Fordham Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Welcome to the July 1, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Please note: In observance of the U.S. Independence Day holiday, TechNews will not be published on Friday, July 3. Publication will resume Monday, July 6.

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."
ACM Calls for Governments, Businesses to Stop Using Facial Recognition
Khari Johnson
June 30, 2020

ACM's U.S. Technology Policy Committee yesterday released a statement urging lawmakers to put an immediate stop to the use of facial recognition by businesses and governments, because the technology is not "sufficiently mature" and vulnerable to documented ethnic, racial, and gender bias. The statement also prescribes principles for regulation, including disaggregation of system error rates based on race, gender, sex, and other appropriate demographics. Other recommended principles include conducting third-party audits and requiring robust government oversight; notifying people when facial recognition is in use, and defining appropriate use-cases before deployment; and holding organizations using facial recognition accountable if or when it causes a person harm.

Full Article

The co-directors of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. Universities, Tech Giants Back National Cloud Computing Project
The New York Times
Steve Lohr
June 30, 2020

Leading universities and major technology companies are backing the National Research Cloud initiative, which would give academic scientists access to tech giants' cloud data centers and to public data sets for research. The National Research Cloud would address the fact that cutting-edge artificial intelligence research often is beyond the reach of academics, due to the cost and need for vast computing resources. This has prompted a ‘brain drain’ of computer scientists from universities to the big tech companies, generating concerns that academic research is being shortchanged. Said the University of Washington's Ed Lazowska, "We need to get scientific research on the public cloud. We have to hitch ourselves to that wagon. It's the only way to keep up."

Full Article
Computational Model Decodes Speech by Predicting It
University of Geneva
June 26, 2020

Scientists at Switzerland's University of Geneva and Evolving Language National Center for Competence in Research have designed a computational model that mimics the complex mechanism employed by the central nervous system to decode speech through syllable recognition. An earlier model tapped neuronal oscillations, with theta waves tracked to follow the rhythm of syllables as the system perceived them, while gamma waves segmented and encoded the auditory signal. This generated a phonemic profile connected to each sound sequence, which could be compared to an archive of known syllables. The new spiking neural network model simulates predictive coding, in which the brain optimizes perception by constantly attempting to predict sensory signals based on candidate hypotheses. The model was successfully tested using 2,888 distinct syllables contained in 220 sentences, spoken in natural language in English.

Full Article

A woman wearing the NASA Necklace. NASA Necklace Fights Coronavirus by Reminding You Not to Touch Your Face
Alexandra Garrett
June 26, 2020

Researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a three-dimensionally (3D)-printed necklace containing a proximity sensor that vibrates when wearers are about to touch their face. Developed in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the vibrations emitted by the Pulse pendant get stronger as the wearer's hand comes closer to their face. NASA said the necklace is affordable and easy to make. Assembly instructions and a list of parts required to assemble the pendant are open source and free for public use.

Full Article

Erica, the AI robot movie star. This AI Robot Just Nabbed the Lead Role in a Sci-Fi Movie
Popular Mechanics
Courtney Linder
June 25, 2020

An upcoming science fiction film will feature the first humanoid robot to take on the lead role in a movie. Created by Japanese scientists Hiroshi Ishiguro and Kohei Ogawa, the Erica robot was designed to study human-computer interaction. Said producer Sam Khoze, "She was created from scratch to play the role. We had to simulate her motions and emotions through one-on-one sessions, such as controlling the speed of her movements, talking through her feelings, and coaching character development and body language." The $70-million movie, called b, is not scheduled to be released until at least late next year.

Full Article
Scientists Develop Tool to Design Better Fusion Devices
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Raphael Rosen
June 24, 2020

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have developed a computer code to help design fusion devices (stellarators) that more effectively trap charged plasma gas. PPPL's Michael Cole said the XGC-S code can simulate linear and turbulent plasma behavior in stellarators, a step toward determining which stellarator configuration best contains heat and most efficiently maintains fusion conditions. Cole said, "Once you have an accurate code and a powerful computer, changing the stellarator design you are simulating is easy."

Full Article
Open Source Software Aims to Reduce Cybersickness in VR Use
University of Texas at San Antonio
Milady Nazir
June 25, 2020

Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have developed the first open-source Unity software toolkit that developers can use to incorporate techniques to reduce cybersickness (virtual reality/VR motion sickness) into extended reality environments. The GingerVR toolkit can be applied to any Unity application. Said UTSA's John Quarles, "Cybersickness is a threat to the overall user acceptance of VR, which has a potentially huge impact on the VR industry. The negative symptoms experienced by a user can decrease human performance, limit learning, and hinder decision making." Research indicates more than half of VR users experience motion-sickness symptoms with a wide range of severity. GingerVR incorporates eight cybersickness reduction techniques with tutorials to help with integration.

Full Article

The new Ford F-150 Lariat truck. America's Best-Selling Vehicle Becomes a Cybertruck With a Familiar Face
Joseph White
June 25, 2020

Ford Motor's new F-150 pickup and upcoming Mach-E electric SUV will be the first of the carmaker's vehicles to be equipped with electronic systems that enable extensive over-the-air software upgrades, bringing upgradeable, fully connected vehicle technology to the mainstream market. Ford said customers who opt for the system can download software allowing for hands-free driving on highways when it is released next year. Commercial customers will have access to software that can facilitate routing or tracking vehicles in a fleet. In addition, owners of the connected vehicles can notify the company of any problems with engine control software, which Ford's Jim Farley said will reduce the time it takes to detect warranty problems "from weeks and months to days and hours." In addition, the company can see which features customers use and how, making it easier to determine which equipment could be omitted safely to lower costs.

