Welcome to the February 9, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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The Chinese and American flags Racing to Match China's Growing Computer Power, U.S. Outlines Design for Exascale Computer
Robert F. Service
February 7, 2018

Scientists this week are meeting in Knoxville, TN, to view the initial designs for the A21, the first U.S.-based exascale supercomputer, to be built by 2021 at Argonne National Laboratory, nearly two years earlier than planned. The A21 will be built by Intel and Cray and is expected to supercharge simulation. "With exascale we can put a lot more physics in there," says Choong-Seock Chang at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey. Researchers want the A21 to prevent the U.S. from lagging too far behind China and Japan, who are ahead in the race to create exascale systems. Chang says in general terms, the A21's design focuses on decreasing the need to move data long distances between processors. He expects the new machine to require 25 to 30 megawatts of power, which is only about twice that of the 200-petaflop Summit system under development at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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Center for Machine Intelligence Launched to Help Build a Smarter and Safer Society
University of Southampton
February 7, 2018

The University of Southampton in the U.K. recently launched the Center for Machine Intelligence (CMI), bringing together researchers and practitioners in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous systems to develop a coherent approach to research and technology transfer. Discussions at the launch event focused on these various technologies' application in large-scale Internet of Things systems and in the insurance and social care sectors. Research groups within the CMI will focus on the theoretical aspects of machine intelligence, including the Agents, Interaction, and Complexity group, and the Vision, Learning, and Control group. "The formation of the CMI is an important next step at a time of great advances in this field and we look forward to working with industry, policymakers and the general public as we address both national and global challenges," says Southampton professor Sarvapali Ramchurn, who will head the CMI.

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Social Robot Developed at UNSW Set to Revolutionize Workplace Experience
UNSW Newsroom
Susanna Smith
February 8, 2018

Researchers at the University of New South Wales' (UNSW) Creative Robotics Lab in Australia and the Fuji Xerox Research Technology Group in Japan have developed a social robot to promote creativity and collaboration in the workplace. "We would like a special type of robot that would fit right into the workplace so that people will not be disturbed by its presence but at the same time help them with their tasks," says Fuji Xerox's Roshan Thapliya. The UNSW Social Robotics Lab will focus on the robot's design and psychological programming, with other technical details such as robo-navigation and artificial intelligence developed by the UNSW School of Computer Science and Fuji Xerox. The researchers note the robot is designed to enable synchronization between employees. "One of the differentiators will be understanding the person's emotional requirements and acting not in a physical way, but in a subtle way that facilitates positive arousal," Thapliya says.

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Researchers Develop the First Model to Capture Crosstalk in Social Dilemmas
IST Austria
February 7, 2018

Researchers at IST Austria and Harvard, Yale, and Stanford universities have developed a new computing framework that enables the analysis of the effects of crosstalk in social dilemmas or games. Their work accounts for the quantitative evaluation of the effects of crosstalk on cooperation dynamics in a population. In a given simulation, each virtual player has a memory of the games played with each of the other players, with the new model presenting some chance that these memories will be replaced with the memories corresponding to a third player. The team says this is a generalized technique of encoding crosstalk, accounting for the myriad varieties of crosstalk, be it simple human error, paying-it-forward, or some other type. In addition, the researchers note the model can be applied to any societal network--from a group where everyone knows everyone else to a circle to a random tangle of connections.

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Female bear with her three cubs Where's the Bear?
The UCSB Current
Shelly Leachman
February 7, 2018

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) are using machine learning to identify and classify wildlife caught on camera to help ecologists. Their "Where's the Bear" initiative uses a multitier, cloud, edge, and sensing system that combines innovations in machine learning-based image processing to automatically classify animals in images captured by remote, motion-triggered camera traps. To build a training dataset, UCSB professors Chandra Krintz and Rich Wolski overlaid thousands of stock photos of wildlife onto background images from camera-monitored watering holes at UCSB's Sedgwick Ranch Reserve. The team used these synthetic images to train their device to automatically and accurately identify and classify animals, helping scientists aggregate and analyze more than 1 million images dating back years. "Hopefully...we can eventually go to all the reserves in the UC system and help them, their researchers, and their students answer interesting questions and see how far we can push this," Krintz says.

