MS in Data Science
Welcome to the February 19, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

ACM TechNews mobile apps are available for Android phones and tablets (click here) and for iPhones (click here) and iPads (click here).

To view "Headlines At A Glance," hit the link labeled "Click here to view this online" found at the top of the page in the html version. The online version now has a button at the top labeled "Show Headlines."

Reconstructions of a Neanderthal and a woman at the Neanderthal museum Algorithms Suggest Humans, Neanderthals May Have Interbred Earlier Than Previously Thought
The Washington Post
Rachel Feltman
February 17, 2020

A study that utilized new computer algorithms suggests that interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals may have occurred roughly 50,000 years earlier than previously thought. Researchers at the nonprofit Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and collaborators at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and other institutions algorithmically analyzed the genomes of ancient humans, looking for a specific breed of Neanderthal by tracking patterns in tiny DNA fragments to pinpoint interspecies commonalities. The individual's genetic history included human DNA, while genomic sequencing of contemporary Neanderthals from different geographic regions did not find modern human DNA. However, DNA analysis led the scientists to think that the humans from which the human-Neanderthal hybrid sprang diverged from other modern humans about 200,000 years ago, shortly after they evolved—some 100,000 years before the interbreeding event occurred.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration
Fear of Big Brother Guides EU Rules on AI
Agence France-Presse
February 17, 2020

The artificial intelligence (AI) policy unveiled by the European Union (EU) this week urges authorities and companies to practice caution before rolling out facial recognition technology. The European Commission hopes to address Europeans' concerns about the growing importance of AI in their lives amid reports from China of facial recognition technology being used to suppress dissent. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager recommends organizations consider the ramifications of facial recognition—specifically any scenarios in which the technology should be authorized. Vestager says Europe has a desire to be "sovereign" on AI and to shield "the integrity of our grids, of our infrastructure, of our research."

Full Article

Lydell Grant and his family celebrates his release Texas Man Close to Exoneration After Algorithm Leads to New Suspect
NBC News
Erik Ortiz
February 16, 2020

A man convicted for murder is on track to have his conviction overturned, thanks to an algorithm that reanalyzed DNA and pointed to a new suspect. Lydell Grant's conviction hinged on DNA collected from the victim's fingernails, which contained material from both the victim and a second male, but the Houston crime lab could not conclusively trace the other material to Grant. The Innocence Project of Texas collaborated with University of New Haven researchers to apply probabilistic genotyping to the DNA with Cybergenetics' TruAllele software, which runs DNA data through a statistical algorithm. The results did not implicate Grant, and Cybergenetics used the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Combined DNA Index System to identify a new suspect, who confessed to the crime. Forensic scientists suggest this process could potentially help solve cold cases or lead to more exonerations.

Full Article
Smart Jump­suit Provides In­for­ma­tion on In­fants’ Move­ment, De­vel­op­ment
University of Helsinki
Miia Soininen
February 13, 2020

Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have developed a smart jumpsuit that measures the spontaneous and voluntary movement of infants starting at five months old. The information collected by the garment can help assess abnormal neurological development, among other things. The smart jumpsuit allows the child to be sent home, where the suit collects data and returns it the next day to the hospital for analysis. Said University of Helsinki researcher Sampsa Vanhatalo, "The measurements provide a tool to detect the precise variation in motility from the age of five months, something which medical smart clothes have not been able to do until now."

Full Article
Chinese Property Firms Bank on VR as Virus Fears Hit Market
Clare Jim
February 14, 2020

China's property developers and realtors are using virtual reality (VR) solutions to stimulate a market paralyzed by the coronavirus outbreak. Property researcher CRIC said 20 of the top 100 developers have performed livestream sales since the epidemic started, while 92 developers operate online sales platforms that were recently overhauled to contend with the virus. Meanwhile, realtors are conducting more live forums online, with realtor Centaline to build virtual salesrooms for new developments, in collaboration with developers. Centaline's Alan Cheng said the firm has launched online contracts entailing third-party authentication technology in two cities, allowing buyers to sign real estate documents at home.

Full Article

Mark Zuckerberg Britain to Create Regulator for Internet Content
The New York Times
Adam Satarino
February 12, 2020

The U.K. has introduced a plan to give the government more power to regulate Internet content, as part of an effort to force Internet companies like Facebook and YouTube to more closely monitor their own platforms. Under the proposed plan, the country's media regulator—Ofcom—will take on new responsibilities monitoring Internet content and would have the power to issue penalties against companies that do not do enough to combat "harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content." The plan raises many questions, including what penalties the new regulator would be able to impose, and how it would keep watch over the billions of pieces of user-generated content posted on social media platforms. One proposal circulated by the government last year suggested the agency could issue fines, block access to websites, and make individual executives legally liable for harmful content.

Full Article

A “sensorized” skin 'Sensorized' Skin Helps Soft Robots Find Their Bearings
MIT News
Rob Matheson
February 12, 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have created "sensorized" skin to increase soft robots' awareness of their bodily motion and orientation. The sensors were fabricated from laser-cut strips of conductive silicone sheets inspired by Japanese paper art kirigami; the researchers bonded the stretchable sensors to a soft robotic arm resembling an elephant trunk equipped with fluidic actuators. The researchers also designed a model to kinematically describe the robot's shape while greatly reducing the number of variables that needed factoring, mapping signal patterns from the sensors to real-world configurations. Tests indicated the robot's estimated shape matched the ground truth data for certain and steadier configurations.