Full Article
Lucifer: Devilish Malware That Abuses Critical Vulnerabilities on Windows Machines
Charlie Osborne
June 25, 2020

Researchers at Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 discovered a new variant of a powerful cryptojacking and DDoS-based malware, called Lucifer, which infects Windows machines by exploiting their vulnerabilities. The malware scans for open TCP ports 135 (RPC) and 1433 (MSSQL) and uses credential-stuffing attacks to gain access. After infecting the machine, the malware drops the XMRig program to covertly mine for the Monero cryptocurrency. In addition, Lucifer connects to a command-and-control server to receive commands, transfer stolen system data, and inform operators of the status of the Monero cryptocurrency miner. Lucifer also tampers with the Windows registry to schedule itself as a task at startup and checks for the presence of sandboxes or virtual machines to evade detection or reverse engineering. The researchers recommend applying updates and patches to the affected software.

Full Article

Super-resolved image of mitochondria rendered as a two-dimensional histogram. Technion Breakthrough Unlocks Secrets of Cells in 3D for First Time
The Jerusalem Post
Donna Rachel Edmunds
June 26, 2020

Researchers at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology used deep learning to develope a new microscope that allows scientists to see cells in action in three dimensions (3D). DeepSTORM3D is a super-resolution 3D system that can map images with a resolution 10 times that of standard optical microscopy, as well as mapping 3D images of moving systems. The researchers developed an artificial neural network, which was able to train itself on how to produce super-resolution 3D images from real-world microscopy data. Said Technion's Yoav Shechtman, "The new technology has advanced us towards realizing one of the holy grails of biological research – mapping biological processes in living cells in super-resolution." In addition to mapping the data, the neural network was able to improve upon the instrumentation used, essentially showing researchers how to build the new microscope.

Full Article
Could Your Computer Please Be More Polite? Thank You
Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
Byron Spice
June 29, 2020

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed an automated method for restructuring nonpolite directives or requests into more polite communications. The team generated a dataset of 1.39 million sentences labeled for politeness—derived from publicly available emails exchanged by employees of long-gone energy firm Enron—for experimental application. Analysis determined the frequency and distribution of words in polite and nonpolite sentences, and the researchers developed a "tag and generate" pipeline to conduct politeness transfers. Impolite or nonpolite words or phrases were tagged, then a text generator replaced each tagged item without altering the meaning of the sentence. The system was able to produce subtler and more realistic restructures over time, and the team has released the labeled dataset for use by others in the hope of encouraging further politeness research.

Full Article

Researchers in Japan developed a drone equipped with a bubble maker for autonomous pollination. Drone With Bubble Machine Can Pollinate Flowers Like a Bee
IEEE Spectrum
Evan Ackerman
June 24, 2020

Researchers at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have developed a method of pollinating flowers using an aerial drone that emits pollen-infused soap bubbles. With 4 mg of pollen per mL of 0.4% surfactant solution, the drones were able to create soap bubbles that each carry up to 2,000 individual grains of pollen. The researchers demonstrated their pollination approach is scalable by equipping a drone with a bubble machine that can generate 5,000 bubbles per minute, which achieved a 90% success rate when the drone flew over flowers at two meters per second at a height of two meters. The researchers found that it took just one bubble landing on the pistil of a flower to result in pollination.

Full Article
Machine Learning Techniques Enable Discovery of Aggressive Cancer Cell Types
Research News @ Vanderbilt
Marissa Shapiro
June 24, 2020

Vanderbilt University researchers used unsupervised and automated machine learning techniques to analyze millions of cancer cells, and found new cancer cell types in brain tumors. Vanderbilt's Rebecca Ihrie and Jonathan Irish worked with colleagues to devise Risk Assessment Population IDentification (RAPID), an open source algorithm that uncovered coordinated patterns of protein expression and modification associated with survival outcomes. The researchers trained RAPID on single-cell mass cytometry data on cellular proteins that oversee the identity and function of brain cells. RAPID mined 2 million tumor cells from 28 glioblastomas, flagging the most atypical cells and patterns for investigation. Irish said, "Unsupervised machine learning found the worst offender cells without needing the researchers to give it clinical or biological knowledge as context."

Full Article
Computing Collaboration Reveals Global Ripple Effect of Shifting Monsoons
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
June 29, 2020

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and a dozen other international research institutions have generated the most elaborate set of projections to date of future climate patterns in monsoon regions. As part of the Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment, the team used the RegCM4 regional climate model from Italy's International Center for Theoretical Physics to run simulations that forecast and evaluated shifts in nine monsoon regions across five continents. The ORNL scientists modeled the South Asian monsoon region, using the lab's Compute and Data Environment for Science and the Eos compute cluster. ORNL's Moetasim Ashfaq said, "This is the first time that a regional climate model has been used to provide a global view of changes in monsoons."

Full Article
ACM Transactions on Data Science
ACM Conferences

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]