Welcome to the January 23, 2013 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Tech Salaries Jump 5.3%, Bonuses Flat
Network World (01/22/13) Ann Bednarz
Technology professionals' average salaries rose 5.3 percent to $85,619 last year, up from $81,327 in 2011, according to Dice. Entry-level professionals saw an eight percent year-over-year increase to an average salary of $46,315, while tech professionals with at least 15 years of experience saw a four percent increase in average salary to $103,012. "The fact is you either pay to recruit or pay to retain and these days, at least for technology teams, companies are doing both," says Dice Holdings CEO Scot Melland. Although 33 percent of tech professionals received bonuses in 2012, compared to 32 percent in 2011, those bonuses were slightly less valuable, with an average of $8,636, compared to $8,769 in 2011. Pittsburgh, San Diego, St. Louis, Phoenix, Cleveland, Orlando, and Milwaukee all saw double-digit growth in tech salaries. However, Silicon Valley remains the only market where tech professionals average more than $100,000 in salary. "Tech professionals who analyze large data streams and strategically impact the overall business goals of a firm have an opportunity to write their own ticket," notes Dice.com managing director Alice Hill.
W3C Aims to Boost Cooperation on Standards With China
IDG News Service (01/21/13) Michael Kan
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced plans to open a host location at Beihang University in a move aimed at improving cooperation with China on Internet standards. As the W3C looks to advance HTML5 and its Open Web Platform, efforts in China will initially focus on mobile technologies and online browsers. China has grown in strategic importance, now claiming the top PC and smartphone market in the world. Furthermore, China has 564 million Internet users, more than any other country, and accounts for 22 W3C members. W3C plans to hold more activities in China and draw more industry players and developers into creating international standards. The new host location will increase the W3C's staff presence in China to seven to 10 people, including technical and management staff. Although W3C already has an office at Beihang University, the office has only one or two people who focus on developer relations. Other W3C host locations include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics, and Keio University.
How NASA Beamed Mona Lisa to the Moon, One Pixel at a Time
Government Computer News (01/22/13) John Breeden II
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) used laser technology to transmit an image of the Mona Lisa to the moon by beaming it to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) along with routine tracking data. "Because LRO is already set up to receive laser signals through the [Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA)] instrument, we had a unique opportunity to demonstrate one-way laser communication with a distant satellite," says NASA scientist Xiaoli Sun. The Mona Lisa was reduced to 152 by 200 pixels, and each pixel was sent to the LOLA during the brief interval when the laser beam was not occupied by tracking and mission data. The data pulse was delayed to determine how much to darken a pixel, while the amount of shading for each pixel was ascertained by the time differential between when the LRO expected to receive the data and the actual time of the data's arrival. Assembling the image on the other end without interruption was accomplished through use of the Reed-Solomon error-correcting code. "This is the first time anyone has achieved one-way laser communication at planetary distances," notes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's David Smith.
UNSW Project Spotlights Text Mining, Language Analysis
Techworld Australia (01/21/13) Rohan Pearce
The University of New South Wales' (UNSW's) Text Mining Collaboration portal was launched to ease the use of text mining and automatic language-analysis tools for academic research by offering access to such tools as well as bringing together case studies and other related resources to boost awareness and availability. "It's basically a project that tries to connect people who share an interest in text analytics," says UNSW's Stephen Anthony. "It's all about transforming text, unstructured data into structured forms that are amenable to quantitative analysis." Conferring a higher profile on text mining within the university is one of the goals of the project, as is promoting collaboration with the wider academic community. Among the fields the project has attracted interest from are biomedical research, psychology, and computer science, according to Anthony. He also wants to increase the portal's interactivity by adding features such as social network integration, if the funding is available. "UNSW could really benefit from an investment in deep language processing," including analytical tools that can function across multiple knowledge domains, Anthony says.
