Welcome to the November 7, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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CMU's Sandholm, Brown to Receive Minsky Medal
Carnegie Mellon University
Byron Spice
November 6, 2018

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)'s Tuomas Sandholm and Noam Brown have been named to receive the second Marvin Minsky Medal from the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for outstanding achievement in AI. Sandholm and Brown created Libratus, the first AI to beat top professional poker players at Heads-up No-Limit Texas Hold'em in January 2017. The AI played 120,000 hands against four pros, beating each player individually and collectively earning more than $1.8 million in chips, an as-yet-unduplicated accomplishment. Instead of using expert domain knowledge, Libratus analyzed the rules of poker and developed its own strategy. Said Sandholm, "Computational techniques for solving imperfect-information games will have large numbers of applications in the future since most real-world settings have more than one actor and imperfect information. I believe that this is a tipping point toward applications now that the best AI has reached superhuman level, as measured on the main benchmark in the field."

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Subtle Visual Cues Nudge Users to Reveal More in Online Forums
Penn State News
Matt Swayne
November 6, 2018

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) researchers found people using an online sexual health forum featuring computer graphics suggesting crowd size and linkage revealed more sensitive information about themselves than visitors to a site lacking such visual cues. The team said the subtle power of these cues could help people foster stronger online communities. Said Penn State's Andrew Gambino, "What we've found is a very basic design solution to increase participation in this group. This might be a way for small groups, particularly ones that deal with stigmatized or marginalized topics, to survive." The work was presented yesterday at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2018) in Jersey City, NJ.

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A computer screen with multiple window screens open A Better Way to Predict Election Outcomes
Boston University
Art Jahnke
November 5, 2018

Researchers at Boston University have developed a way to correlate Web browsing patterns with public opinion polls to create better election predictions. The researchers obtained from media measurement firm comScore the Web browsing histories of more than 100,000 U.S. residents over the 56 days leading up to the 2016 election, and were able to determine when and where voters made decisions that led to the election of Donald Trump. The team found support for Hillary Clinton began to decline on Oct. 25, 2016, three days before then-U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey notified Congress that the bureau had found a new batch of relevant emails on the Clinton server. The researchers plan to further develop the system to work on encrypted data.

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Facebook, Google Sign Up to Tim Berners-Lee 'Contract'
Financial Times
Aliya Ram
November 5, 2018

Facebook and Google have signed up to new Internet standards from World Wide Web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee requiring all online companies to respect data privacy and "support the best in humanity." Berners-Lee's "contract for the Web" is designed to counter what the inventor of the World Wide Web calls a threat to people's rights and freedoms enabled by the online spread of disinformation, hate speech, and abuse. Almost 60 companies, governments, and business leaders have signed up to the contract, which establishes high-level precepts for a "free and open Web," including improving Internet access and encouraging privacy. Amazon, which ACM A.M. Turing Award recipient Berners-Lee referred to last week as one of several “huge companies” that may need to be broken up to reduce their “dominance,” is not currently a signatory of the “contract for the Web.”

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San Francisco Program Trains Homeless for Tech Jobs
Voice of America News
Deana Mitchell
November 4, 2018

Formerly homeless Del Seymour created a nonprofit organization to combat homelessness in San Francisco by helping needy individuals gain the skills to obtain employment in technology firms. Code Tenderloin (named for a section of downtown San Francisco) provides programming classes for computer languages such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript, as well as offering classes in job readiness. Code Tenderloin students visit technology companies to meet people, ask questions, and learn from workers. Classes are free, and in some cases computers are supplied. So far only a small number of Code Tenderloin students have found full-time technology jobs, while others have secured internships. The Coalition on Homelessness' Jennifer Friedenbach said, "Even if you don't land a coding job, you might land a different job. The movement toward that is really important for folks lifting themselves out of poverty."

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A robot tapping a hologram of options, tempering with settings Can a Robot Learn a Language the Way a Child Does?
Stephanie Condon
October 31, 2018

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a method to train semantic parsers (which convert a spoken phrase to a machine-understandable representation of its meaning) by mimicking the way a child learns language. The system observes captioned videos and connects the words to recorded actions and objects. The team integrated a semantic parser and computer-vision component trained in object, human, and activity recognition in video, then trained the system on a crowdsourced dataset of captioned videos depicting human actions. The parser associated the words with actions and objects in a video, learning sentence structure in order to predict the meaning of a sentence without relying on video. MIT's Andrei Barbu said the work aims to support the development of home robots that can adjust to homeowners' unique speaking patterns "and still figure out what they mean."

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FDA Not Doing Enough to Prevent Medical Device Hacking, HHS Report Says
Naomi Thomas
November 1, 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not sufficiently protecting medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps from being hacked, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report. The report says FDA policies fail to address medical device cybersecurity problems, the organization has not sufficiently tested its ability to respond to emergencies, and the agency lacks written standard operating procedures. In addition, the study says the FDA has failed to adequately assess the risk that violations of cybersecurity in medical devices can pose. Said FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, "We want to assure patients and providers that the FDA is working hard to be prepared and responsive when medical device cyber vulnerabilities are identified."

