Welcome to the April 23, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Flexible TVs, illustration Flexible TVs, High-Performance Wearable Smart Tech One Step Closer
University of Manchester
Jordan Kenny
April 18, 2018

Researchers at The University of Manchester in the U.K. and Shandong University in China have developed a nanoscale transistor, a device that could be used in flexible televisions, tablets, and phones, as well as in wearable smart technologies The ultrafast, nanoscale, thin-film transistor (TFT) is the first oxide-semiconductor-based device capable of operating at a benchmark speed of 1 GHz. This development could enable electronic gadgets to become faster, brighter, and more flexible. Current TFTs are mostly silicon-based, making them opaque, stiff, and expensive. University of Manchester professor Aimin Song says the new GHz transistors may enable medium or even high-performance flexible electronic circuits, noting that wearable electronics require flexibility and, in many cases, transparency. Oxide semiconductor TFTs will also play a critical role in smart homes, smart hospitals, and smart cities, according to Song.

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power electronics components Intelligent Components for the Power Grid of the Future
Kiel University
April 18, 2018

A smart transformer prototype that automatically regulates the current flow in semiconductors made of silicon carbide has been developed by researchers at Kiel University in Germany, a breakthrough that could be used for better integration of electric car charging stations, as well as for the connection of direct current (DC) networks and in data centers. The newly developed power electronics transformer can transform medium voltage into low voltage, enabling a connection to DC at the same time. The smart transformer's modular design makes it maintenance-friendly, and easily and cost-effectively scaled for different applications. Potential applications include reducing energy consumption (while increasing security) in data centers and in electric aircraft.

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Sony, Carnegie Mellon Form Partnership to Research Cooking Robots
Stephanie Condon
April 18, 2018

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Sony are working together to study how artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics can be used to improve food preparation, cooking, and delivery. The researchers want to teach machines to handle fragile and irregularly shaped materials, skills that could be applied to other household or small business tasks. The project, which be run primarily out of CMU's School of Computer Science, has the potential to make the vast possibilities of AI and robotics more familiar and accessible to the general public, according to project lead Hiroaki Kitano, president and CEO of Sony Computer Science Laboratories.

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optical electronics components, illustration Integrating Optical Components Into Existing Chip Designs
MIT News
Larry Hardesty
April 19, 2018

An assembly method using existing manufacturing processes to combine on-chip optics and electronics separately has been developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California, Berkeley, and Boston University. "The most promising thing about this work is that you can optimize your photonics independently from your electronics," says MIT's Amir Atabaki. The chip features all the elements needed for optical communication, including modulators, waveguides, resonators, and photodetectors. The breakthrough facilitates the direct deposition of silicon on top of glass, requiring the use of polysilicon comprised of many small silicon crystals. Large-crystal polysilicon efficiently conducts electricity, but tends to scatter light and reduce optical efficiency; small-crystal polysilicon scatters light less, but is less conductive. The researchers tested out a series of recipes for polysilicon deposition, varying the type of raw silicon utilized, processing temperatures, and times, until they found a technique that offered a good tradeoff between electronic and optical characteristics.

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HD video streaming system UW team Researchers Achieve HD Video Streaming at 10,000 Times Lower Power
University of Washington
Sarah McQuate
April 19, 2018

University of Washington researchers have developed an HD video streaming method that avoids the heavy power consumption of wearable devices by using a smartphone to process the video. The method uses a technique called backscatter, through which a device can share information by reflecting signals that have been transmitted to it. The team developed a system in which pixels in the camera are directly connected to the antenna, sending intensity values via backscatter to a nearby smartphone for processing. The system translates pixel information from each video frame into a series of pulses in which the width of each pulse represents a pixel value. The method uses 1,000 to 10,000 times less power than current streaming technology, but still requires a small battery to maintain continuous operation. The next step is to make wireless video cameras that are completely battery-free, the team says.

