Welcome to the September 11, 2009 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
ACM Statement Regarding British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Apology on the Treatment of Alan Turing
ACM (09/11/09) Hall, Wendy
ACM applauds Prime Minister Brown's statement on the treatment of Alan Turing, writes Dame Professor Wendy Hall, ACM President. ACM has long celebrated the fundamental contributions of Alan M. Turing not only for his instrumental role in British code-breaking efforts that hastened the end of World War II, but for his insights to the mathematical underpinnings of computing and computer science, which continue to drive innovation and produce unimaginable advances in science and technology that have made the world a better place. As a consequence, the most prestigious award in computing and computer science, the A.M. Turing Award, was established by ACM in 1966, and named after Alan Turing. ACM looks forward to joining with other organizations to celebrate the centenary of Turing's birth in 2012.
IU to Lead Nationwide Research Network to Expand Supercomputer Capabilities
Indiana University (09/10/09) MacIntyre, Larry
Indiana University (IU) researchers will lead a four-year, $15 million National Science Foundation project to develop software to connect future supercomputers and enable new approaches for scientific research on massively large problems. The grant will be used for the construction of an experimental supercomputing network called FutureGrid, which will consist of nearly 1,400 advanced computer processing units spread across six universities. "The ultimate goal of this project is to create the next generation of investigative tools for scientific researchers whose computational needs often exceed the capabilities of a single institution or network," says Indiana University president Michael A. McRobbie. The project aims to make it easier for scientists to conduct research that requires enormous data processing capabilities, such as the complex modeling of climate systems or analyzing and comparing DNA segments and complex organic molecules. IU's Brad Wheeler says a variety of supercomputers will be acquired for the network. "Each type of supercomputer has a unique architecture and capabilities that make it ideal for certain types of uses," Wheeler says. "One of our goals in this project is to learn by conducting formal experiments for the best ways to put all these computers together for researchers." He says the FutureGrid will experiment with connecting supercomputers in a variety of ways to determine which connections and software combinations work the best. The goal is to create a system researchers can use for supercomputing projects without having to worry about hardware design and capabilities.
How Do You Say Grid Computing in Spanish?
ICT Results (09/10/09)
The E-infrastructure shared between the Europe and Latin America (EELA) project was established to boost European-Latin American collaboration in grid technology. "In areas such as high-energy physics, biomedicine, and climate, the level of accuracy in your results depends on the level of accuracy of your simulation," says deputy project coordinator Philippe Gavillet. "We had a demand from our Latin American colleagues to be able to contribute, and this was one way to help them, by building up their computing resources." The first EELA effort concluded with a working Latin American grid that networked 3,000 computers and was capable of storing 700 terabytes of data, propped up by 30 resource facilities. The follow-up EELA-2 project seeks to expand the Latin American grid, ease its use, and ensure that it is self-sustaining in terms of organizational and financial support. EELA-2 upgraded the grid infrastructure's middleware component from gLITE to OurGrid, a system designed to support dialogue between a large number of computers and use them when they would otherwise be inactive. OurGrid enables each computer to concentrate on its portion of the calculation independently, making high-speed connections linking the participating machines unnecessary. EELA-2 connects 78 institutions from 16 Latin American and European countries and supports 50-plus research projects in various scientific disciplines.
Can Video Game Testing Spark Interest in Computing Among Black Youth?
Georgia Institute of Technology (09/09/09) Terraso, David
Betsy DiSalvo with Georgia Tech's College of Computing is betting that young African American males' interest in video games can be tapped to generate a greater interest in computer science, and to that end she and her colleagues have started a group in which adolescent African American boys are recruited as game testers. DiSalvo introduced a dozen teenage students to game testing, giving them experience in working in the gaming industry for about 20 hours a week. The students also learned programming skills using the Alice drag-and-drop programming language, and acquired the ability to manipulate images using the Jython language. DiSalvo says that the African American students began playing games at a younger age than white youth, tend to play with parents or other family members more frequently, consider games to be competitive sports, and usually avoid using hacks, cheats, or gaming guides. DiSalvo and colleagues are learning that more than 50 percent of the game testers are now interested in expanding their computer science education. "They saw what computer science is on several levels," DiSalvo says. "First, the workshops showed them they could code. Also being able to be creative by engaging in programming and problem solving motivated a number of students. Others just realized they could work in technology because they were doing game testing work as high school students."
