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Welcome to the April 8, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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2021 ACM Prize in Computing recipient Pieter Abbeel. ACM Prize in Computing Recognizes Pioneer of Robot Learning
April 6, 2022

ACM announced this week that Pieter Abbeel's pioneering contributions to next-generation robotic learning have earned him the 2021 ACM Prize in Computing. Abbeel developed apprenticeship learning methods to improve robotic manipulation of deformable objects, by introducing and combining techniques to augment robot visual perception, physics-based tracking, control, and learning from demonstration. His core contribution to deep reinforcement learning was the Trust Region Policy Optimization method, which stabilizes reinforcement learning and allows robots to learn a spectrum of simulated control skills. Said ACM President Gabriele Kotsis, "Abbeel has made leapfrog research contributions, while also generously sharing his knowledge to build a community of colleagues working to take robots to an exciting new level of ability."

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Volunteers Scramble to Preserve Ukraine's Digital Culture
IEEE Spectrum
Tekla S. Perry
April 6, 2022

More than 1,300 volunteers are working to preserve Ukraine's digital culture before the servers and personal computers used by museums, dance companies, libraries, music collections, and other organizations to store websites, videos, and images can be destroyed. Tufts University's Anna Kijas put out a call on Twitter in late February for volunteers to take part in a data-rescue event to save Ukrainian websites. The volunteers joined forces to offer cloud storage and other technical assistance. In a matter of days, the first volunteers had created tutorials and a website and rolled out the Saving Ukrainian Heritage Online (SUCHO) project, which so far has preserved over 10 terabytes of data, including nearly 15,000 images and PDFs and parts of over 3,000 websites.

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Vials on a COVID-19 vaccine production line. Could Computer Models Be the Key to Better COVID Vaccines?
Elie Dolgin
April 5, 2022

Scientists have been developing mathematical and computational models over the past several years to supplement dosage decision-making for vaccine tests, and some advocates suggest their use would have made COVID vaccines more effective. Previous experience and animal testing typically inform dose selection for experimental vaccines like the COVID-19 vaccine, yielding a range of dosages. Vaccine-dose modeling starts with researchers feeding immune-response results from animal experiments into equations to generate a predicted dose-response curve; this is scaled to humans using clinical data from a smaller dose number, often from historical research on similar vaccines. The result is expected "best" dosages for human testing, which can be further refined as more data becomes available.

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Technique Offers Faster Security for Non-Volatile Memory Tech
NC State University News
Matt Shipman
April 5, 2022

A technique developed by researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) and the University of Central Florida enhances and accelerates file system security for next-generation non-volatile memories (NVMs). According to NC State's Kazi Abu Zubair, "Our technique allows for file-level encryption in fast NVM memories, while cutting the related execution time significantly." Zubair said the system's architecture incorporates certain aspects of the encryption/decryption process into hardware, which speeds secure storage and retrieval of file data. In simulations, the researchers found the encryption architecture decelerated NVM operations by 3.8% when running workloads representative of real-world applications; applying software techniques to secure the same workloads slowed operations by approximately 200%.

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Wendy’s has opened the “Wendyverse” inside the virtual reality platform Horizon Worlds. Restaurants' Virtual Stores Test Consumers' Appetite for Metaverse Marketing
The Wall Street Journal
Ann-Marie Alcántara
April 5, 2022

Fast-food chains are testing virtual stores to explore the metaverse's marketing potential. Wendy's opened a virtual restaurant in Meta's Horizon Worlds virtual reality game; visitors can engage in basketball-themed gameplay near the simulated establishment. Wendy's Carl Loredo said the chain will track engagement metrics, including how many people visit the virtual restaurant or post about it on social media, and how many interact with its food-ordering application. Chipotle Mexican Grill will unveil a virtual outlet simulating its original Denver restaurant on the Roblox gaming platform; players who successfully roll virtual burritos in the game will earn "Burrito Bucks" good for real-world items at Chipotle restaurants. Said Chipotle's Chris Brandt, "This promotion and this initiative that we have with Roblox really starts to separate itself from a lot of what other people are doing, and really blur that line between the real world and the metaverse."

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Florida State University associate professor Hui Wang and Ph.D. student An-Tsun Wei examine a three-dimentional (3D) printer plate. Researchers Improve 3D Printing Quality by Sharing Data Among Machines
Florida State University News
Trisha Radulovich
April 5, 2022

Researchers at the FAMU (Florida A&M University)-FSU (Florida State University) College of Engineering demonstrated that interconnected three-dimensional (3D) printers can learn from one another to achieve what doctoral student An-Tsun Wei called "group intelligence." The printers were connected on a cloud platform and shared data about accurate processing, which reduced the time required for preparation and calibration. A mathematical model developed by the researchers also aims to improve understanding of the printing process. Said Wei, "We can estimate geometric print quality and the related defects that might occur with the model. The information can be used to calculate adjustments needed in the input printing parameters to compensate for those errors."

