Welcome to the April 4, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Sygnis’ 3D-printing machine park in Warsaw, Poland. Putting 3D Printers to Work in Ukraine's War Zone
Amy Feldman
March 31, 2022

Entrepreneurs in Poland are rushing three-dimensional (3D) printers to Ukraine for the manufacture of defensive equipment like tourniquets, periscopes, and even drones for the besieged country. The flexibility and speed of 3D printing is crucial in wartime, and ease the logistical debacle of transporting supplies; many 3D printers also are ideal for wartime production because they are small and can be deployed in basement bunkers. The technology also enables at-scale parts production in multiple locations, and digital design sharing between multiple facilities or individual producers. Donors include Warsaw-based 3D printing firm Sygnis, which sent printers that fabricate polymers or plastics to Lyiv.

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How Robots Can Assist Students with Disabilities
The New York Times
Alina Tugend
March 29, 2022

New tools apply artificial intelligence to better identify, teach, and help students with learning disabilities. Social robots can help teach social and educational skills to students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, hearing difficulties, Down syndrome, and autism. Yale University's Brian Scassellati notes such learners tend to respond to robots "in a way that they don't to puppets or pet therapies," which may be because they appear humanlike but are nonjudgmental. A study by Scassellati and colleagues employed a prototype of the Jibo robot, which modeled social-gaze behavior and supplied feedback and guidance in interactive games, adjusting their difficulty to children's performance. Meanwhile, a videogame developed by Vanderbilt University researchers is designed to help autistic students imagine theory of mind, envisaging what other people are thinking or feeling, using movie clips and other cues.

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Scientists Work to Turn Noise on Quantum Computers to Their Advantage
Louise Lerner
March 27, 2022

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Purdue University have simulated a "fingerprint" of the noise on a quantum computer. The goal was to assess the overall noise experienced by quantum computers, rather than measure the actual noise, in order to learn how to control and reduce it. The researchers ran a computation of a molecule displaying quantum behavior as a simulation on a quantum computer, adjusted the settings in multiple directions, and tracked how the noise responded. University of Chicago's David Mazziotti said, "By putting this all together, we build a 'fingerprint' of the noise as perceived by the simulation that we're running." Because the researchers already knew how the molecule behaves when excited, they were able to determine the specific effects of the noise.

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A woman runs as a commuter train passes through the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Fast Internet Brings Tech Jobs to Nairobi's Poor Neighborhoods
Monica Njeri
March 31, 2022

Kenyan startup Poa Internet provides fast, affordable Internet connectivity to low-income neighborhoods in Nairobi. The five-year-old company's custom-built software platform and commercially available Wi-Fi components link home aerials to towers it constructs in those neighborhoods. Poa has connected 12,000 homes, in addition to cyber cafes. Poa's Andy Halsall said, "We use a form of super amped-up Wi-Fi to deliver. So, we use wireless network to deliver to customers' homes and this allows us to reduce the cost." Poa's technology empowers professionals like Daniel Nzoma in Nairobi's Pipeline neighborhood, who requires reliable and fast network connections in order to review computer codes used for self-driving cars and crop disease detection.

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Algorithm Can Identify People by Their Heartbeat
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain)
March 24, 2022

Researchers at Spain's Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and Iran's Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University are developing an algorithm that can identify people by heartbeat. UC3M's Carmen Cámara said the researchers analyzed an electrocardiogram (ECG) recording as if it were a soundwave, using the musical qualities of dynamics, rhythm, timbre, pitch, and tonality. This yields a mix of parameters unique for each individual, and an accuracy rate of 96.6%. The method offers a universal biometric measure, said UC3M's Pedro Peris-López, adding, "Nowadays, there are already smart bracelets and watches that perform ECG recordings, so it would be sufficient to install an application on them which uses our identification algorithm."

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Generating Molecules with Graph Grammar
MIT News
Lauren Hinkel
April 1, 2022

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and IBM researchers used a generative model with a data-efficient graph grammar (DEG) to produce new synthesizable molecules belonging to the same class as the training data. DEG is a linguistics analogy of systems and structures for word ordering, containing rules for constructing molecules. The researchers let the model assume the chemical structure and collapse the molecular substructure down to one node, repeating this process to generate production rules. The rules and grammar then could be applied in reverse to reproduce the training set, or blended differently to create new molecules of the same chemical class. MIT's Minghao Guo said the algorithm can accommodate data sparsity, as "we only need about 0.15% of the original dataset to achieve very similar results compared to state-of-the-art approaches that train on tens of thousands of samples."

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Waymo operates fully driverless robotaxis in Chandler, AZ, and recently took a step toward offering the same to riders in San Francisco. Waymo to Send Driverless Cars Through San Francisco
The Wall Street Journal
Meghan Bobrowsky
March 30, 2022

Autonomous driving technology developer Waymo has deployed fully driverless cars onto the streets of San Francisco to provide free rides to company employees. The free rides are available from early morning until late afternoon, and the company intends to expand the service to 24 hours. Waymo previously tested its robotaxi service in the city about six months ago with standby drivers in the vehicles. A spokeswoman said Waymo is permitted to charge for rides in California provided a driver is in the vehicle, but lacks a permit to offer rides to the general public. The company also operates autonomous cars in suburban Phoenix, and in 2020 opened its fully driverless robotaxis to the public in Chandler, AZ.

