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Welcome to the November 18, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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How Do U.S. Students' Computer, Information Literacy Skills Stack Up?
eSchool News
Laura Ascione
November 15, 2019

U.S. eighth-graders scored above the international average for computer and information literacy in the 2018 International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), yet were found to have difficulty cultivating critical 21st-century employability skills. Peggy G. Carr of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics' said, "Today's eighth-graders were raised in a world in which computers and smartphones are commonplace, but the majority of them were unable to execute basic tasks independently." Only 25% of U.S. eighth-graders in the study could independently use computers as tools, differentiate the reliability of Web-based information, and assess potentially biased data. Girls scored higher than boys did in computer information literacy, both in the U.S. and internationally. Said Carr, “The study shows that the idea of the ‘digital native’ is more myth than reality.”

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Design Flaw Could Open Bluetooth Devices to Hacking
Ohio State News
Laura Arenschield
November 14, 2019

Ohio State University (OSU) researchers found an innate design flaw in mobile apps that work with Bluetooth-enabled devices that make them susceptible to hacking. OSU's Zhiqiang Lin said the vulnerability is rooted in how Bluetooth Low Energy devices talk to the mobile apps that govern them. The devices communicate with apps by broadcasting a universally unique identifier (UUID), which enables apps on users' phones to recognize the Bluetooth device. The UUID also is embedded within the mobile app code, but hackers can exploit these identifiers in fingerprinting attacks. Lin and his team built a "sniffer" to identify Bluetooth devices according to the transmitted messages; a sweep of OSU's campus found 7.4% of about 5,800 detected Bluetooth Low Energy devices were vulnerable to authorized access or eavesdropping. The researchers also found 1,434 vulnerable apps that permit unauthorized access.

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The words ‘his’ and ‘her’ around a blue square We Teach AI Systems Everything, Including our Biases
The New York Times
Cade Metz
November 11, 2019

Artificial intelligence reflects prejudices inherent in the information it is trained on, potentially bringing old attitudes into new technology. For example, Google's BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), a universal language model, is fed massive amounts of digitized text likely encompassing centuries of biases, leading it to consider computer programming an exclusively male profession, and giving women little credit. Computer scientist Robert Munro analyzed Google and Amazon Web Services' cloud-computing services designed to help businesses add language skills to new apps; the services identified the word "his" as a pronoun, but did not do the same for "hers." Said Munro, “This is the same historical inequity we have always seen. Now, with something like BERT, this bias can continue to perpetuate.”

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Operating room at the new Stanford hospital Stanford Hospital Takes Holistic Approach to Technology
The Wall Street Journal
Steven Rosenbush
November 16, 2019

The newly-opened Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, incorporates technologies to try to make the facility more friendly and welcoming to patients. The facility provides patients an intuitive keypad for entertainment options, as well as to adjust temperature, lighting, and window blinds from bed. Stanford Health Care’s Eric Yablonka said technologies underlying the user interface were combined to enhance the patient/caregiver experience. Innovations include a robotic pharmacy, an Internet of Things network of sensors and vehicles, tracking staff and equipment in real time; remote patient monitoring; and a forthcoming bedside computer-vision system. MyHealth software guides patients through treatment, and helps them navigate the hospital. Said Yablonka, “We are not doing tech for tech’s sake, but for the patient’s sake.”

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A Nuro vehicle Future of Autonomous Delivery May Be Unfolding in Suburban Houston
The Washington Post
Peter Holley
November 13, 2019

For several months, robotics company Nuro has been field-testing delivery via autonomous vehicles (AV) in Houston, with robotic Priuses transporting groceries to restaurants and suburban residences, mapping the city with sensors as they go. Human drivers and co-drivers currently ride in the vehicles to monitor their operation, take over in case of unexpected obstacles, and help to improve the vehicle's software. Nuro is competing with companies such as Amazon, Alphabet-owned Waymo, Robomart, General Motors’ Cruise division, Ford-affiliated Argo AI, Starship Technologies and many others seeking to deploy autonomous vehicles for delivery and passenger transport.

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Neural Network Fills In Data Gaps for Spatial Analysis of Chromosomes
Carnegie Mellon News
November 7, 2019

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a machine learning method that fills in missing pixels in low-quality images or video in order to help scientists determine how DNA is organized in a cell. The researchers used an artificial neural network called a denoising autoencoder to help fill in the gaps in less-than-complete Hi-C datasets. The autoencoder supplies missing pixels by learning the types of pixels typically found together and making its best guess. The team trained the autoencoder on the dataset for GM12878 to recognize which sequences of DNA pairs from different chromosomes typically interact with each other in the cell nucleus. The method proved successful in identifying subcompartments in eight cell lines whose interchromosomal interactions were only partially known.