'STEAM' Education Gains Momentum in Schools
eSchool News (01/21/13) Laura Devaney
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) wants to change science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to STEAM education, with the "A" representing the arts. The movement aims to include art and design in STEM policy decisions, encourage the integration of art and design in K-20 education, and influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation. "Design is increasingly becoming a key differentiator for technology startups and products," and art and design "provide real solutions for our everyday lives, distinguish American products in a global marketplace, and create opportunity for economic growth," according to RISD's Web site STEMtoSTEAM.org. STEAM education programs are being developed across the U.S. Chicago mayor Raham Emanuel recently announced that the city's 2013 Summer of Learning initiative will focus on STEAM learning activities, for example, and Atlanta-based Drew Charter School includes a specific focus on "STEM to STEAM" programs. Meanwhile, an online petition seeks support for U.S. House Res. 319, which was introduced in 2011 but not enacted. The resolution aims to encourage members of the House of Representatives to support the addition of art and design to federally supported STEM programs.
Vibrating Steering Wheel May Rescue Driver From Blinding Glare
Phys.Org (01/21/13) Nancy Owano
A vibrating steering wheel developed by University of Nevada researchers Eelke Folmer and Burkay Sucu could help drivers avoid collisions by using tactile cues to navigate when drivers are temporarily blinded by glare or fog. Using global positioning systems and lane-keeping cameras to map the road, the interface's vibro-tactile system buzzes when the sensors notice the vehicle drifting out of its lane. If a driver drifts left, for example, the left side of the wheel vibrates to alert the driver to steer right. Although vibrating steering wheels are not a new concept, the researchers say their prototype is unique because it tells drivers how much to steer to correct a problem in the complete absence of visual feedback. The interface uses an intelligent vehicle positioning system to tell drivers when, in which direction, and how much to steer. Folmer and Sucu tested their prototype on 12 volunteers in a simulator. Last year researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and AT&T Labs also created a vibrating steering wheel and Ford unveiled the technology in its Fusion 2013 at the recent Detroit Auto Show.
AR Goggles Restore Depth Perception to People Blind in One Eye
Technology Review (01/18/13) Nidhi Subbaraman
Augmented reality (AR) glasses that offer a feeling of binocular depth perception to people who are blind in one eye are under development at the University of Yamanashi. The research team, led by Xiaoyang Mao, began with commercially available glasses that have two small cameras in each lens to capture and project images, sending the user 2D or 3D AR images transmitted from a computer. The researchers then developed software that enables the cameras to map out what each eye would see and send the images to a computer, which uses software to integrate the two perspectives. The process results in a “defocus” effect in which some objects remain in focus while others do not, establishing a feeling of depth. That image is then projected to the user's healthy eye. Although the researchers concede the concept is not refined, they expect the technology will soon appear in mobile devices.
Chipmaker Races to Save Stephen Hawking’s Speech as His Condition Deteriorates
Scientific American (01/18/13) Larry Greenemeier
As physicist Stephen Hawking's communication rate has fallen to about one word per minute, Intel is working on technology that could process and respond to the multiple facial expressions that Hawking controls, says Intel's Justin Rattner. Hawking has relied on a voluntary cheek twitch to compose words one letter at a time, which are vocalized through a speech-generation device. However, in addition to moving his cheek muscle, Hawking is able to make voluntary mouth and eyebrow movements that could accelerate his communication. Giving Hawking two inputs would vastly improve his ability to communicate using Morse code. Intel is researching smart gadgets and assistive technologies for the elderly, and Rattner says context awareness is the key to advancing these devices. Devices will personally familiarize themselves with users to understand how facial expressions indicate mood. Personal context is identified via hardware sensors such as cameras, accelerometers, and microphones integrated with software that checks personal calendars, social networks, and Internet browsing habits. This information enables “pervasive assistance,” for example with Intel and General Electric's Magic Carpet, which uses embedded sensors and accelerometers to monitor a person’s normal routine and issue alerts when changes occur.
Research Update: Multiple Steps Toward the 'Quantum Singularity'
MIT News (01/18/13) Larry Hardesty
Four groups of researchers from the University of Queensland, the University of Vienna, the University of Oxford, and Polytechnic University of Milan recently reported the completion of an experiment that involves generating individual photons and synchronizing their passage through a maze of optical components so they reach a battery of photon detectors at the same time. The researchers' work built on a proposal by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers Scott Aaronson and Alex Arkhipov. The MIT researchers proposed a network of beam splitters, which are optical devices used to split an optical signal in half and route it down separate fibers. However, in the new experiments the researchers built their networks on individual chips, using channels known as waveguides to route the photons. Where two waveguides come close enough together, a photon can spontaneously jump from one to the other, mimicking the behavior caused by a beam splitter. Although performing quantum calculations would require a network of hundreds of beam splitters, the new experiments used networks of about 10 beam splitters, with four or five channels leading in and three or four photons, which means the research demonstrates a proof of principle, but not the quantum singularity.
