Fordham Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Welcome to the June 1, 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."

Nuro Vehicle CVS Health Tests Self-Driving Vehicle Prescription Delivery
Associated Press
Tom Murphy
May 28, 2020

CVS Health will test prescription delivery via self-driving vehicles to customers in Houston beginning this month, in partnership with the Nuro robotics company. A spokesperson for the drugstore chain said prescriptions will be delivered within an hour of ordering from a Houston-area store; customers will have to confirm their identity in order to unlock the vehicle to obtain their delivery. Customers can select the Nuro delivery option when they fill their prescriptions online, and track the vehicle's progress through a Nuro portal. Federal regulators earlier this year granted Nuro temporary approval to operate autonomous delivery vehicles on public roads for the first time without human occupants.

Full Article
Researchers Incorporate Computer Vision, Uncertainty Into AI for Robotic Prosthetics
NC State News
May 27, 2020

North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers have developed software incorporating computer vision and uncertainty into artificial intelligence (AI) for existing hardware, to enable users of robotic prostheses to walk more safely and naturally on varying terrain. NC State's Edgar Lobaton said the framework permits the AI to predict the type of ground users will be walking on, measure the uncertainty associated with that prediction, and embed that uncertainty within its decision-making. Cameras worn on lower-limb prostheses worked well for near-term predictions, and the researchers trained the AI by linking the cameras to able-bodied individuals as they walked, then had someone with lower-limb amputation wear the cameras while traversing the same settings. Said Lobaton, "The model can be appropriately transferred so the system can operate with subjects from different populations. That means that the AI worked well even thought it was trained by one group of people and used by somebody different."

Full Article

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe during a televised address in Paris last week. European Officials Call for Tech Companies to Loosen Grip on Contact-Tracing Technology
The Washington Post
Reed Albergotti
May 29, 2020

French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese government officials last week signed a joint letter urging major technology companies to ease their control over the design and deployment of contact-tracing applications. Many governments have been developing apps to monitor people’s locations and track the spread of the coronavirus, but Apple and Google—which control most smartphone software via their iOS and Android operating systems—limit access to data and their app-development technology as is their custom. The signatories said digital technologies for combating the pandemic should be designed by democratically elected governments. A Johns Hopkins University-led study released last week concluded technology companies should not "control the terms, conditions, or capabilities" of digital contact tracing. Said Johns Hopkins' Jeffrey Kahn, "Too much emphasis on privacy could severely limit the ability to gather information that is critical for effective and efficient contact tracing to help beat the pandemic."

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration
AR Can Improve Online Shopping, Study Finds
Cornell Chronicle
E.C. Barrett
May 27, 2020

Researchers at Cornell University, Iowa State University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute found that online shopping could be enhanced by allowing consumers to try on garments virtually via Augmented Reality (AR). The goal is to reduce the expense and carbon footprint of bracket shopping, in which shoppers order an item in multiple sizes and colors, and send back those they find unsuitable. The AR system requires a computer, telephone, or tablet screen reflecting the shopper and their physical backgrounds, with selected garments overlaid; study participants assessed the AR garments for size, fit, and performance, followed by physical try-ons. Evaluating the fit in AR was problematic, but shoppers' responses to the AR and actual garments were positive. Cornell's Fatma Baytar said, "We can expect that as these technologies evolve, people will trust online shopping more."

Full Article
IoT Labels Will Help Consumers Figure Out Which Devices Are Spying on Them
Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Security and Privacy Institute
Daniel Tkacik
May 27, 2020

Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Security and Privacy Institute researchers have developed a prototype security and privacy "nutrition label" for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, to inform consumers if those devices are used to monitor and collect information on them. The label includes a primary layer for display on a device's box, offering such information as the type of data the device collects, for what purpose, and with whom the data is shared. Scanning a quick response code on this layer allows consumers to access a secondary layer online for information like how long the device retains data, and how often it is shared. The researchers created the label in consultation with industrial, governmental, and academic security and privacy experts, along with an IoT label generator for manufacturers. CyLab's Pardis Emami-Naeini said, "The display of this information should be concise and understandable, akin to a nutrition label on food products."

Full Article
Multifunction E-Glasses Track the Brain, Eyes, and More
New Atlas
Ben Coxworth
May 27, 2020

Researchers at Korea University's KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology have developed prototype multifunctional e-glasses equipped with flexible electrodes near the ears and eyes. Those electrodes monitor electrical activity in the brain and track eye movements, and transmit that information wirelessly for processing. Meanwhile, an ultraviolet (UV) light sensor on the side of one arm quantifies the intensity of incoming UV rays, and can activate a gel within the lenses to temporarily darken the eyewear into sunglasses. An accelerometer also tracks the wearer's posture and gait and detects falls, with potential applications in virtual reality and accident-alert systems for seniors.

