Welcome to the October 3, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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College, Coding Boot Camp Find a Way to Team Up
The Wall Street Journal
Melissa Korn
September 30, 2018

Dominican University of California and Make School, a San Francisco-based college founded in 2014 in collaboration with Silicon Valley employers and educators, are launching an initiative under which computer science courses will be taught at Dominican by Make School instructors, and general-education courses will be taught at Make School by Dominican instructors. The rise of coding boot camps to provide basic computer programming skills to liberal arts graduates has stalled, with some closing over the past year and others rebranding as corporate training programs. While these boot camps typically appeal to college graduates, Make School generally enrolls younger students during the summer and in its two-year program. Make School, however, is now accepting applications for a new bachelor's degree and expects to have an independent, accredited three-year degree program by 2023. Dominican expects to have its own computer science minor by then.

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The World’s Two Largest Enterprise Blockchain Groups Join Forces
Lucas Mearian
October 1, 2018

Hyperledger, an open source collaborative under the auspices of The Linux Foundation, and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), a blockchain standards organization, have announced a collaboration on promotion and development of open source, standards-based, cross-platform blockchain technology. Says EEA's Ron Resnick, "The EEA is focused on driving a community of organizations around a common set of standards and then certifying applications against those standards." Through their respective member companies, the partners will collaborate across diverse special interest groups, working groups, and conferences worldwide, linking developers in both communities. Resnick says EEA community members developing specifications and standards can utilize Hyperledger to collaborate on software deployments of those standards.

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EEG Reading and graphical brain model with man wearing brain scanning helmet in background The First 'Social Network' of Brains Lets Three People Transmit Thoughts to Each Other's Heads
Technology Review
September 29, 2018

University of Washington in Seattle researchers have developed a brain-to-brain network that transmits thoughts among members of a group. Using the BrainNet brain-to-brain network, three people—two senders and one receiver/transmitter—send and receive information directly to their brains to solve a game in which blocks must be spun to fit in spaces at the bottom of the screen. The senders, wearing electroencephalograms (EEGs) that record electrical activity in the brain, view the full screen, deciding how to rotate the blocks and broadcasting the information to the receiver, who wears both an EEG and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) gear, which can transmit information into the brain. The researchers suggest a cloud-based brain-to-brain interface server “could direct information transmission between any set of devices on the brain-to-brain interface network and make it globally operable through the Internet, thereby allowing cloud-based interactions between brains on a global scale."

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Child writing in a notebook Software Helps Analyze Writing Disabilities
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
September 28, 2018

Researchers in the Computer-Human Interaction in Learning and Instruction Laboratory of Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have developed a software program that can analyze children's writing disabilities and their causes. The software, called Tegami, was developed from a database of writing samples from 300 children, around 25% of whom suffered from dysgraphia, or the inability to write coherently. Tegami, which is run on a tablet, analyzes 53 different characteristics of a child's writing, including the angle of the pen, the amount of pressure the child applies to the tablet, how quickly the child writes, and whether the child's hand shakes, up to 200 times every second. The program was able to detect a learning disability with 98% accuracy. Child psychiatrist Thomas Gargot says the data collected by the software will enable pediatricians to determine whether a child has writing disabilities associated with autism, hyperactivity, or attention deficit disorder, as well as providing a better understanding of how teaching methods can be adapted accordingly.

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Man exercising while wearing VR headset VR Can Improve Performance During Exercise
University of Kent
Dan Worth
October 1, 2018

Researchers in the School of Engineering and Digital Arts of the University of Kent in the U.K. have found using virtual reality (VR) headsets while exercising reduced perception of pain and effort, while extending activity. The researchers examined how using VR while exercising could affect performance by measuring heart rate, pain intensity, perceived exhaustion, time to exhaustion, and private body consciousness. The team monitored 80 individuals performing an isometric bicep curl set at 20% of the maximum weight they could lift, and were told to hold it for as long as possible. Half the group served as a control, performing the move inside a room with a chair, a table, and yoga mat on the floor. The VR group used the same room and items, but wore a VR headset and saw the same environment, including a visual representation of an arm and the weight, and completed the same motion. The results showed a clear reduction in perception of pain and effort when using VR technology. Lead researcher Maria Matsangidou said the research could have “major implications for exercise regimes for everyone, from occasional gym users to professional athletes.”

