Welcome to the March 1, 2017 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Opening: A Center for Artificial Intelligence With International Ambitions
University of Agder (Norway)
Walter Norman Wehus
February 24, 2017

The Center for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR) opening Thursday at the University of Agder (UiA) in Norway will bring together 13 scientists to pioneer new AI concepts by merging their expertise. CAIR's three areas of concentration will include machine learning, reasoning, and natural-language processing. CAIR director Ole-Christoffer Granmo says the center aspires to have an international reach, while also spanning the gap between basic research and social benefit. He notes CAIR will host the AI Circle, in which national and international delegates from diverse sectors, including health, defense, finance, and education, will confer with national experts on AI from Norwegian research institutions, and participate in workshops, courses, lectures, and project development. "Artificial intelligence will have the same impact on us as the Internet did in its time," predicts UiA rector Frank Reichert.

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Government Sets Sights on AI as Economic Opportunity
IT Pro
Clare Hopping; Dale Walker
February 27, 2017

The U.K. government today launched its Digital Strategy, which includes significant funding for artificial intelligence (AI) research so the technology will play a larger economic role. "The Digital Strategy will build on our strengths to make sure U.K.-based scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs continue to be at the [AI] forefront," says U.K. culture secretary Karen Bradley. The strategy will begin with an AI review conducted by University of Southampton professor and former ACM president Wendy Hall and BenevolentTech CEO Jerome Pesenti. The U.K. government will contribute about $21.5 million in funding to the initiative via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which will foster academic development of AI and robotics projects. "We are already pioneers in today's artificial intelligence revolution and the Digital Strategy will build on our strengths to make sure U.K.-based scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs continue to be at the forefront," says Bradley.

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Blind Matchmaking for More Efficient Wireless Networks
KAUST Discovery
February 26, 2017

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have developed a framework that pairs two users from different network providers to better utilize available wireless spectrum. "Cognitive radio technology...allows secondary unlicensed users to access the primary licensed users' frequency bands," says KAUST's Doha Hamza. "To make this possible, the primary and secondary users need to be robustly paired in a way that ensures mutual benefit while maintaining quality-of-service constraints." Hamza and KAUST professor Jeff Shamma applied matching theory to meet the cognitive radio-pairing challenge. "Unlike conventional applications for matching theory, there is no central authority to regulate the market, meaning that primary and secondary users have limited information about the preferences of other actors," Shamma notes. He says this lack of centralization was overcome with a "blind" matching algorithm whose agents meet one-on-one and make proposals based on their current wants, which may be accepted or rejected.

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Trump signs bill in Oval Office Trump Signs Laws to Promote Women in STEM
Erin Carson
February 28, 2017

President Trump on Tuesday signed into law the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act and the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act. The laws authorize the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage women and girls to enter science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The INSPIRE Women Act urges NASA to present two congressional committees with plans for placing staff in front of K-12 girls studying STEM subjects. The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act authorizes NSF to support entrepreneurial programs for women. Women make up about 47 percent of the U.S. workforce, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found they account for only 25.6 percent of computer- and math-related jobs, and 15.4 percent of architecture and engineering jobs.

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Online Security Apps Focus on Parental Control, Not Teen Self-Regulation
Penn State News
Matt Swayne
February 27, 2017

Pennsylvania State University researchers recently conducted a study of 74 Android mobile apps designed to promote adolescent online safety and found 89 percent of the security features on the apps are focused on parental control, while only 11 percent supported teen self-regulation. The security features are designed for online activities that teens are most likely to engage in, such as using a browser or app, texting, or accessing social media. Although the features could help curb unwanted activity, the researchers found they do not improve communication between parents and their children, or help teens develop the skills needed to navigate the Internet over the long term. The researchers say app designers should incorporate features that balance both parental controls and teen self-regulation. They presented their findings this week at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2017) in Portland, OR.

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digitization of the Jupiter Column 3D Computer Models of Gigantic Archaeological Objects
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Monika Landgraf
February 27, 2017

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany are employing contact-free digitization techniques to produce three-dimensional (3D) models of archeological artifacts as part of the HEiKA MUSIEKE cultural heritage project. The KIT team used a commercially available camera to take about 800 photos of the Jupiter Column of Ladenburg. Once uploaded to a computer, characteristic features of the column in the different images were identified and interlinked to yield a 3D model. The model magnifies elements that were previously barely visible to the human eye. The KIT researchers also use photogrammetry and digitization techniques. "In production or in the construction sector in particular, objects have to be measured in a contact-free, automatic, and rapid way," says KIT's Thomas Vogtle. "Cameras and digitization are very valuable tools for this purpose."

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Mosaic pneumococcal population structure New Algorithm Identifies Gene Transfers Between Different Bacterial Species
Aalto University
February 24, 2017

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland combined machine learning and bioinformatics to create a new computational method for modeling gene transfers between different lineages of a bacterial population, or between different bacterial species. They say the new method was used to analyze 616 whole-genomes of a recombinogenic pathogen. The Aalto study showed gene transfer occurs both within species and between several different species. The researchers were surprised by the large number of transfers identified during the study. "The method...makes it possible to effectively examine ancestral gene transfers for the first time, which is important in examining transfers between different species," says Aalto's Pekka Marttinen. However, he notes the study "will not provide a direct solution to antibiotic resistance because this would require a profound understanding of how the resistance occurs and spreads. Nevertheless, knowing the extent to which gene transfer occurs between different species and lineages can help in improving this understanding."