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Physicists Develop New Technique to Create Quantum Memory
Folio (University of Alberta)
Katie Willis
November 5, 2018

Researchers at the University of Alberta (U of A) in Canada have developed a new method for building quantum memory. U of A's Lindsay LeBlanc said the technique involves storing light pulses in clouds of ultracold rubidium atoms, and later retrieving them on demand by beaming a "control" pulse. LeBlanc devised the method with U of A's Erhan Saglamyurek, who said, "The amount of power needed is significantly lower than current options, and these reduced requirements make it easier to implement in other labs." The researchers believe the innovation will allow the scaling up of quantum technologies. LeBlanc said the new memory could be useful for transmitting data securely over longer distances, as it can store information until it is needed.

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A man customizing his own car Customizing Your Next Car From the Comfort of Your Computer
The Globe and Mail
Matt Bubbers
November 4, 2018

Car dealerships are launching cutting-edge online sales tools allowing customers to tailor their desired vehicle configuration and options. The McLaren Automotive Real-time Configurator (MARC) is a system provided in McLaren Automotive’s Toronto, Canada, dealership that features a 4K touchscreen displaying photorealistic three-dimensional (3D) images of cars in virtual locales; users can adjust options on the car models they want with finger gestures. On the website for Hyundai's Genesis luxury brand, the model G70 has a "Build and Purchase" button that walks consumers through paint and trim option selection. Said McLaren Toronto's Mark Basili, "Where we're at right now in terms of the technology of car configurators has been a huge benefit to not only the dealers and manufacturers, but also customers, in terms of clarity on design." However, Basili added, “For the really high-end, exclusive vehicles, there will always be a human element involved.”

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One of the devices that helps stroke survivors recover, a tree with lights Technology to Help Stroke Survivors Recover
Pauline Bock
November 1, 2018

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a balance mat and a game app to help patients recovering from a stroke to regain their balance. The mat tracks the user's steps and encourages walking, while the mat shows the user's center of gravity and weight distribution, plays music, and offers three games to exercise balance. A feasibility study is currently underway for the project, and the researchers hope to bring it to market in the near future. Lund’s Charlotte Magnusson said the researchers plan to develop more games for patients that use the mat.

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A Smart City Is an Accessible City
The Atlantic
Aimi Hamraie
November 6, 2018

Smart-city accessibility mapping apps designed to help disabled urban users better navigate their environment present both advantages and drawbacks. The crowdsourced apps assume that user-contributed data can provide information while also increasing public awareness of accessibility best practices. However, accessibility "map-a-thons" held to compile such data into databases serviced by apps sometimes presume that anyone can notice and quantify accessibility, a factor that can overlook key issues and details. For example, because most smartphone accessibility apps use visual and textual data, potential obstacles can remain for visually- or sensory-impaired users. One recommended solution to ensure better urban accessibility is to incorporate knowledge from broad groups of disabled people into such crowdsourced mapping apps.

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Machine Learning Helps Identify the Animals that Deadly Viruses Call Home
Ewen Callaway
November 1, 2018

Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland used machine learning software on genetic information about deadly viruses to predict the groups of animals in which the viruses are likely to live and circulate. The researchers amassed epidemiological and genetic data on several hundred viruses from families that can infect humans, whose hosts were known. Using machine learning on that data, the team built a computer model that could predict which of 11 groups of animals was most likely to host a virus. Tested on viruses excluded from the original development process, the software was able to predict a virus's host accurately 72% of the time. Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney, Australia, said the animal groups predicted by the model are too broad to be useful. “I’m really not sure what practical use it is predicting that a virus comes from a primate compared to a rodent.”

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Talent Gap Widens as Firms Battle for AI, Data Skills
The Wall Street Journal
Angus Loten
November 1, 2018

Demand for information technology (IT) workers will overtake supply in the next few years due to rapid expansion of digital technologies, tighter labor markets, and a small talent pool for specialized skills, predicts market research firm International Data Corp (IDC). The forecast expects 30% of global IT jobs to be unfilled by 2022 as companies vie for employees with digital skills in artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, and other areas. IDC's Joe Puccarelli said one of the most valuable skills will be data management, mainly for AI. IDC recommends companies prepare for the tighter markets by establishing a "bench" of emerging tech talent via startup acquisitions and partnerships, and aggressively pursuing innovative tech to entice young IT talent.

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A self-driving white car Waymo Gets Green Light for Robot Cars in California; No Humans Needed
The San Francisco Chronicle
Carolyn Said
October 30, 2018

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has granted a permit to self-driving technology development company Waymo to test fully autonomous cars on public roads with no human driver. The company now will be able to deploy up to 40 self-driving vehicles to drive day and night on urban streets, rural highways, and highways with posted speeds up to 65 miles-per-hour. Said Waymo, "We will gradually begin driverless testing on city streets in a limited territory and, over time, expand the area that we drive in as we gain confidence and experience." The company already had been testing its fleet of 100 driverless cars in California, but with drivers at the ready to assume control in the event of malfunction. As with other companies’ autonomous vehicles being tested, Waymo's no-driver autonomous cars must have remote operators who can communicate with passengers and send the cars recommendations for how to proceed if their automation becomes confused.

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The Continuing Arms Race: Code-Reuse Attacks and Defenses

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