Full Article

A new algorithm, called the Fast Loaded Dice Roller. Algorithm Quickly Simulates Roll of Loaded Dice
MIT News
Steve Nadis
May 28, 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created an algorithm to produce random numbers with the best mix of speed, accuracy, and low memory currently available for certain tasks. The Fast Loaded Dice Roller (FLDR) algorithm simulates the roll of dice to generate random integers. The dice can have any number of sides, and are loaded to make some sides more likely to come up than others, constraining randomness to meet a preset probability distribution. FLDR ensures perfectly loaded dice that exactly achieve the specified probabilities. MIT's Vikash Mansinghka thinks FLDR could boost the efficiency of Monte Carlo simulation and inference techniques.

Full Article
National Security Agency Exposes Tool Used by Russian Hackers
William Turton
May 28, 2020

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) last week accused hackers from a unit within the Russian intelligence agency GRU of exploiting a software vulnerability commonly found in Linux computers. The NSA said the Sandworm hacking group has been using the flaw called "Exim," known as a Message Transfer Agent since August 2019 to gain access to computers. The NSA goal in releasing this information is to remove a tool from the Russian hacking arsenal by exposing how the flaw works. Users and administrators are urged to apply an already released fix for the Exim flaw.

Full Article
Boston Dynamics' Robodog Roams New Zealand Countryside for Sheep Herding
Alyse Stanley
May 25, 2020

New Zealand software firm Rocos last week announced a partnership with Boston Dynamics to repurpose the latter's four-legged robotic dog for sheep herding. Rocos develops software for remote robot operation, and its cloud platform will enable Boston Dynamics' Spot robot line to counter strain from worker shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and help boost New Zealand's food production. The Spot robot, equipped with heat, LiDAR, gas, and high-resolution video sensors, can navigate rough terrain to capture data in real time. Said Rocos CEO David Inggs, "The age of autonomous robots is upon us. Our customers are augmenting their human workforces to automate physical processes that are often dull, dirty, or dangerous."

Full Article
How Drones Can Monitor Explosive Volcanoes
German Research Center for Geosciences (Germany)
May 25, 2020

Researchers at the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam, Germany, used drones equipped with optical and thermal imaging cameras to monitor the Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala with a new level of precision. The team examined the drone's data to determine the volcano's lava flow velocity, movement patterns, and surface temperature, and also extracted the lava's flow properties. The researchers also generated complete three-dimensional (3D) models from these images using a special algorithm, resulting in a 3D topography and temperature simulation of the volcano with a resolution of just a few centimeters. GFZ's Edgar Zorn said, "We have shown that the use of drones can help to completely re-measure even the most dangerous and active volcanoes on Earth from a safe distance."

Full Article

A New York City police officer manually disinfecting her vehicle. To Disinfect Police Car in a Pandemic, Software Cranks Up the Heat
The New York Times
Neal E. Boudette
May 30, 2020

Police departments in New York City and several other U.S. cities are using updated software from Ford Motor that can raise a police cruiser's interior temperature to 133 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, which the automaker claims can kill the coronavirus. The update, available for 2013 and 2016 Ford Police Interceptor sport utility vehicles, enhances engine-control software to create a sanitation mode that can be activated by pushing a series of buttons on the steering wheel. The software checks to see if there is sufficient gasoline to keep the engine operating for the 80-minute sterilization process, and prompts officers to ensure the vehicle is empty of occupants and sensitive electronics before starting the process.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration
AI Researchers Say They Created a Better Way to Generate 3D Photos
Khari Johnson
May 25, 2020

A group of artificial intelligence researchers at Facebook, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Taiwan's National Tsing Hua University created a novel way to generate three-dimensional (3D) photos that outperforms current methods. The team used a range of photos captured with an iPhone to demonstrate how their method eliminates blur and discontinuity introduced by other 3D techniques. The technique can generate 3D photos from RGB-D imagery, and was applied to historic two-dimensional 20th-century images using a pretrained depth estimation model. The researchers said this method could improve Facebook 3D Photos, and could lead to more lifelike immersions in 3D digital graphics environments, like virtual games and meetings or applications in ecommerce.

Full Article

A virtual meeting. Miss Your Office? Some Companies Are Building Virtual Replicas
The Wall Street Journal
Katie Deighton
May 27, 2020

Some employers are building virtual reproductions of their offices via online simulations for workers in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. File-transfer service WeTransfer's Gordon Willoughby said his company's three-dimensional virtual office replica helps provide the social experience of office life, which recent hires dealing with sudden disconnection often appreciate. Facebook, Twitter, and other firms recently said many employees will work remotely in the future, even after the pandemic, yet some companies worry about losing the positive elements of a shared workplace, like in-person interactions. Educators are exploring the concept as well, with the School of Communication Arts in London on its second simulation since it closed its physical doors on March 16.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration
ACM Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research
ACM Discounts and Special Offers Program

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]