A New Dimension in Mobile Telecommunications
Basque Research (01/17/13)
European researchers are designing a transceiver that would enable data transmissions at a speed of 10 Gbps via a new infrastructure network in European Union (EU) member countries. The work is the primary objective of the E3Network project, also known as Future Internet, led by researchers from the CEIT-IK4 research center. "We're studying a way for everybody to be able to connect to the Internet no matter where they are and at a very high speed," says project director Igone Velez. He says the new system will mean "a new dimension in telecommunications, one which allows mobile phones to be used in much more social ways, including in rural areas." The emergence of mobile devices has increased the demand for the same type of Internet connection available at home and the office, but current network infrastructure and business models are not ready to provide that level of support. The EU's Digital Agenda says it is essential that all Europeans have 30 Mbps broadband by 2020.
Seeing Beyond Cameras: Predicting Where People Move in CCTV Blind Spots
Queen Mary, University of London (01/17/13) Neha Okhandiar
A new research model could serve as a security tool for tracking people in areas that closed-circuit television (CCTV) networks cannot see, known as invisible areas. Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have sought to fuse information gathered from multiple CCTV cameras and geographical maps. The model re-identification method predicts movements in invisible areas using a combination of behavioral models and floor plans. The path people are likely to take is predicted after generating several potential movement trajectories from one monitored zone to another, based on the fact that specific destinations act as attractors for human movement. The model incorporates the natural willingness of people to stay at a comfortable distance from walls and other barriers. The team tested the model using CCTV footage from London's Gatwick airport. "Also, this new research model could be used to collect data to guide the redesign of the layout of buildings in order to facilitate the flow of people, which could help evacuation in an emergency situation," says Andrea Cavallaro, director of Queen Mary's Center for Intelligent Sensing.
DOE to Field Pre-Exascale Supercomputers Within Four Years
HPC Wire (01/16/13) Michael Feldman
In late 2016 or early 2017, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) aim to deploy their first 100-plus petaflop systems, which will serve as precursors to an exascale machine farther in the future. The partnership between ORNL, ANL and LLNL, known as Collaboration Oak Ridge Argonne Livermore (CORAL), to secure the pre-exascale machines is similar to the approach of NERSC, Los Alamos, and Sandia National Labs to acquire their next round of supercomputers, known as NERSC-8 and Trinity. The CORAL supercomputers are initially specified at 100 to 300 petaflops, along with 5 to 10 petabytes of memory and 70 to 150 petabytes of storage. "The expectation is that the proposed 2016-2017 system will be roughly an order of magnitude less in time-to-solution than today’s systems at our facilities," according to CORAL's Request for Information. The CORAL lab proposals will have two distinct solutions. One of them will be delivered as separate systems to both ORNL and ANL, while LLNL will choose one of two solutions for its own use. Part of the CORAL effort will be to fund non-recurring engineering costs associated with the pre-exascale computers.
Will Machines Ever Master Translation?
IEEE Spectrum (01/15/13) Steven Cherry
Machine-translation systems such as Google Translate use a statistical approach that relies on large volumes of data to train the translation engine, notes Common Sense Advisory's Nataly Kelly. However, she says their reliance on material translated into multiple languages carries the risk of poor translation, because statistically there are more instances of poor translation than good translation. "As more data comes into the system, it’s getting better and better, so it is changing," Kelly notes. She says machine translation can be very helpful in legal contexts, for example, where there is a discovery stage, in which scores of cases have to be sifted through to determine if there are examples of a certain charge or situation. "But definitely when you have a situation, like a patient comes into an emergency room, you don’t want to be using machine translation for that," she cautions. Kelly also cites technology expert and recent Google hire Ray Kurzweil's prediction that although the quality of machine translation will eventually equal that of human translation, professional translators will not be driven into obsolescence. "He believes that their profession will evolve, and ... it is already evolving ... [as] more and more human translators are gaining experience with machine translation," she says.
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