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The Massive MIMO system Bristol and BT Collaborate on Massive MIMO Trials for 5G Wireless
University of Bristol News
February 24, 2017

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. and Lund University in Sweden have conducted field trials of a massive multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) system, as part of their effort to develop highly efficient fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology. The researchers wanted to test massive MIMO spatial multiplexing indoors and improve their understanding of massive MIMO radio channels under mobile conditions and with untethered devices. The field tests indicated the technology could offer spectrum efficiency of just under 100 bits/s/Hz, which would be a 10-fold improvement on the capacity of conventional long term evolution systems. In addition, the system can support the simultaneous transmission of 24 user streams operating with 64QAM on the same radio channel with all modems synchronizing over-the-air. The researchers also conducted outdoor trials, which enabled far-field array characterization, multi-element handset performance, and experiments to improve the understanding of the massive MIMO radio channel.

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New Studies Illustrate How Gamers Get Good
News from Brown
Kevin Stacey
February 27, 2017

A new study led by researchers at Brown University followed players of the computer games "Halo: Reach" and "StarCraft 2" to learn how they acquired and maintained their skill level. The researchers examined data generated by seven months of Halo team matches and tracked how players' habits influence the pace of their skill acquisition. An analysis of the data found that over the first 200 games, those who played four to eight matches every week gained the most skill with each match, followed by those who played eight to 16 matches. Overall, however, people who played the most matches per week (more than 64) had the greatest increase in skill over time. With "StarCraft 2," the researchers studied hundreds of matches to see what elite players did different from less-skilled players; they learned elite players used hotkeys, or custom key shortcuts, to save time. Skilled gamers also warmed up their reflexes before gameplay by scrolling rapidly through their hotkeys. The results of both studies indicate skill acquisition derives from frequent but not excessive practice and unique, consistent rituals.

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Disney Research Demonstrates Open-Air Wireless Charging
Lucas Mearian
February 22, 2017

Disney Research says its new quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR) technology offers a way for mobile devices to wirelessly charge themselves by taking power from magnetic fields generated by purpose-built structures. The Disney engineers employ a magnetic resonator coil to emit these fields. Their experiments demonstrated the QSCR technology could provide power to small coil receivers in almost any position with 40-percent to 95-percent efficiency in a 16×16x7.5-ft. room with a floor, ceiling, and walls of painted aluminum sheet metal. Disney says a maximum 1,900 watts can be safely conveyed between transmitters and a coil receiver in a mobile device, "enabling safe and ubiquitous wireless power." "Ultimately, QCSR-based wireless power offers a viable method for eliminating the wires and batteries that have limited many innovative solutions in the industrial, medical, and consumer electronic spaces while providing an unprecedented amount of spatial charging freedom," according to Disney.

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3-D structure model A Revolutionary Atom-Thin Semiconductor for Electronics
University of Bayreuth
Christian Wissler
February 23, 2017

Researchers at the University of Bayreuth in Germany have developed Hexagonal Boron Carbon Nitrogen, a two-dimensional (2D) material that could revolutionize electronics. The researchers say the new material, which features semiconductor properties, could be better suited for high-tech applications than other conventional materials, such as graphene. "Our development can be the starting point for a new generation of electronic transistors, circuits, and sensors that are many times smaller and more flexible than previous electronic elements," says Bayreuth professor Axel Enders. Although graphene is extremely stable and serves as an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, electrons flow unhindered at any electrical voltage, meaning there are no defined "on" and "off" states. The Bayreuth researchers attempted to solve this problem by replacing individual carbon atoms in the material with boron and nitrogen, in such a way they were able to form a two-dimensional lattice with semiconductor properties.

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Playtime's Over
Technology Review
Emma Brunskill
February 22, 2017

Reinforcement-learning techniques that enabled a computer to beat world-class human Go champions last year should be applied to much higher ambitions, according to Stanford University professor Emma Brunskill. She says "data smart" algorithms are an essential ingredient in the creation of artificial tutors via reinforcement learning. "In some cases there's not enough data, or not the right kind of data, which makes it challenging to develop systems that make good decisions," Brunskill notes. She says her team at Stanford is developing reinforcement-learning algorithms and statistical methods so computers can devise good suggestions while using less data. Brunskill also stresses humans should participate in reinforcement learning to enable algorithms to "reason" about their own performance and consult with humans for guidance and aid with conducting complex tasks. "Such human-computer collaborations could help students to learn using approaches we can't yet imagine," she says.

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Twitter Researchers Offer Clues as to Why Trump Won
University of Rochester NewsCenter
Bob Marcotte
February 20, 2017

Researchers at the University of Rochester have published eight papers summarizing their 14-month analysis of the 2016 U.S. presidential election based on Twitter data, in conjunction with machine-learning tools. The study, conducted from September 2015 through October 2016, focused on each candidate's Twitter followers. Researchers accumulated a massive dataset that included the number of each major candidate's Twitter followers, 8 million tweets, and 5 million Twitter profiles. A convolutional neural network was trained to determine the age, gender, and race of the candidates' followers using their Twitter photos. Researchers were then able to analyze the role of each of these factors during the campaign and track changes in each candidate's followers. For example, data showed Donald Trump's following grew faster the more he tweeted, and Hillary Clinton's female following grew when Trump accused her of playing the "woman card."

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March 2017 CACM Issue
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