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NSF-Funded Grant Partnership to Promote Computer Science Careers Among African-American Girls
Tuskegee University
September 28, 2018

The National Science Foundation has awarded Tuskegee University, the University of Alabama, and Oakland University in Michigan a $1.2-million grant to promote computer science careers among African-American high school girls in Alabama. The initiative, called “bLack Girls from Alabama for Computing (LeGACy)," is designed to prepare the cohort to take the new advanced placement (AP) course in computer science. Participants will be immersed in activities that promote collaborative learning of relevant topics, awareness of computer science career options, and community building. By engaging students through culturally relevant computer science projects, the initiative aims to encourage the girls to pursue careers in computer science. It also aims to turn participants into "ambassadors" to their peers to further boost interest in the field. Tuskegee and the University of Alabama will serve as implementation sites, offering students the option to live on either campus while participating. Oakland University will gauge the impact of project implementation, in terms of the overall growth in interest to study and pursue careers in computer science.

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A 360-degree panoramic simulation of the lunar surface taken by NASA Frontier Development Lab AI Learns to Guide Planetary Rovers Without GPS
IEEE Spectrum
Jeremy Hsu
September 25, 2018

A scientific team organized by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Frontier Development Laboratory has developed a method of training deep learning algorithms to quickly localize planetary rovers via image comparison. The team used an off-the-shelf moon simulation built into the Unreal game engine to mimic lunar terrain features without precisely matching the actual landscape. During training, the researchers captured images facing north, south, east, and west from specific lunar surface locations within the simulation, and combined and reprojected them to generate a top-down view similar to a satellite's overhead perspective. This enabled the algorithm to identify certain synthetic lunar surface features and match them against sites on an orbital map of the simulation. The final proof-of-concept demonstrates how an artificial intelligence agent could help operators locate the rovers, pinpointing the correct location within its first five guesses.

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Decoding Multiple Frames From a Single, Scattered Exposure
Duke University Pratt School of Engineering
Ken Kingery
September 27, 2018

Duke University researchers have developed a technique to extract a sequence of images from light scattered through a mostly opaque material from a single, prolonged photographic exposure, with potential use in fields that include security and healthcare. Light scattered as it passes through a translucent material is not truly random, since the light coming from one point of an object travels a path similar to that of light coming from an adjacent point, so the speckle pattern from each looks very similar. Duke's Michael Gehm says he has modified a "memory effect" method using a sequence of coded apertures to tag which light is coming from which moment in time. Said Gehm, "Today's cameras have such amazing resolution that if you look closely, there's still enough of a pattern to computationally get a toehold and tease them apart."

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Robots May Need Lizard-Like Tails for 'Off-Road' Travel
UQ News
September 26, 2018

A multi-institution project including the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia found that the motion of lizards could improve designs for robots. UQ's Nicholas Wu said, "What we found...is that some lizards run bipedally sooner than expected, by moving their body back and winging their tail up. This means that they could run bipedally for longer, perhaps to overcome obstacles in their path." The University of the Sunshine Coast's Christofer Clemente said the findings may have ramifications for designing bio-inspired robots. Clemente said, "If obstacle negotiation is indeed improved with bipedal locomotion, then we have shown how the tail and body can be moved to enable it sooner and for longer. Maybe adding a tail to robots can help them go 'off-road' sooner."

