Welcome to the March 25, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Sewbot sewing robot Machines Could Fuel Comeback of Textile Industry in South
Associated Press
March 24, 2019

Automated sewing and other machine innovations could enable a resurgence of the textile industry in the Southern U.S. A new Chinese-owned factory in Arkansas will deploy 24 "Sewbots" that each can produce a new shirt in about 30 seconds, and many of the factory’s employees will be technicians with coding and electromechanical skills. Said Palaniswamy Rajan, CEO of SoftWear Automation, which designed the Sewbots, "We want people who can work with robots. That is where the new economy comes in." The Sewbots' creation stemmed from federally funded research into automated military uniform fabrication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Rajan hopes that within five years, Sewbots will be producing 25% of the 4 billion T-shirts sold annually in the country, as well as machine-made jeans and dress shirts. Rajan also expects a robot-driven garment industry to add 50,000 to 100,000 U.S. jobs in the next 10 years.

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fire-monitoring camera and its solar panel on a hilltop California Utilities Embracing Technology to Stop Fires. Is It Enough?
The San Francisco Chronicle
J.D. Morris
March 22, 2019

California's utility sector is scrambling to upgrade its technology, to make power lines less likely to cause fires. Utilities are banking on artificial intelligence (AI), expanding the use of fire-watching cameras, and improving the ability to monitor for dry and windy weather conditions. The question as to whether these solutions will make a difference, in view of climate change, was emphasized at the inaugural wildfire technology summit convened by the California Public Utilities Commission. San Diego Gas & Electric has pushed to enhance its technology and wildfire prevention strategies, and the utility's Caroline Winn said the employment of an algorithm that can detect a fault on a line and shut it down before it hits the ground is planned. She also said the company will use AI to marshal "tens of millions of data points" to help it respond to risky fire conditions.

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Pope Francis listening to Archbishop Paglia at the Vatican’s conference on Roboethics How Pope Francis Could Shape the Future of Robotics
BBC News
Jen Copestake
March 24, 2019

The Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life recently held a workshop on robotics and its ethical ramifications. At the session's opening, Pope Francis presented a letter warning against developing technologies without first considering the societal costs, and stressing the need to study communication technologies, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, and robotics in particular. Arguments from roboticists like Japanese researcher Hiroshi Ishiguro that human bodies must transition from organic to inorganic forms to ultimately survive provoked outrage from Academy officials. Also engendering debate was Ishiguro's emphasis on using robots to staunch a population decline. The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies issued a study last year on the "urgent and complex moral questions" raised by advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, citing a need for the collective and collaborative establishment of values around which to structure society, and the role these technologies play.

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Warnings of a Dark Side to AI in Health Care
The New York Times
Cade Metz; Craig S. Smith
March 21, 2019

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers warn in a recently published study that new artificial intelligence (AI) technology designed to enhance healthcare is vulnerable to misuse, with "adversarial attacks" that can deceive the system into making misdiagnoses being one example. A more likely scenario is of doctors, hospitals, and other organizations manipulating the AI in billing or insurance software in an attempt to maximize revenue. The researchers said software developers and regulators must consider such possibilities as they build and evaluate AI technologies in the years to come. MIT's Samuel Finlayson said, "The inherent ambiguity in medical information, coupled with often-competing financial incentives, allows for high-stakes decisions to swing on very subtle bits of information." Changes doctors make to medical scans or other patient data in an effort to satisfy the AI used by insurance firms also could wind up in a patient's permanent record.

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encryption security, illustration NIST Pushes New Encryption Protocols for Quantum, Connected Devices
Federal Computer Week
Derek B. Johnson
March 20, 2019

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is moving closer to new encryption standards designed to shield the federal government from new and emerging cybersecurity threats. NIST has spent the past year evaluating 69 algorithms for its Post Quantum Cryptography Standardization project, whose goal is to protect machines used by federal agencies from future encryption-breaking tools. The algorithms are engineered to operate with current technology and equipment, each offering different safeguards against known and unknown vectors related to quantum computing advancements. Said NIST's Matthew Scholl, "This is to ensure that we have some resilience so that when a quantum machine actually comes around...having more than one algorithm with some different genetic mathematical foundations will ensure that we have a little more resiliency in that kit going forward." NIST also is planning an overhaul of encryption standards for small, "lightweight" devices, like components included in many Internet of Things devices.