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Leading Cloud Providers Join With NSF to Support Data Science Frontiers
National Science Foundation
February 7, 2018

The U.S. National Science Foundation will invest about $30 million in research in data science and engineering via its Critical Techniques, Technologies, and Methodologies for Advancing Foundations and Applications of Big Data Sciences and Engineering (BIGDATA) program. Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure have each pledged up to $3 million in cloud resources for relevant BIGDATA projects over a three-year period, and this collaboration seeks to encourage research projects to concentrate on large-scale experimentation and scalability studies. The joint venture will provide BIGDATA projects with cloud credits, facilitating access to cloud-based storage and computing. The BIGDATA program funds research in computer science, statistics, computational science, and mathematics designed to advance the frontiers of data science. BIGDATA also supports work on innovative applications that leverage data science advances to improve knowledge in domains such as the social and behavioral sciences, education, biology, the physical sciences, and engineering.

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Various pop-up windows for ads and ad blockers, illustrated  Online Sites Fight Back Against Blocked Ads
UCR Today
J.D. Warren
February 6, 2018

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) recently examined the anti-ad blocking environment and what can be done to improve it. They ran several concurrent experiments, including a differential execution analysis to automatically detect and analyze anti-ad blockers that collected execution traces by visiting a website with and without ad blockers to measure the different in-browser experiences. This revealed anti-ad blockers on 30 percent of the Alexa top 10,000 sites, marking a 52-percent increase over the most recently reported figures. "Our system can discover attempts to detect ad blockers even when there is no visible reaction, which happens in over 90 percent of cases," says UCR professor Zhiyun Qian. The researchers used the findings to develop software tools, including JavaScript rewriting and application programming interface hooking-based solutions to help ad blockers bypass state-of-the-art anti-ad blockers. "It is crucial that ad blockers keep pace with anti-ad blockers in the rapidly escalating technological arms race," Qian says.

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Sign written in Hindi with English translation “kindly take off your shoes” written below. Microsoft AI and Deep Neural Networks to Boost Real-Time Language Translation in Indian Languages
Rohit Arora
February 7, 2018

Researchers at Microsoft have integrated artificial intelligence (AI) and deep neural networks (DNN) to improve real-time language translation for Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil. The technology will help users retrieve results that are more accurate and natural, enhance the overall search and translation functionality, and positively impact agriculture, healthcare, education, and governance across India. In addition, the Microsoft translator is equipped with TrueText, a satellite DNN-based system that enhances the translation's contextual appropriateness by filtering out repetition, pauses, and indifferent words. The new technology is part of Microsoft's Statistical Machine Translation initiative, which aims to translate global languages from the past two decades. The use of DNNs for translating complex Indian languages has been designed to bring more accuracy and fluency to the translation process. "We're committed to empower every Indian and every business in India by bringing the power of AI into their daily life and become a driving force for Digital India," says Microsoft's Sundar Srinivasan.

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Researchers Take Terahertz Data Links Around the Bend
Brown University
Kevin Stacey
February 6, 2018

Researchers at Brown University in Rhode Island recently conducted a study showing terahertz frequency data links can bounce around a room without losing too much data, which could make future terahertz wireless data networks more feasible. Most terahertz researchers assumed there would be too much power loss when terahertz waves bounced off walls, but the Brown team has determined that the loss is actually quite tolerable in some cases. The researchers bounced terahertz waves at four different frequencies off a variety of objects, and measured the bit-error-rate of the data on the wave after the bounces. The researchers say they also conducted several outdoor experiments on terahertz wireless links. Brown professor Daniel Mittleman notes these kinds of basic studies on the nature of terahertz data transmission are important for understanding how to design the network architecture for future terahertz data systems.

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Blue circuit board with cloud symbol and connection links, illustrated Smartly Containing the Cloud Increases Computing Efficiency, Says First-of-its-Kind Study
Virginia Tech News
Amy Loeffler
February 6, 2018

Researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) have discovered ways to improve computing efficiency using management tools for cloud-based lightweight virtual machine replacements called containers. Containers share the core of the underlying operating system, enabling faster deployment of software programs without diminishing performance, but they have only recently been studied as part of the cloud infrastructure, says Virginia Tech's Ali Anwar. The new research indicates that how containers function in the cloud is important to developing and distributing future computer systems that maximize efficiency. The researchers analyzed an unprecedented amount of data from five geographically distributed data centers over 75 days spanning 38 million requests and 181.3 TB of time-stamped logs that document a program's execution, known as traces. They team says its research uncovered an important aspect of container technology that utilized caching and prefetching of information, which are important in reducing latency.

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