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Smart Devices Could Soon Tap Their Owners as a Battery Source
University of Surrey
September 26, 2018

A solution for powering the next generation of electronics using devices that can harvest energy from sources such as human movement, wind, waves, and machine vibrations, has been developed by researchers at the Advanced Technology Institute of the U.K.’s University of Surrey. Triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) use the contact between two or more materials to produce an electric current, and the researchers say they have developed a "TENG power transfer equation" and "TENG impedance plot," both of which can help improve TENG design for more powerful energy output. Said Surrey's Ravi Silva, "TENGs are ideal for powering wearables, Internet of Things devices, and self-powered electronic applications." Surrey's Ishara Dharmasena added, "The new tools developed here will help researchers all over the world to exploit the true potential of triboelectric nanogenerators, and to design optimized energy harvesting units for custom applications."

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Defects Promise Quantum Communication Through Standard Optical Fiber
University of Groningen
October 1, 2018

An international team of researchers led by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has developed a method of creating quantum bits (qubits) that emit photons describing their state at wavelengths close to those used by telecommunications providers. The qubits are based on silicon carbide in which molybdenum impurities create color centers, and they transmit information on their status at a wavelength of 1,100 nanometers. The mechanism involved can likely be tuned to wavelengths near those used in data transmission, which is usually around 1,300 to 1,500 nanometers. The team started with defects in silicon carbon crystals that respond to light of specific wavelengths. They used the coherent population trapping technique to create superposition in the color centers, resulting in a qubit in which the spin states represent 0 or 1. The researchers found the qubit emitted photons with information on its quantum state at infrared wavelengths.

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Deepfakes for Good: Why Researchers Are Using AI to Fake Health Data
Fast Company
Jackie Snow
September 24, 2018

Researchers using artificial intelligence (AI) to spot medical conditions are faced with several impediments, including privacy, financial concerns, and a lack of examples related to rare diseases. Generative adversarial networks (GANs) offer a solution, creating realistic-enough medical images for AI to learn on. Now, researchers have used GANs to produce synthetic brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images with tumors. The team trained the system on two open brain MRI datasets, and determined the resulting images were sufficiently realistic so that using 10% real data and 90% GAN-created information could effectively train the algorithm to detect tumors in new images, as well as in a dataset comprised of totally real images.

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Red traffic light Supercomputing for Better Commuting: In Pursuit of Fuel Economy, Mobility
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Stephanie G. Seay
September 28, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers are working with GRIDSMART Technologies to demonstrate how traffic lights can be programmed to improve automotive fuel economy and reduce emissions, while facilitating the flow of traffic. The researchers are using computer vision, machine learning, and sensors to teach GRIDSMART cameras to estimate the fuel economy of vehicles at intersections and then to control traffic signal timing in order to save energy while optimizing traffic throughput. The project is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's High-Performance Computing for Mobility program, which brings together supercomputing resources and scientific expertise to find solutions to real-world transportation energy challenges. ORNL's Tom Karnowski says, "The whole idea is to teach cameras to estimate fuel consumption and then teach an entire grid of those cameras to manage traffic lights to make the system more fuel-efficient."

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State-Level Policy for Computer Science Education Continues to Grow
Colin Wood
September 28, 2018

A report by Code.org found many U.S. states are aggressively implementing policies in support of computer science (CS) education across K-12 curriculums. The organization says 44 states have put in place at least one policy that brings CS to students. In contrast, in 2013 only 14 states and Washington, D.C., had one or more CS education policies in place. Code.org lists nine policy variants that states can develop for CS education, falling into categories that include policies that create plans and set standards; policies that apportion funding or boost capacity by training teachers; policies that establish dedicated CS positions within state government agencies; and policies that embed CS more tightly into academic curriculums. However, the nonprofit says only 35% of high schools in 24 vetted states are offering CS courses. Microsoft's Brad Smith says, "We hope that every state passes laws, by the end of the year, to ensure that all students, no matter his or her background, can learn to code."

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October 2018 Issue of Communications of the ACM

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