will initiate procurement of two to three quantum computers for integration into the platform by mid-year. Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly called quantum technology "essential for tomorrow's battles, essential for processing billions of data for intelligence purposes, for optimizing vehicle trajectories by taking into account their individual dynamics, for designing an antenna."

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How Students Can Learn Problem-Solving Skills in Social Studies
NC State University News
Laura Oleniacz
January 6, 2022

Research by North Carolina State University (NC State) scientists found that teaching students social studies concepts through computational thinking advances their understanding of computational thinking as well. The case study involved a high school social studies class where students used statistical software to analyze historical and economic data in order to identify trends. Researchers framed the activity as "data-patterns-rules," which NC State’s Meghan Manfra said helps augment students' science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) computational thinking and problem-solving skills. "Our research indicates computational thinking is a fruitful way to engage students in interdisciplinary investigation and develop the skills and habits they need to be successful," Manfra observed.

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Going Out and Worried About COVID Safety? There's a Calculator for That
The New York Times
Alyson Krueger
December 30, 2021

Individuals increasingly are using COVID-19 risk assessment calculators increasingly to assess their risk of contracting the virus in certain situations. Different versions of these calculators have been developed by universities, governments, and nonprofits. The calculator developed by Canada's National Institute on Ageing, for instance, is based on the Delphi Method, in which a group of experts rate the relative risks of participating in different activities on a scale of one to 10. Other calculators assess the likelihood of someone arriving at an event with the virus, or the likelihood of catching the virus at a particular indoor location. Some users check these calculators frequently in hopes of reducing their anxiety around certain activities, while others use them to make decisions based on neutral, nonemotional data.

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A robot on display at the Barbican Centre in London, U.K. AI Hiring Bias Spurs Scrutiny, Regulations
Bloomberg Law
Erin Mulvaney
December 29, 2021

Artificial intelligence (AI)-related hiring discrimination has prompted regulatory action, with New York City banning employers from using automated employment decision tools for screening job applicants in lieu of a bias audit. Meanwhile, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has announced proposed legislation to address algorithmic discrimination by mandating annual corporate technology audits. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Charlotte Burrows said up to 83% of employers, and as many as 90% of Fortune 500 companies, use automated tools to screen or rank job candidates; she warned these technologies "could be used to mask or even perpetuate existing discrimination and create new discriminatory barriers to jobs." Civil rights groups like the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.) worry that New York's measure could enable more AI bias, and have proposed banning biased technology altogether.

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Special Issue on Blended Learning Technologies in Healthcare Professions Education
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