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Google Autocomplete Helps Mislead Public, Legitimize Conspiracy Theorists: Study
Simon Fraser University (Canada)
March 31, 2022

Researchers at Canada's Simon Fraser University (SFU) examined Google's autocomplete subtitles for 37 known conspiracy theorists and found them misleading. For instance, Google labeled Gavin McInnes, creator of the neo-fascist Proud Boys organization, a "Canadian writer," Alex Jones, a denier of the Sandy Hook school shooting, an "American radio host," and Jerad Miller, the perpetrator of a 2014 mass shooting in Las Vegas, an "American performer." The researchers found the descriptive subtitles to be only neutral or positive, never negative, and indicative of the person's preferred description or job. Google said complex algorithms are used to generate the subtitles, and they cannot be customized. SFU's Nathan Worku said, "Users' preferences and understanding of information can be manipulated upon their trust in Google search results, thus allowing these labels to be widely accepted instead of providing a full picture of the harm their ideologies and belief cause."

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Cells from a urine infection, viewed through a scanning electron microscope. Holograms Might Speed Up Diagnosis of Urinary Tract Infection
New Scientist
Alex Wilkins
April 1, 2022

Johns Hopkins University's Nicholas Durr and colleagues have developed a tool for generating three-dimensional (3D) holograms from urine samples that could expedite the diagnosis of urinary tract infections and monitor urine content in real time. The researchers passed laser light through a urine sample embedded in a jelly-like substance, capturing the resulting light pattern with a camera. Once recorded, the light can be reconstructed into a 3D image for analysis and identification of microscopic objects within the sample. The system detected relatively large objects, like red blood cells, sufficiently well to suggest it could monitor blood in urine, although resolving bacterial cells is more difficult. However, it appears to effectively quantify overall bacterial levels in urine, as holography functions well with objects containing large amounts of empty space, like diluted urine.

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From left, Genaro Soto Valle, Manos Tentzeris, Kexin Hu, and Yepu Cui with the fabricated proof-of-concept and inkjet-printed tile arrays. The Future of 5G+ Infrastructure Could be Built Tile by Tile
Georgia Tech News Center
March 29, 2022

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) have developed an additively manufactured tile-based architecture that can be used to fabricate massively scalable arrays of 5G+ smart skins for potentially enabling intelligence on virtually any surface or object. The tiles are assembled onto a flexible underlying layer that allows attachment to many different surfaces, as well as on-the-fly installation of large 5G+ phased/electronically steerable antenna array networks. The researchers manufactured and wrapped a 5×5-centimeter tile array around a 3.5-centimeter radius curvature, each tile featuring an antenna subarray and an integrated circuit on an underlying tiling layer to produce a smart skin that can interconnect the tiles into antenna arrays and multiple-input multiple-outputs. Georgia Tech's Manos Tentzeris said while this architecture can significantly augment 5G+ technologies, its mix of flexible and conformal capabilities could find potential use in communications, sensing, or energy harvesting.

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630-Billion-Word Internet Analysis Shows 'People' Interpreted as 'Men'
Scientific American
Dana G. Smith
April 1, 2022

New York University (NYU) psychologists analyzed over 630 billion words from almost 3 billion Web pages to conclude that people often assign gender to words that should be gender-neutral. The researchers used the open-source Common Crawl Web page dataset to compare how frequently words for person (individual, people, et. al) were associated with terms for a man (male, he) or a woman (female, she). They applied a computational linguistic technique called word embeddings, evaluating the similarity between two words based on their appearances together. NYU's April Bailey said, "There was more overlap between the words for people and words for men than words for people and the words for women...suggesting that there is this male bias in the concept of a person."

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The logo of Yandex, which permits developers to create apps for devices running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Data-Harvesting Code in Mobile Apps Sends User Data to 'Russia's Google'
Ars Technica
Patrick McGee
March 29, 2022

As part of an app-auditing campaign for the non-profit Me2B Alliance, researcher Zach Edwards found that Yandex, known as "Russia's Google," has embedded code in apps for mobile devices running Apple's iOS and Google's Android systems that allows data to be sent to servers in Russia. The software has been found in 52,000 apps used by hundreds of millions of consumers. Said Edwards, "The AppMetrica SDK [software development kit] claims to provide appropriate services, all while phoning home to Moscow with deeply invasive metadata details that can be used to track people across Websites and apps." Games, messaging apps, location-sharing tools, and virtual private networks are among the apps in which AppMetrica has been found. Yandex said its SDK "operates in the same way as international peers" like Google Firebase, and collects data only "after the app receives users' consent" via Android and iOS apps.

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