Full Article

Toshiba's Simulated Bifurcation Algorithm Optimization Algorithm Sets Speed Record for Solving Combinatorial Problems
IEEE Spectrum
John Boyd
February 10, 2020

Researchers at Toshiba Corp. in Japan have developed a quantum-inspired heuristics algorithm that is 10 times faster than competing technologies. In October, the researchers announced a prototype device implementing the algorithm that can detect and execute optimal arbitrage opportunities from among eight currency combinations in real time. The researchers claim the likelihood of the algorithm finding the most profitable arbitrage opportunities is greater than 90%. The team implemented the Simulated Bifurcation Algorithm on a single flat-panel gate array (FPGA) chip, and were able to run 8,000 operations in parallel to solve a 2,000-spin problem. In a separate test using eight GPUs, the system solved a 100,000-spin problem in 10 seconds—1,000 times faster than when using standard optimized simulated annealing software.

Full Article
Southampton Lab Becomes Video Games Creation Hub for Global Game Jam
University of Southampton
February 17, 2020

The University of Southampton in the U.K. hosted nearly 50,000 developers, students, and alumni from over 100 countries in the Global Game Jam. The event focuses on taking pride in building something to share with others, rather than competing against others. Teams participating in the game jam generated more than 20 new video and board games in 48 hours. This year's theme was "repair," and the teams largely were made up of Southampton Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) students, as well as visitors from the neighboring universities of Portsmouth and Bournemouth. Said ECS researcher Tom Blount, "The jam is a chance for people to meet, work together, learn new skills and have fun creating something."

Full Article
$1.3M in State Funding to Support Virginia's CS SOLs
Virginia Business
Sydney Lake
February 17, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said that state is providing more than $1.3 million in grants to school systems in the state to help prepare students for Virginia's Computer Science Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. The funding will be used for teacher professional development, computer science curriculum creation, instructional resources, assessments, programming, and work opportunities. The state also has allocated about $125,000 in funding each to the public George Mason University, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia's College at Wise, and Virginia Commonwealth University to develop partnerships with school agencies and school divisions in their regions. Said Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane, "The funded projects will equip our teachers to present the content of the Computer Science Standards of Learning in the context of real-life challenges and create school-to-work partnerships to connect students with career opportunities."

Full Article
Mobile Phishing Scam Targeted Bank App Users; Thousands Clicked Through
Danny Palmer
February 14, 2020

Researchers at cybersecurity company Lookout uncovered a phishing campaign that attempts to fool mobile banking app users into disclosing their login information. Nearly 4,000 smartphone users fell for the scam. The attackers designed a message to trick targets into visiting websites masquerading as major U.S. and Canadian banks, claiming to have detected unusual activity on the user's account. By spamming out enough messages with the names of different banks to sufficient users, some attacks will match the correct bank with the correct customer—and some victims will click to a bogus site. The site attempts to pry enough personal credentials from victims to steal their account details. Lookout's Apurva Kumar said the campaign demonstrates "how easy it is for a less-computer-savvy person to get into the phishing business by buying an 'off-the-shelf' phishing kit."

Full Article
Robot Completes First Round of 'Supermicrosurgeries' on Human Patients
New Atlas
Nick Lavars
February 11, 2020

A new robot has successfully performed its first round of supermicrosurgical procedures, which involve the delicate reconnection of extremely thin blood and lymph vessels. Surgeons control the Musa robot, developed by the Dutch startup Microsure, spun out of Eindhoven University of Technology and Maastricht University Medical Centre, translating their hand movements into more precise actions for robotic appendages. Musa is designed to eliminate hand tremors and other subtle human movements, making supermicrosurgery safer and more controllable. Said Dr. Shan Shan Qiu Shao of Maastricht University Medical Centre, “The robot allows us to operate on minuscule lymph vessels and blood vessels while getting better results for these complex and exhausting procedures.”

Full Article
UC Smartphone Lab Delivers Test Results in 'Spit' Second
University of Cincinnati
Michael Miller
February 6, 2020

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have developed a portable lab device that plugs into a smartphone, connecting it to a doctor's office through a custom app. The device uses a specialized plastic lab chip to diagnose infectious diseases with only a single drop of blood or saliva. A patient simply places a single-use plastic lab chip into his or her mouth, then plugs it into a slot for testing; the phone provides the power and test protocol for the lab chip. Said UC professor Chong Ahn, "The performance is comparable to laboratory tests. The cost is cheaper. And it's user-friendly."

Full Article
Harvard Data Science Review
ACM Chapters

Association for Computing Machinery

1601 Broadway, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10019-7434

ACM Media Sales

If you are interested in advertising in ACM TechNews or other ACM publications, please contact ACM Media Sales or (212) 626-0686, or visit ACM Media for more information.

To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: [email protected]