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How AR and Computer Mapping are Leading to Safer Medical Procedures
Medical Design
Carlos Gonzalez
April 17, 2018

Smartphone technology being developed by researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands can create a more accurate human body scan by using augmented reality (AR) and Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology. The new technology enables doctors to reconstruct three-dimensional (3D) body sections by directing the smartphone at particular areas, with the smartphone displaying AR layers of the 3D skin surface. University of Twente researcher Beril Sirmacek says the technology will allow doctors to use AR to view features such as tumors, veins, and the status of diabetic ulcers. This tool in a biopsy situation would guide robot arms to reach a tumor for biopsy at the first attempt, according to Sirmacek. SLAM uses data from body scans to output continuously updated mapping by constantly reorienting scans and incorporating new data.

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Algorithm Tool Works to Silence Online Chatroom Sex Predators
Purdue University News
Brian L. Huchel
April 17, 2018

Purdue University researchers have developed the Chat Analysis Triage Tool (CATT), an algorithm to help law enforcement agencies focus on sex offenders most likely to set up face-to-face meetings with child victims. The new algorithm allows officers to work through a large volume of solicitations to examine a suspect's word usage and conversation patterns, says Purdue professor Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar. "We went through and tried to identify language-based differences and factors like self-disclosure," she says, referring to a tactic in which the suspect tries to develop trust by sharing a personal story such as parental abuse. This helps determine the probability of attempted face-to-face contact, allowing officers to prioritize cases. The researchers plan to turn CATT over to law enforcement agencies for testing, and the tool could be handling data from active cases by the end of the year.

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Virus capsid of simian virus University of Stuttgart Advances MegaMol Cross-Platform Visualization Framework
Rob Johnson
April 16, 2018

The MegaMol team at the Visualization Research Center of the University of Stuttgart in Germany has been developing a cross-platform particle visualization framework for more than a decade. The framework facilitates imaging and investigation of extremely small molecular dynamic complexities in three dimensions, and it supports rapid prototyping using desktop systems employing Microsoft Windows and Linux. The team expects complementing MegaMol's graphical-processing unit-centric framework with the speed and embedded benefits of OSPRay's Intel Xeon central processing units (CPUs) will further scientific progress via advanced visualization middleware. OSPRay maximizes vectorization and ray-tracing capability on the CPU to leverage superior memory capacity and advanced vector extensions to accelerate workloads on Intel Xeon Scalable and Intel Xeon Phi processors. "Instead of evaluating rays one at a time, the vector processing can package multiple rays together for simultaneous processing," says Intel's Jim Jeffers. "Through this 'single instruction, multiple data' capability, many efficiencies can be gained."

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Robot Developed for Automated Assembly of Designer Nanomaterials
University of Tokyo
April 13, 2018

Researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan have developed a robot that more quickly collects two-dimensional (2D) crystals and assembles them to form van der Waals heterostructures, a complex process previously limited to manual operation. The robot incorporates an automated high-speed optical microscope that detects crystals, whose positions and parameters are recorded in a database; specialized software uses that information to design heterostructures, which are assembled layer by layer by a robot guided by a computer algorithm. The researchers found the new system could stack up to four layers an hour, with just a few minutes of human input required for each layer. The researchers say the robot will facilitate the use of van der Waals heterostructures in electronic devices.

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A superconducting chip Complexity, Fidelity, Application
The Current
Sonia Fernandez
April 12, 2018

Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Google recently announced the development of a 72-quantum bit (qubit) chip with an untested "bristlecone" architecture. The power of quantum computing partly resides in the superpositioning of quantum states, but also important is fidelity. The team says experiments with their superconducting qubits have yielded an error rate of 1 percent per qubit with three- and nine-qubit systems, which they say can be reduced as they scale up via enhancements in hardware, calibration, materials, architecture, and machine learning. "A good reason why our fidelity was so high is because we're able to reach complex states in very little time," says Google researcher Charles Neill.

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