Welcome to the September 16, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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The ‘digital mask’ removes personal biometric information from an image of a patient’s face. 'Digital Mask' Could Protect Patients' Privacy in Medical Records
University of Cambridge (U.K.)
Craig Brierley
September 15, 2022

U.K. and Chinese researchers have created a "digital mask" that allows facial images to be stored in medical records while protecting personal biometric information from extraction. The researchers used three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction and deep learning algorithms to delete identifiable features from facial images while preserving disease-related attributes. The digital mask inputs a video of a patient's face and outputs a video based on the algorithm and 3D reconstruction, leaving out as much of the patient's personal biometric information as possible, and thwarting identification. Patrick Yu-Wai-Man at the U.K.'s University of Cambridge said digital masking "offers a pragmatic approach to safeguarding patient privacy while still allowing the information to be useful to clinicians.”

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A worker inspects the James Webb Space Telescope’s gold-plated mirrors during the telescope’s construction. NASA Webb Space Telescope Data Could Be Misinterpreted
Monisha Ravisetti
September 15, 2022

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists warn of a possible disconnect between the power of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and current datasets. "The data we will be getting from the JWST will be incredible, but ... our insights will be limited if our models don't match it in quality," said MIT's Clara Sousa-Silva. New research suggests some of the light-decoding tools researchers employ to understand exoplanets cannot fully accommodate the JWST's spectral data, which could undermine the search for extraterrestrial life. The researchers are calling for improvements to opacity models to enable them to handle the JWST's subtle measurements.

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Xu Yang of the University of Technology Sydney watches students from Marrickville Public School in Australia test the Smart Bin. AI-Powered 'Smart Bin' Sorts Recycling
September 13, 2022

A prototype "smart bin" developed by researchers at Australia's University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) can sort recyclable materials automatically through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and machine vision. UTS' Xu Wang said the system can categorize different types of waste such as glass bottles, metal cans, and several varieties of plastic. "We have a camera and we're running an AI algorithm to classify different types of plastics and then we use IoT [Internet of Things] and other robotics technology to sort the waste into the bins," Wang explained. The researchers envision smart bins deployed in shopping centers, schools, cinemas, businesses, and airports.

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Inflation-Adjusted Income for U.S. Engineers Drops
IEEE Spectrum
Tekla S. Perry
September 16, 2022

The IEEE-USA 2022 Salary & Benefits Survey of 3,057 technology professionals found that while the median income of U.S. engineers who were IEEE members appeared to rise in 2021 by more than $5,000, it actually fell last year by nearly $3,500 when adjusted for inflation. Female engineers' salaries declined even more than that of their male counterparts, with the gender gap widening by $5,900 to $33,900 when not adjusted for inflation. The survey found the percentage of female engineers in the workforce remained flat in 2021, at under 10%. The survey also said the salary gap between White and African American engineers shrank by $11,000 to $13,000 in 2021, while that between White and Hispanic engineers narrowed by nearly $6,000 to $12,278.

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First Multi-Story 3D-Printed Home Blends Concrete, Wood
Cornell University Chronicle
James Dean
September 14, 2022

Researchers at Cornell University, PERI 3D Construction, contractor CIVE, and other building industry partners are participating in the three-dimensional (3D)-printing of a two-story, single-family home in Houston. The design mixes elements fabricated from 3D-printed concrete with wood framing and minimizes waste, creating structures that are efficient, resilient against weather, and potentially less expensive than homes bult in more traditional ways. The researchers said the construction processes can be scaled up to produce multifamily and mixed-use developments. Said Cornell's Sasa Zivkovic, "Apart from printing technology, the integration of printing with building design and building materials, and the streamlining of construction process are important aspects in the realization of such a project."

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Scientists Try to Teach Robot to Laugh at the Right Time
The Guardian (U.K.)
Hannah Devlin
September 15, 2022

Koji Inoue and colleagues at Japan's Kyoto University have developed an artificial intelligence system that can guide a robot to laugh in the right way at the appropriate time. The researchers collected data from over 80 speed-dating dialogues between male students and the Erica robot, which initially was teleoperated by female actors. The team annotated the conversational data for solo laughs, social laughs, and mirth-related laughter, then trained a machine learning system to decide whether to laugh, and to select the appropriate laughter type. Researchers tested Erica's sense of humor by creating dialogues for it to share with a person and integrating the shared-laughter algorithm into its conversation software. The algorithm received the highest ratings from 130 volunteers reviewing those conversations for empathy, naturalness, human-likeness, and understanding.