Two Virtual Conferences Focus on Technology
Two conferences that focus on the future use of Web technology in generating new online businesses and next-generation broadband access are being held in Inverness, Scotland, in September, and will be streamed online for free. Individuals are being invited to participate in the conferences and share their opinions on the subjects. The Highlands and Islands Enterprise's (HIE) ninth Virtual Conference, run by Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) founding members Wendy Hall and Nigel Shadbolt, will be hosted online by the Learningworks Web site (www.learning-works.co.uk) the morning of Sept. 16, while the Next Generation Broadband Access conference will be hosted online that afternoon. Hall, president of ACM, has been at the forefront of research in multimedia and hypermedia. The goal of the conferences is to discuss advances in Web technology, including the development of the Linked Data Web and how it applies to current and future business development and operations. WSRI, a joint endeavor between the Computer Science and artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, unites academics, scientists, sociologists, entrepreneurs, and policymakers from around the world in an effort to examine the Web and provide solutions to guide its future use and design.
Computer Scientists Win Morpho Challenge 2009
University of Bristol News (08/26/09)
University of Bristol computer scientists have won the Morpho Challenge, an international science competition financed by the European Union through its PASCAL Network of Excellence. The contest promotes the development of computer algorithms that deconstruct vocabulary units, or morphemes, in words in order to understand language. Such technology is used for spell checking, speech recognition, electronic translation, information searching, and text-to-speech systems. Bristol's winning team includes professor Peter Flach and doctoral students Sebastian Spiegler and Bruno Golenia. Their submission broke down the structure of words in five out of six languages--Finnish, German, Turkish, and Arabic with and without vowels; the program only failed in English. The program incorporated statistical models and algorithms that took advantage of Bristol's BlueCrystal computing cluster. The Bristol team's program is one part of the university's interdisciplinary research theme, Exabyte Informatics, which studies the ramifications of having an almost unlimited data supply available to computer and Internet users. The program will be used as part of an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) project that pioneers the research of machine-learning algorithms for morphology. The program also will help advance text-to-speech systems for South African languages such as Zulu and Xhosa. South Africa's Meraka Institute and the University of Witwatersrand also will participate in the EPSRC project.
A Turing Test for Computer Game Bots
Technology Review (09/10/09) Kushner, David
The BotPrize is a three-month contest in which programmers are challenged to develop a software bot to control a game character that can pass for human, with the goal of devising better artificial intelligence (AI) for games as well as non-game applications. "The BotPrize [is] important for AI in general because it highlights a central question in AI: How is human intelligence related to computer intelligence?" says Edith Cowan University's Philip Hingston. The second annual BotPrize competition placed bots in Unreal Tournament 2004, a first-person-shooter game in which the winner is the one that scores the most virtual kills. The humanness of the bots was judged solely on the basis of their physical behavior, and a bot had to fool at least 80 percent of the judges in order to win the $6,000 prize. Epic Games programmer Steve Polge says developers often prefer creating AIs "that can make unexpected plans and present emergent and surprising challenges to the player"--not only because it can improve games, but also because AIs that mimic humans too closely can be as irritating and obnoxious as human opponents. Simulation game creator Will Wright is hoping that the BotPrize fosters an interest among AI researchers to create programs that emulate emotions. "Machine interactions are becoming a ubiquitous part of our environment, but they're not necessarily the most satisfying, so acknowledging our emotional dimension is an interesting task to go for in AI," he says.
Researchers of the University of Granada (UGR) and Telefónica I+D Design Rooms With Sensors That Help Dependent People
University of Granada (Spain) (09/10/09)
The University of Granada is funding a project led by Jose Carlos Segura Luna that would help provide machine-assisted living for the disabled. Segura Luna's team has constructed a model room with a computer system that can track the movements of the person inside it. The system uses ceiling sensors, a receiver that moves throughout the room, and a computer that analyzes the information sent from both. The room can automatically brake a wheelchair when it nears the stairs and open doors when it approaches them. Researchers plan to expand the system to encompass open spaces and entire buildings with the help of more sophisticated communication technologies, such as global positioning systems. They also plan to use a program based on ultrasound for when the system needs to know the inhabitant's exact position. Researchers hope to successfully combine different kinds of technologies, although the nature of that collaboration will depend on the needs of the inhabitant. If researchers meet their goal of integrating a wireless device with a location system, for example, they will avoid a lengthy system installation and cut down on the number of electronic devices needed. The team's prototype is currently being tested in a hospital in Rome.
