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Welcome to the May 31, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

In Wednesday's edition, in the article "Western Australia Launches Its First STEM Skills Strategy," the amount allocated to support a STEM skill strategy was shown as AU$34 million; it should have said AU$3.4 million. We regret the error.

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Internet ballot Computing Professionals: Leave Internet Connectivity Out of Voting Machine Guidelines
Politico
Tim Starks
May 29, 2019


ACM has asked the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to prohibit Internet connections from all voting equipment under an updated set of voluntary guidelines. Wednesday was the final day for public comment on the high-level principles and guidelines for VVSG (Voluntary Voting System Guidelines) 2.0. Many states' regulations are based on the current VVSG. ACM wrote that a blanket “categorical prohibition on the inclusion of any connectivity-enabling devices in election-related equipment [should] include all wireless modems, radios, and any other type of equipment capable of communicating over the internet." The association also said the guidelines should require fully auditable elections and interoperability of internal voting machine components.

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2019 ACM Student Research Competition Winners Announced
Association for Computing Machinery
May 29, 2019


Gengjie Chen of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Christie Louis Alappat of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, and Scott Parker Kolodziej of Texas A&M University took the top three places among graduate students in the 2019 Grand Finals of the ACM Student Research Competition (SRC). Among undergraduates, Zhuangzhuang Zhou of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, Fandel Lin of National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, and Elizaveta A. Tremsina of the University of California, Berkeley took the top three spots. These individuals were chosen from more than 360 computer science students who presented research projects at 26 ACM conferences over the course of a year. The projects were judged on each presenter's demonstrated knowledge, the caliber of student contributions to the research, and the overall quality of the oral and visual presentations. Said ACM president Cherri M. Pancake, "The SRC builds self-esteem—as students learn to communicate about their work, are recognized for their creativity, and are encouraged and challenged by their peers."

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teleportation, illustration NIST Physicists 'Teleport' Logic Operation Between Separated Ions
NIST
May 30, 2019


U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) physicists have "teleported" a quantum logic operation between two separated ions, highlighting a mechanism for executing tasks in large-scale quantum networks. Said NIST's Dietrich Leibfried, "We verified that our logic operation works on all input states of two quantum bits [qubits] with 85 to 87% probability—far from perfect, but it is a start." The researchers teleported a quantum controlled-NOT (CNOT) logic gate between two beryllium ion qubits separated by more than 340 micrometers within an ion trap. A "messenger" pair of entangled magnesium ions was employed to transfer information between the beryllium ions. Said Leibfried, “The entangled messenger pairs could be produced in a dedicated part of the computer and shipped separately to qubits that need to be connected with a logic gate but are in remote locations.”

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DeepMind flag capture, illustration DeepMind Can Now Beat Us at Multiplayer Games, Too
The New York Times
Cade Metz
May 30, 2019


Researchers at the DeepMind artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory have developed automated "agents" that display humanlike behavior when playing in capture-the-flag mode in the Quake III multiplayer computer game, exhibiting coordinated teamwork against or in collaboration with human participants. The agents learned skills like racing toward the opponent's home base when a teammate was about to capture a flag from approximately four years' worth of accumulated gameplay. Many researchers hope such breakthroughs will lead to more effective automated systems with real-world applications, like driverless cars that navigate through traffic. Many AI experts are skeptical the technology could be used to address real-world problems. Georgia Institute of Technology's Mark Riedl says DeepMind's agents are not truly collaborating, but responding to what is happening in the game.

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SlothBot Takes Leisurely Approach to Environmental Monitoring
Georgia Tech News Center
John Toon
May 30, 2019


Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) researchers have designed an environmental monitoring robot that measures chemical and climate-related changes in forest canopies, and is powered by photovoltaic panels to operate for months at a time. The wire-crawling SlothBot must switch from one cable to another in trees without falling, which Georgia Tech’s Gennaro Notomista described as “a tricky maneuver and you have to do it right to provide a fail-safe transition.” SlothBot will be clad with a three-dimensionally-printed shell to protect its inner workings from rain and wind. SlothBot is a proof of concept for the "theory of slowness" formulated by Georgia Tech's Magnus Egerstedt, which applies low energy consumption principles by restricting movement. Said Egerstedt, "For environmental robots, you should only move when you absolutely have to."

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women walking past Huawei advertisement Chinese Computer Research Body to Cut Ties With Division of U.S.-Based IEEE
Reuters
Josh Horwitz
May 30, 2019


The China Computer Federation (CCF) has suspended its collaboration with the publications division of the U.S.-based IEEE, a move driven by the U.S. ban on Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei Technologies. The announcement followed IEEE's disclosure that it would block Huawei staff from participating in certain peer-review processes for its research papers. In a post on the Chinese messaging app WeChat, the CCF wrote, "We regret to see that [the IEEE's] Communications Society (ComSoc) has restricted the activities of its members on the grounds of local laws, which seriously violates the open, equal, and non-politicized nature of being an international academic organization." The federation also urged its members to stop contributing to ComSoc events or research reports, and to cease reviewing its papers.