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Faceless figures and cars crossing a street. Unlocking Human-Like Perception in Self-Driving Vehicles
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (Germany)
September 13, 2022

Abhinav Valada and Rohit Mohan at Germany's University of Freiburg claim to have advanced self-driving vehicles' ability to navigate crowded urban areas with the development of an amodal panoptic segmentation task allowing such vehicles to perceive the environment holistically by predicting objects' shapes, even when they are partly occluded by adjacent objects. Valada and Mohan added the task to benchmark datasets and made them publicly available. Said Valada, "We are confident that novel AI [artificial intelligence] algorithms for this task will enable robots to emulate the visual experience that humans have by perceiving complete physical structures of objects. Amodal panoptic segmentation will significantly help downstream automated driving tasks where occlusion is a major challenge such as depth estimation, optical flow, object tracking, pose estimation, motion prediction, etc."

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A polar bear and cub traverse across frozen land. Using Eyes in the Sky to Locate Seals in the Arctic
Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (Netherlands)
September 13, 2022

Researchers at the Netherlands' Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), Wageningen University & Research, and aerial imagery company Aeria have developed a system for identifying seals in satellite images. The researchers produced drone images of seal species in the waters around Svalbard, Norway, then compared them with satellite images as the basis for developing algorithms to automate seal detection in satellite imagery. Researchers hope to use such neural networks to automatically detect seals in remote and hostile Arctic regions.

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TikTok Search Results Riddled with Misinformation
ABC News
David Klepper
September 14, 2022

Researchers at false online claims reports monitor NewsGuard said searches on prominent news topics on TikTok are likely to produce results rife with misinformation. The researchers said they found misinformation in nearly 20% of videos suggested by the platform, which for NewsGuard's Steven Brill is particularly worrisome, given TikTok's popularity among the young. Brill questioned whether China-based TikTok owner ByteDance is taking sufficient action to stop misinformation, or whether it deliberately permits its propagation to spread confusion in Western democracies. A statement from TikTok insists its community guidelines ban harmful misinformation, yet researchers found TikTok's own search tool appears engineered to direct users to misinformation in some cases.

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MBE-CQEC: A Scheme to Correct Quantum Errors
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (Japan)
Alia Katsnelson
September 15, 2022

An international team of scientists led by Japan's Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) has proposed a new quantum error correction (QEC) technique. The measurement-based estimator scheme for continuous quantum error correction (MBE-CQEC) can rapidly identify and fix errors from partial, noisy syndrome measurements, according to the researchers. They used a classical computer as an outside controller (estimator) that calculates quantum errors, filters out noise, and makes corrections via feedback. OIST's Sangkha Borah said MBE-CQEC's underlying theoretical model requires experimental validation on a quantum computer, although the estimator's real-time simulation slows exponentially as the number of quantum bits in the system grows. "We are working on it, and we hope others in the field will also take up the problem," Borah said.

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A young man discusses work with four others in a remote video format. Highly Skilled Tech Workers Becoming a Rarity
Jada Jones
September 13, 2022

The A.Team network's 2022 Tech Work Report found the increasing rarity of skilled technology workers is forcing companies to make difficult decisions. The results of a survey of nearly 2,600 tech employees and executives estimated 39% of employers identified product and engineering roles as the toughest positions to fill. Forty-four percent of survey respondents said they lost many top-performing employees to the Great Resignation; 80% of executives said they would hire non-college-degree holders to compensate. Two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported they felt the traditional hiring/onboarding process needs rethinking due to excessive length and cost.

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Off-the-Shelf Crypto-Detectors Give False Sense of Data Security
William & Mary News
Joseph McClain
September 13, 2022

William & Mary's Amit Seal Ami said off-the-shelf crypto-application programming interface (API) misuse detectors can give developers a false sense of data security if they contain unknown flaws. Ami, a Ph.D. candidate in William & Mary’s Department of Computer Science and the lead student author of the paper “Why Crypto-detectors Fail: A Systematic Evaluation of Cryptographic Misuse Detection Techniques,” worked with colleagues to develop the MASC framework to assess the practical performance of certain crypto-API detectors by modifying known and established flaws, then analyzing the mutations using the detectors under evaluation. Ami said the framework uncovered somewhat obvious and extremely obvious vulnerabilities that the detectors had missed.

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Spacial Gems - Volume 1
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