Role for Robots: Helping Elderly at Home
UIC News (09/09/09) Francuch, Paul
Three University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) engineers and a Rush University nursing specialist have been awarded a three-year, $989,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop robots that can help care for the elderly and people with limited mobility. "We want to help elderly people communicate with robots, to tell them what they need, and to perform physical activities," says UIC professor Milos Zefran, the project's lead investigator. The researchers plan to create software that will enable the elderly to communicate with robots capable of responding to a variety of verbal language and non-verbal gestures and touch commands. Zefran says helping the elderly stay in their own homes will improve their health outlook and relieve the burden on family members and health care providers. The researchers are developing communication interface software that will feature a novel adaptive and reliable recognition methodology known as Recognition by Indexing and Sequencing (RISq). RISq will enable robots to comprehend speech even if it is altered by impairments. Techniques from natural language processing and haptics will allow the robot to understand and respond to various forms of human touch, and help it know how to respond to the user safely when performing chores such as cooking or making a bed. "We'll identify what kind of language, physical interactions, and non-verbal interactions are used," Zefran says. "Then we'll develop a mathematical framework to model this interaction so it can be treated by the robot as a single way of communicating."
Research Project Limits Computer Power Consumption
Computerworld Australia (09/08/09) Gedda, Rodney
A new scheduling algorithm developed by researchers at the University of Sydney promises to cut the energy consumption of processors in data centers by more than half without disrupting operations. Young Choon Lee and Albert Zomaya at the university's Center for Distributed and High Performance Computing hope to have a prototype of the Energy Conscious Scheduling (ECS) algorithm by early 2010 and a commercial product by the end of next year. The ECS software would be a suite of algorithms acting as middleware that can see the operating system and hardware and make decisions on what to do with different tasks. "In doing so, it makes sure whatever decisions are made are energy-conscious," Zomaya says. "We want it to be as seamless as possible and it could eventually be integrated with the operating system." Using a processor's dynamic voltage scaling capability, ECS maps computational tasks to minimize completion time and energy use. In tests, Lee and Zomaya have used ECS for solving equations and other computing-intensive applications.
Stimulus Funds to Further Cyber Security Research
Penn State Live (09/08/09) Spinelle, Jenna
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will fund a project designed to protect the privacy and security of business information systems and data centers from cyberattacks. More than $1 million will be awarded over three years to Pennsylvania State University researcher Peng Liu, George Mason University researcher Sushil Jajodia, and Western Illinois University researcher Meng Yu. The researchers hope to accelerate customer and supplier services and to ensure secure business information. They will attempt to combine four areas of data security--redundancy, detection and analysis of microscopic intrusion, automatic response, and diversity-driven protection. The researchers say the project could lead to stronger security measures in the business world, increased efficiency in customer and supplier service, and improved data protection in the wake of cyberattacks. "This grant will enable us to take a big stride forward towards building self-protecting and trustworthy information systems and data sets," Liu says. "This project will 'stand on the shoulders' of our recent research achievements in trusted recovery, self-healing information systems, and intrusion-tolerant computing."
Smart Sensors Power Interaction
BBC News (09/04/09) Palmer, Jason
More than 70 demonstrations of interactive technologies that use sensors for a wide range of applications were showcased at the Human Computer Interaction conference's Open House Festival in Britain. The Open University's e-Sense project has developed a corset equipped with vibrating motors found in cell phones to facilitate "tummy vision"--a way for visually impaired users to sense images picked up by a camera so that they can play a game. The camera follows a player's gloved hand as well as a ball rolled across a table divided into 16 sections. Each table section corresponds to one of the cell phone motors embedded in the corset. As the ball rolls toward the player, the motor's vibrations track across the player's stomach so that the player can guess where to grab the ball before it rolls off the table. The corset is built from inexpensive, commercially available components and programmed with open source software. Another demo exploits the ability of linear motors found in modern handsets to be programmed to vibrate at different speeds and within a wide spectrum of frequencies to impart specific tactile sensations to a user's fingertips. The University of Glasgow's Stephen Brewster has developed a touch screen with buttons that can be programmed to mimic the sensation of touching a keyboard or an old mobile keypad.
National Science Foundation Awards $400,000 Grant in Computer Science to Jeannie Albrecht at Williams College
Williams College (09/03/09) Procter, Jo
Williams College will conduct research into managing distributed applications on mobile computing platforms that make use of cell phones, vehicles, and embedded sensors. Computer science professor Jeannie Albrecht will head the project, which will focus on issues related to the use of mobile computing environments. Mobile networks present unique challenges to software developers involved in tasks such as configuring devices, starting executions, and tracking errors, and there are no application management frameworks to assist them in their efforts. Albrecht will study these issues, use the predictable patterns of human interaction to develop techniques that improve the stability of mobile applications, and integrate the techniques into a software toolkit for mobile application management. She says developers, researchers, and students should benefit from the project, which is being funded with a five-year, $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
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