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Hyundai with more sensors and processing power Hyundai Develops Next-Generation Noise Cancellation Technology
Craig Cole
November 12, 2019

Hyundai researchers developed next-generation active noise cancellation (ANC) technology by applying more sensors and computing power to dampen in-vehicle sounds. The Road Noise Active Noise Control (RANC) system upgrades the current ANC, which muffles noise that is constant or predictable. RANC can analyze a range of noise types in real time and cancel them out by generating inverted soundwaves to neutralize buzzing infrasound or rumbling from the road. Hyundai claims RANC can accurately detect, analyze, and cancel out noises affecting the driver, front passenger, and rear-seat occupants separately, reducing in-cabin noise by 3 decibels.

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Bespoke Bionic Hand Made in 10 Hours
University of Warwick
Alice Scott
November 14, 2019

Researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. and the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), an academic department at the university, have developed a method to three-dimensionally (3D) print a bionic hand that incorporates muscle sensors to control an articulated thumb, enabling it to function similarly to a human hand. The device, which has embedded electrical circuitry that links motion-controlling muscle sensors with the motors and battery in the structure of the bionic hand, can be made to order in 10 hours. Said project lead Gethin Roberts, "Laying down conductive ink tracks within polymer structures means that parts produced are fully functional straight off the machine bed, offering huge productivity benefits."

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Chip for Waking Small Wireless Devices Could Extend Battery Life
UC San Diego News Center
Liezel Labios
November 12, 2019

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers have developed a power-saving chip that could significantly reduce or eliminate the need to replace batteries in Internet of Things (IoT) device and wearables. The new chip wakes a device only when it needs to communicate and perform its function, allowing it to stay dormant the rest of the time and reduce power use. The wake-up receiver is an ultra-low power chip that continuously looks for a specific radio signal, known as a wake-up signature, that tells it when to wake up the main device. Said UCSD’s Patrick Mercier, “By adding a wake-up receiver, we could improve the battery life of small IoT devices from months to years.”

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A man controlling a robot U.S. Army Creating Robots That Can Follow Orders
Technology Review
David Hambling
November 6, 2019

Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Boston Dynamics have developed software that allows robots to understand verbal instructions, carry out those instructions, and report back. The robot can accept verbal instructions, interpret gestures, or be controlled via a tablet to return data in the form of maps and images. The researchers used deep learning to teach the system to identify an object, as well as providing a knowledge base for more detailed information that helps the robot carry out its orders. Said ARL's Ethan Stump, "The robot can make maps, label objects in those maps, interpret and execute simple commands with respect to those objects, and ask for clarification when there is ambiguity in the command."

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Machine Learning Advances Tool to Fight Cybercrime in the Cloud
Purdue University News
Chris Adam
November 5, 2019

Purdue University researchers used machine learning to develop a cloud forensic model that collects digital evidence associated with illegal activities in cloud storage applications. The system deploys deep learning models to classify child exploitation, illegal drug trafficking, and illegal firearms transactions uploaded to cloud storage applications, and to automatically report detection of any such illegal activities via a forensic evidence collection system. The researchers tested the system on more than 1,500 images, and found that the model accurately classified an image about 96% of the time. Said Purdue’s Fahad Salamh, "It is important to automate the process of digital forensic and incident response in order to cope with advanced technology and sophisticated hiding techniques and to reduce the mass storage of digital evidence on cases involving cloud storage applications."

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NBA Teams Enhancing Fan Experience with High-Tech Replays
ABC News
Charles Odum
November 15, 2019

Six National Basketball Association (NBA) teams are implementing 360-degree video replays in their arenas to augment the fan experience. The technology allows fans to review shots and gameplay by changing the angle, similar to video-game players' use of all-angle replays. The teams partnered with technology provider Intel to install 38 5K video cameras in their arenas, which work in concert to bring the replays to in-game video boards, TV broadcasts, and fans' devices via social media. The replays not only enhance the fan experience, but also can help coaches and scouts refine player assessments. Joe Abercrombie with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks called the technology “the wave of the future,” adding that it is “one more thing to give people a reason to come” to watch games at the arenas.

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Northeastern University Institute for Experiential AI
Northeastern University Institute for Experiential AI

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