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The smart glove holding a small sculpture of a sleeping kitten. Smart Glove Works Out What You’re Holding from Its Weight, Shape
New Scientist
Chelsea Whyte
May 29, 2019


Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a smart glove that allows a neural network to learn the shape and weight of an object, a development that could be applied to robots in factories or homes, and could even provide insights about how the human grip works. The researchers attached a force-sensitive film to the palms and fingers of a knitted glove and stitched a network of 64 conductive silver threads into it. When pressure is applied to the 548 points where the threads intersect, the electrical resistance of the film beneath decreases, allowing the glove to detect the weight and shape of an object the wearer is holding, as well as the pressure created as the hand moves. Said MIT researcher Subramanian Sundaram, "It can tell whether you’re holding an object with a long edge, like a chalkboard eraser, as opposed to something more spherical like a tennis ball."

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CryptoKitties, Dice Games Fail to Lure Users to Dapps
The Wall Street Journal
Paul Vigna
May 29, 2019


Attempts to entice people to use decentralized apps (Dapps) as alternatives to Google's Android or Apple's iOS apps have fallen short so far. Dapps cannot be censored by governments or controlled by corporations or other online gatekeepers, but users must first download and become familiar with a wholly new blockchain-based operating system. Developers have created about 2,700 Dapps with sufficient data to be tracked, yet just three Dapps have more than 10,000 daily active users, according to the State of the DApps website. The CryptoKitties Dapp, once a fad, lets users create and trade animated cats using cryptocurrency, but the fad has faded and the Dapp has only a few hundred daily users today.

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Texas A&M to Launch New HPE Center for Computer Architecture Research
Inside HPC
May 29, 2019


Texas A&M University's Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) announced the launch of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Center for Computer Architecture Research, tasked with spearheading academic-industry collaboration to create new data-driven computing frameworks. The TEES HPE center initially will concentrate on advanced materials manufacturing and characterization, future electronic devices, photonics, and unique computer architectures. The goal will be to realize advancements that broaden knowledge and encourage future computer scientists and architects. Texas A&M system chancellor John Sharp said the plan is to make the center "a regional hub for next-generation nano- and micro-engineering." Hewlett Packard Labs' Mark Potter said, "The ability to make sense of the massive amounts of data generated in academic, public, and private-sector settings will change not only how we do business, but also how we live."

Full Article

A photo of a busy street in Denver. Denver Plows Ahead with Connected Vehicle Tech Deployments
Government Technology
Skip Descant
May 29, 2019


Denver transportation officials are exploring a range of connected vehicle technologies in an effort to provide a more data-rich view of current traffic conditions and the actions needed to operate a more efficient, safer transportation system. The intelligent transportation network projects are part of Denver's participation in a federal smart cities grant program called Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the city $6 million in 2016 to study the deployment of "dedicated short range communications," the technology used by connected vehicles and intelligent traffic signals. Denver officials are working with colleagues in Utah, Arizona, Nebraska, and New Hampshire as they develop similar projects. Said Denver smart city project manager Matthew McAllister, "We think investing in an open-source solution and working with other cities and states, on how do we build up that ecosystem so that we can all pivot, this helps."

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A screen showing amyloid plaques and blood vessels in Alzheimer’s patients. What Do Dating Technology and Alzheimer's Have in Common?
University of California
Dorsey Griffith; Nicholas Weiler
May 23, 2019


Researchers at the Universities of California at Davis (UC Davis) and San Francisco have developed a method of teaching a computer to detect an indicator of Alzheimer's disease in human brain tissue. Like a computer dating service that allows users to label someone's photo “hot” or “not,” the researchers developed a Web platform that allows neuropathologists to observe enlarged images of brain regions where plaques are potentially located, and quickly label what they see. This tool, which the researchers called “blob or not,” allowed one researcher to annotate plaque candidates at a rate of about 2,000 images per hour. Said Brittany N. Dugger of UC Davis, “As keyboards have aided in writing workflows, digital pathology paired with machine learning can aid with neuropathology workflows.”

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Apple, Google, WhatsApp Condemn British Spy Agency Proposal to Access Encrypted Messages
The Washington Post
Taylor Telford
May 30, 2019


Google, Apple, Microsoft, WhatsApp, and other technology companies and organizations have criticized an intelligence proposal by the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to permit law enforcement to spy on encrypted messages. U.K. intelligence officials Ian Levy and Crispin Robinson argued the proposal ran parallel to modern wiretapping practices, and would not breach encryption security. The plan would require messaging apps and other encryption service providers to modify software so covert investigators or "ghosts" could clandestinely join group chats and calls, with app users purposely kept unaware of their presence. Opponents suggested in an open letter that the proposal would "create digital security risks by undermining authentication systems, by introducing potential unintentional vulnerabilities, and by creating new risks of abuse or misuse of system."

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June 2019 Issue of Communications of the ACM
 
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