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Welcome to the May 22, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Please note: In observance of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, TechNews will not be published on Monday, May 25. Publication will resume Wednesday, May 27.

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ACM logo with lightbulb, illustration ACM Honors Computing Innovators for Advances in Research, Education, Industry
May 20, 2020

ACM has named leading innovators to receive three prestigious awards for their contributions to research, education, and industry. ACM named ThreatSTOP chief scientist Paul Mockapetris to receive the ACM Software System Award for developing the Domain Name System's core components in 1983. Princeton University's Noga Alon, Carnegie Mellon University's Phillip Gibbons, Google's Yossi Matias, and Rutgers University's Mario Szegedy are to receive the ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award for their pioneering framework for algorithmic treatment of streaming massive datasets. Finally, ACM named Rice University's Lydia E. Kavraki and Stanford University's Daphne Koller to receive the ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award. Kavraki was cited for her achievements in robotic motion planning, while Koller was recognized for foundational contributions to machine learning and probabilistic models, the application of those techniques to biology and human health, and her contributions to democratizing education.

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Google and Apple logos and exclamation points in word balloons Apple, Google Launch Exposure Notification API, Enabling Public Health Authorities to Release Apps
Darrell Etherington
May 20, 2020

Apple and Google have released the first public version of their exposure notification application programming interface (API), originally issued as a joint contact-tracing app. The Exposure Notification system is engineered to alert individuals of potential exposure to others with confirmed cases of Covid-19, while keeping identifying and location data private. Public health authorities can use the API in apps for the general public, and set standards on what defines potential exposure in terms of exposed time and distance, while also modifying transmission risk and other variables based on their own standards. The API employs a decentralized identifier system that utilizes randomly-generated temporary keys created on a user's device. Apple and Google will allow apps to use a combination of the API and voluntarily submitted user data supplied via individual apps, to enable public health agencies to contact exposed users directly and notify them of steps to take.

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magnet-tipped robot tested in a maze Engineers Develop Low-Cost, High-Accuracy System for Flexible Medical Robots
UC San Diego News Center
Ioana Patringenaru
May 18, 2020

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) roboticists have developed a low-cost system to track the location of flexible surgical robots operating inside the human body. UCSD's Tania Morimoto and Connor Watson embedded a magnet in the tip of a soft "growing" robot made of a thin nylon that is inverted and pressurized with fluid, ensuring that the device has little impact on its surroundings. The researchers then used global positioning system-like magnet localization techniques to create a computer model that anticipates the robot's location, employing sensors carefully spaced around the area in which the device operates to measure magnetic field strength. Morimoto and Watson also trained a neural network to improve location accuracy by comparing actual sensor readings with the model's predicted readings.

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Neuroimaging Results Altered by Varying Analysis Pipelines
May 20, 2020

A survey of neuroimaging studies found that nearly every study used a different analysis pipeline, and the analytical choices of individual researchers significantly impacted findings gleaned from a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) dataset. The team provided the same dataset to 70 independent research groups and asked them to test nine hypotheses, each of which asserted that activity in a specific brain region correlated with a specific task feature. There were considerable variations between each team's results, even when their underlying maps were highly correlated. The finding highlights the potential consequences of a lack of standardized pipelines for processing complex data.

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Tech Chiefs Press Cloud Suppliers for Consistency on Security Data
The Wall Street Journal
Kim S. Nash
May 20, 2020

A coalition of corporate technology executives is pressing cloud providers to comply with a single standard of information on handling client data and cybersecurity. The Open Networking User Group this month intends to propose standards on how cloud vendors communicate security and governance information that clients need, in order to shield their systems and ensure regulatory adherence. FedEx’s Gene Sun said Amazon, Google, and Microsoft should support standardized security data disclosure, stressing that FedEx's own stakeholders demand transparency. Don Duet with the Concourse Labs consultancy said concerns about moving systems off-premises persist despite cloud's growing acceptance, and tech executives in highly regulated industries would procure more cloud services if vendors simplified how systems and data are managed. Raytheon’s Daniel Conroy added that more consistency in information would streamline customers' workload and encourage greater use of cloud computing.

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An artist’s impression of the artificial eye. Human-like Cyborg Eye Could Power Itself Using Sunlight
New Scientist
Donna Lu
May 20, 2020

Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a spherical visual sensor that mimics the structure of the human eye. The sensor contains a lens to focus light and a hemispherical retina filled with densely packed light-sensitive nanowires made from perovskite, which is commonly used in solar cells and could enable the eye to be self-powering, said HKUST's Zhiyong Fan, although the current version of the eye requires an outside power source. When images of letters were projected onto the artificial lens to test how well it worked, a computer hooked up to the eye successfully recognized the letters E, I, and Y. The artificial eye’s low image resolution compared with commercial sensors limits its utility, but existing visual prosthetic devices use a flat object for image sensing, said Fan, limiting the possible field of view compared with a human eye.