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Full-Color Night Vision Almost Reality After Deep Learning Breakthrough
Interesting Engineering
Grant Currin
April 6, 2022

A new deep learning algorithm can create a full-color reconstruction of a scene captured using infrared images imperceptible to the human eye, paving the way for advancements in night-vision technology. The researchers created a dataset using a monochromatic camera to take photos of printed images of color palettes and faces at various wavelengths in the visible and near-infrared spectrums. They used the dataset to test a deep learning algorithm that could infer a scene in the visible spectrum based on infrared images. The researchers found that an algorithm using deep U-Net-based architectures produced full-color photos of three infrared images that were similar to normal photos of the identical images.

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Implant Alongside Blood Vessel Could Replace Devices that Stimulate Nerves
News-Medical Life Sciences
Emily Henderson
March 31, 2022

Engineers at Rice University and various Texas Medical Center institutions have created tiny, wireless nerve stimulators that may be used to treat neurological diseases or to inhibit pain. The MagnetoElectric Bio ImplanT (ME-BIT) uses an electrode that extends into a blood vessel to stimulate a nearby targeted nerve; it is powered and controlled by an external low-powered magnetic transmitter. The implant’s components are held together by a three-dimensionally-printed capsule and further encased in epoxy. When tested on animal models, ME-BIT was able to charge and communicate with implants several centimeters beneath the skin. "Because the devices are so small, we can use blood vessels as a highway system to reach targets that are difficult to get to with traditional surgery," said Rice's Jacob Robinson.

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Facial Recognition Goes to War
The New York Times
Kashmir Hill
April 7, 2022

Hoan Ton-That enlisted his facial recognition company Clearview AI in Russia’s war on Ukraine by tapping its technology to help bring some clarity to the conflict. Ton-That proposed to Ukraine's government that Clearview's application could identify both possible spies and deceased people, by comparing their faces against the company's database of 20 billion faces from the public Web. Clearview, which is providing this tool to Ukraine for free, has compiled over 200 accounts for users at five Ukrainian government agencies, who already have performed more than 5,000 searches. Evan Greer at digital rights group Fight for the Future opposes any use of facial recognition, warning war zones are often testbeds for the technology as a tool for surveillance and civilian control.

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Coffee cups sit in a brown bag inside the cargo area of a Tiny Mile pink robot. Meet Geoffrey, the Pink Robot with Heart-Shaped Eyes that Delivers Coffee in Charlotte
The Charlotte Observer
Jonathan Limehouse
April 3, 2022

Toronto, Canada-based robotics company Tiny Mile deployed the first of its "Geoffrey" delivery robots in the U.S. as part of a two-month test in Charlotte, NC. The semi-autonomous robots, named for Geoffrey Hinton, one of the godfathers of artificial intelligence, deliver items from Undercurrent Coffee to workers and residents in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Five Geoffreys now deliver within a one-mile radius of the coffee shop's Commonwealth Avenue location, under the remote control of a human navigator. While Undercurrent Coffee owner Todd Huber could not say how many deliveries the robots had made to date, he said customers loved using the robots, adding “This works better for us than the traditional third-party delivery services.”

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Algorithm Could Be Quantum Leap in Search for Gravitational Waves
University of Glasgow (U.K.)
April 4, 2022

A quantum algorithm developed by researchers at the U.K.'s University of Glasgow could reduce the time needed to compare gravitational wave signals against a databank of templates. Matched filtering has been used by detectors like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory to detect gravitational wave signals amid the noise of the data collected by the detectors, but the process is time-consuming and resource-intensive. The researchers sped up the process by adapting Grover's algorithm, which leverages quantum theory to make the process of searching through databases faster. They developed software to apply the algorithm to gravitational wave search; as a result, the researchers said, the number of operations the system can handle may be increased proportional to the square root of the number of templates.

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Brokenwire Hack Could Let Remote Attackers Disrupt Electric Vehicle Charging
The Hacker News
Ravie Lakshmanan
April 4, 2022

Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Oxford and Switzerland's Armasuisse S+T (the center of technology of the Swiss Department of Defense, Civil Protection, and Sports) identified a method for attacking the Combined Charging System (CCS) and interrupting electric vehicle charging sessions. The Brokenwire technique disrupts control communications between the vehicle and the charger, allowing hackers to stop charging sessions wirelessly from as far away as 151 feet (46 meters). The researchers did not release additional details, to prevent active exploitation of the vulnerability, but indicated such attacks could be perpetrated with a combination of off-the-shelf software-defined radios, power amplifiers, and dipole antennas. The researchers said, "The use of PLC [power-line communications] for charging communication is a serious design flaw that leaves millions of vehicles, some of which belong to critical infrastructure, vulnerable."

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A man seated on a sofa holds a tablet computer. Researchers Accurately Identify People with PTSD Through Text Data Alone
Folio (University of Alberta, Canada)
Adrianna MacPherson
April 7, 2022

A machine learning model was trained by researchers at Canada's University of Alberta (U of A) to identify people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by analyzing text they had written. U of A's Jeff Sawalha and colleagues analyzed text in a dataset compiled at the University of Southern California based on 250 interviews with an artificial character during videoconferencing calls with 188 people without PTSD and 87 with PTSD. The researchers were able to identify individuals with PTSD with 80% accuracy through scores indicating how often their speech contained mainly neutral or negative sentiments. Said Sawalha, “Having tools like this going forward could be beneficial in a post-pandemic world.”

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