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woman taking online course Inclusive Messages Boost Women's Participation in Online STEM Classes
Cornell Chronicle (NY)
Melanie Lefkowitz
March 20, 2019

Cornell University's Rene Kizilcec found that adding a photo of women and an inclusivity statement to a Facebook ad for a computer science course improved clicks by women 26%, while similar modifications to an enrollment webpage raised the number of women who enrolled for the class by up to 18%. The implication is that relatively simple changes can increase underrepresented groups' participation in online STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Said Kizilcec, "There is a gap between intention and behavior. Our goal with this work is to better understand what people actually do when you change these cues."

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How Would a 'Smart Wall' Work at the U.S.-Mexico Border?
The Los Angeles Times
Kristina Davis
March 24, 2019

A new kind of virtual barrier that encompasses artificial intelligence (AI), radar, drones, sensors, motion-activated cameras, and LiDAR is being promoted as an alternative to the proposed physical walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. Quanergy, which has developed LiDAR for driverless vehicles, has been testing new laser technology in the Texas border town of Del Rio. Laser sensors yield a three-dimensional view of an area, building on technology already in use. Meanwhile, Anduril Industries is working to harness AI for national security settings via its Lattice system, which interprets sensor input from five-second environmental scans. Said Anduril's Matt Steckman, "You can deploy [AI-enabled technology] without having to increase manpower. You get computers to do a lot of the work and let the humans be the decision-makers."

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ESPNcricinfo, IIT Madras Collaborate on Data Science Tool that Analyzes the Game of Cricket
Economic Times (India)
Anandi Chandrashekhar
March 20, 2019

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M), along with colleagues at sports news site ESPNcricinfo, have developed Superstats, a combination of statistical metrics that use data science to give a context to every event in a cricket match. The machine learning algorithms use forecasting methods that train on past data to reveal trends and patterns during different periods of play and adapt based on actual match data to create predictive models. The tool was designed using ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball database containing over 10 years of data. The algorithms process this data and analyze the real value of a player's performance in real time. Said IIT-M researcher Raghunathan Rengaswamy, "These algorithms rationalize and consistently quantify luck events so that a whole tournament with matches that occurred in disparate circumstances could be compared in an 'apples-to-apples' fashion."

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The VR experience follows the rehabilitation of Anna Facial Motion Capture Helps Bring VR Documentary to Life
University of Bath
Vicky Just
March 20, 2019

Researchers at the University of Bath's Center for the Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research and Applications (CAMERA) in the U.K. have developed a virtual reality (VR) documentary titled "Is Anna OK?" which allows the viewer to step into the shoes of two girls to discover how their lives change after one suffers a head injury from being hit by a car. Users can experience the documentary from a range of viewpoints, exploring the victim’s fragmented memories and piecing together the story of what happened. The researchers used motion capture technology to make the movement of the characters more realistic, including state-of-the-art methods in facial animation to analyze the three-dimensional (3D) movement of the actor's face and transfer it onto the face of the animated character. Said CAMERA’s Darren Cosker, "This method is much easier for the animators to edit and tweak movements rather than building a new animated face from scratch."

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Detroit Downloads Tesla's Software Strategy
The Wall Street Journal
Mike Colias
March 20, 2019

Automakers hope to enable remote in-vehicle software updating, eliminating the need for drivers to visit dealerships to obtain updates. Electric car manufacturer Tesla pioneered the concept of selling wirelessly updatable cars, and more traditional automakers aim to save billions in warranty and other repair costs by following Tesla's lead, fixing problems via Internet-transmitted patches. Beaming over-the-air updates is currently constrained to simple changes in the multimedia display. General Motors said it will roll out its first fully updatable vehicle this year before expanding the capability across its lineup; Ford will deliver its first over-the-air updates to a new electric sport-utility vehicle slated to debut next year. Manufacturers are gradually transitioning to updatable autos by rewiring the vehicles' electrical workings to centralize various software systems that govern mechanical functions.

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Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Northwest Quantum Nexus Unites Pioneers on Wild Frontier of Computing
Alan Boyle
March 18, 2019

The Northwest Quantum Nexus is a new consortium founded to expand public-private partnerships between quantum computing scientists, developers, and business leaders. The group, led by Microsoft Quantum, the University of Washington (UW), and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), hopes to build a cluster for quantum research and development in Washington state, Oregon, and British Columbia in Canada. Microsoft's Krysta Svore said the Nexus will focus on components forming the "sandwich" between algorithms and software, and quantum bit design, "to drive scalability and accelerate the field." Said PNNL’s Nathan Baker, “We have a nice juxtaposition of all the same ingredients for quantum expertise as well as all of the ingredients that make this a real hotbed for the tech industry. Together, that’s a perfect storm for making this thing feasible.”

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Asian Deans' Forum 2019
2019 Stanford University Frontier of AI-Assisted Care Scientific Symposium

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