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Oregon State researcher Naomi Fitter with standup comic Jon the Robot Comedy Club Performances Provide Insights on How Robots, Humans Connect via Humor
Oregon State University News
Steve Lundeberg
May 18, 2020

Two studies by Oregon State University (OSU) researchers evaluated a robot comedian's performance at comedy clubs to gather data to enable more effective robot-human interplay through humor. Human comics helped develop material used by John the Robot in 22 performances in Los Angeles and 10 in Oregon. The Los Angeles study concluded that audiences found a robot comic with good timing to be much funnier than one without good timing. The Oregon study found that an "adaptive performance"—delivering post-joke "tags" that acknowledge an audience's response—was not necessarily funnier overall, but nearly always improved audience perception of individual jokes. OSU's Naomi Fitter said the research has implications for artificial intelligence projects to understand group responses to entertaining social robots in the real world.

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Microsoft Open-Sources Coronavirus Threat Intelligence
Anthony Spadafora
May 16, 2020

Microsoft has decided to open-source its coronavirus threat intelligence in order to give the security intelligence community resources to more proactively protect, detect, and defend against cyberattackers that use the pandemic to lure victims. Microsoft's security products already have embedded protection. By making some of its own threat indicators available to those not protected by its products, Microsoft hopes to raise awareness of how attackers shift their approach, ways to spot them, and how others can track down threats by themselves. Those indicators are currently available in the Azure Sentinel GitHub and via the Microsoft Graph Security application programming interface.

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White House Panel: Build New Tech Infrastructure for Future Jobs
David Shepardson; Alexandra Alper
May 19, 2020

The White House American Workforce Policy Advisory Board has called on the U.S. government and private industry to collaboratively build a technological infrastructure to support future jobs and ground a solid economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. A White House official said the Board aims to help displaced workers find pathways to enhance their existing skills and acquire new ones, in order to move into good careers in recovering sectors as the Covid-19 crisis subsides. IBM’s Ginni Rometty said, "By rallying around this call to action, leaders in business and government can help more people build skills that lead to good jobs, promote hiring that is based on skills not just degrees, and build a national skills infrastructure to connect workers with opportunities."

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Intel, UPenn Partner with 29 Health Organizations to Train AI to Spot Brain Tumors
Stephanie Condon
May 11, 2020

Intel and the University of Pennsylvania are launching a federation with 29 research and healthcare institutions in an effort to train artificial intelligence models to identify brain tumors. The consortium will train robust models using the largest brain tumor dataset to date. The organizations will use federated learning, a privacy-preserving technique, to contribute to that dataset without actually sharing their patient data. Intel began working with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 to produce the first proof-of-concept application of federated learning to real-world medical imaging. The new initiative builds on that research, using Intel software and hardware to implement federated learning in a way that provides additional privacy protections to both the model and the data. Participating institutions are based in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, Switzerland, and India.

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A schematic representation of the proposed materials design process. Using Big Data to Design Gas Separation Membranes
Columbia Engineering
Holly Evarts
May 15, 2020

Researchers at Columbia Engineering, the University of South Carolina, and the Max Planck Society in Germany developed a method of combining big data and machine learning to selectively design gas-filtering polymer membranes that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The team created a machine learning algorithm that correlates the chemical structure of 1,000 tested polymers with their gas transport properties, then applied the algorithm to more than 10,000 known polymers to predict which would produce the best membrane. This method identified about 100 polymers that had never been tested for gas transport, but which were predicted to surpass the current membrane performance limits for CO2/CH4 separations. Said University of South Carolina researcher Brian Benicewicz, "This method is easily extendable to other membrane materials, which could profoundly affect the development of next-generation batteries and technologies for water purification."

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The first system-level picture of nearly 100 million individuals expressing vaccine views among Facebook's 3 billion users across 37 countries, continents and languages. Map Reveals Distrust in Health Expertise Is Winning Hearts, Minds Online
GW Today
May 12, 2020

Researchers at George Washington University (GW), the University of Miami, Michigan State University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory have found that communities on Facebook that distrust establishment health guidance are more effective than government health agencies and other reliable health groups at reaching and engaging "undecided" individuals. During the height of the measles outbreak in 2019, the team tracked the vaccine conversation among 100 million Facebook users. The resulting "battleground" map shows how distrust in public health guidance could dominate online conversations over the next decade, a phenomenon that could jeopardize public health efforts to protect populations from Covid-19 and future pandemics. Said GW’s Neil Johnson, “Instead of playing whack-a-mole with a global network of communities that consume and produce (mis)information, public health agencies, social media platforms and governments can use a map like ours and an entirely new set of strategies to identify where the largest theaters of online activity are and engage and neutralize those communities peddling in misinformation so harmful to the public.”

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ACM Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research
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