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Welcome to the November 9, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A visual representation of a cough. AI Model Detects Asymptomatic Covid-19 Infections Through Cellphone-Recorded Coughs
MIT News
Jennifer Chu
October 29, 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed an artificial intelligence model that differentiates between asymptomatic people infected with Covid-19 and healthy individuals via forced-cough recordings submitted through Web browsers, cellphones, and laptops. The MIT team trained the model on cough samples and spoken words; it accurately identified 98.5% of coughs from people confirmed to have the virus (100% from those who are asymptomatic) when fed new cough recordings. The researchers are incorporating the model into a user-friendly application which could potentially be a free, convenient, noninvasive prescreening tool to identify asymptomatic people infected with the virus. Users could log in daily, cough into their handset, and instantly receive information on whether they might be infected and confirm with a formal test.

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NHS Signs Up for Tim Berners-Lee Pilot to Reinvent Web
Financial Times
John Thornhill
November 9, 2020

The U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) is one of more than a dozen partners that have signed up for a pilot program of Inrupt, a company founded by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, to promote a new Web data architecture. Inrupt launched its first enterprise-ready social-inked data (Solid) servers, which Berners-Lee, recipient of the 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award, called a "huge milestone" in breaking down existing data silos and recreating more interconnected networks. Solid, co-developed by Berners-Lee and Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientists, enables users to produce their own Pods (personal online data stores) in order to control and grant access to third-party applications. The NHS is running a pilot project that lets users store their personal medical data in their own Pods, upload additional information from other lifestyle apps, and share that data with doctors and care providers.

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HandMorph technology can miniaturize a user's grasp and provide real-time haptic feedback. Grasping Empathy: Technology Helps Simulate Children's Experiences
UChicago News
Rob Mitchum
November 6, 2020

University of Chicago (UChicago) researchers are investigating new technologies designed to help people empathize with others, including a wearable exoskeleton that simulates a child's hand. The glove-like HandMorph device uses mechanical links to translate hand movements to an attached silicone hand and deliver realistic haptic feedback; a wire between the glove and the user's waist limits reach to the range of a small child. After wearing the device and interacting with variously-sized objects, users perceived the objects as bigger while wearing the glove than when holding the objects with their ungloved hand. UChicago's Pedro Lopes said, "It appears that feeling the tool and being able to act in real surroundings is much more powerful than being digitally immersed either in [virtual reality] or computer-assisted design software, which gives you the [three-dimensional] features of these toys, but not the context."

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AI News Bias Tool Created by USC Computer Scientists
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Amy Blumenthal
November 6, 2020

University of Southern California (USC) computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence tool to automatically detect bias in news through a combination of natural-language processing and moral foundation theory. Rather than just searching for keywords, the algorithm considers more complex patterns in the contextual application of language to evoke key themes or frames. The algorithm determined content posted on left-leaning sites highlighted fairness and equity, while material on right-leaning sites emphasized moral purity under fear of contamination and appeals to law and order. USC's Kristina Lerman said, "Our ultimate goal was to grade news to create a news bias 'nutrition label' for when you are consuming news."

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Robots Help Seniors Learn to Use Technology in South Korea
Thomas Maresca
November 9, 2020

A new program in Seoul, South Korea, attempts to close the digital divide between younger and older generations by using robots to teach 3,000 participating seniors to use smartphones and touchscreen kiosks over the next three months. After the program launched last week, 10 seniors were introduced to the Torooc startup's Liku robot at the West Seoul Senior Welfare Center; Liku used voice instructions, gestures, and a modified smartphone to teach them how to use the KakaoTalk messaging application. The humanoid robot interacts through facial recognition and voice responses; it is linked to a central server and can answer about 200 conversational questions. Shin Eun-kyong with the Seoul Digital Foundation said, "We ... think [robots] have some advantages over teaching with humans face to face. It can be tiring to go over the same things over and over, but a robot can repeat the instructions until the seniors understand."

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Physicists Developed Efficient Modem for Future Quantum Internet
Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Germany)
November 5, 2020

Physicists at Germany's Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) have developed a quantum modem to link users to a future quantum Internet based on existing fiber-optic network infrastructure. The device is designed to connect efficiently between data-transporting flying and locally-stored stationary quantum bits without destroying information; this requires matching photons sensed or received by the modem by trapping erbium atoms and infrared photons in a suitable space for as long as possible. The MPQ team packed the atoms into a transparent yttrium silicate crystal sandwiched between two mirrors, with the ensemble cooled to -271 degrees Celsius (-455.8 degrees Fahrenheit). The reflected photons pass the erbium atoms so they can react with a quantum leap nearly 60 times faster than without the mirror cabinet. MPQ's Andreas Reiserer said, "In the future, a quantum Internet could be used to connect quantum computers located in different places, which would considerably increase their computing power."

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A scene from the motion picture Avatar. Big Tech Snags Hollywood Talent to Pursue Enhanced Reality
The Wall Street Journal
R.T. Watson
November 3, 2020

Major Silicon Valley companies are scooping up top Hollywood digital visual-effects artists and technology in order to enhance their augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) products with lifelike experiences. Google, Facebook, Apple, and others hope that inhabiting such platforms with realistic digital characters and scenery will fuel mass-market consumer adoption. Former visual-effects artist Paul Debevec at the University of Southern California helped design the Life Stage, perhaps the most refined device for capturing digital scans of humans for animation. He also helped Google build an upgrade in an effort to generate convincing digital people for AR and VR platforms. Harvard Business School's Shoshana Zuboff says this mirrors a similar trend in artificial intelligence, where major technology companies seek to lure scientists from government or university jobs.

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Two of the creviced tiles on a harbor wall in Hong Kong (left), along with two flat tiles deployed as a control (right). 3D-Printed Tiles Boost Biodiversity on Sea Walls
New Atlas
Ben Coxworth
November 5, 2020

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Australia's universities of Tasmania and New South Wales say three-dimensionally (3D) printed creviced concrete tiles could help create substitute habitats when attached to artificial seawalls, helping to overcome the loss of intertidal habitats that occurs when such harbor walls are erected. The tiles feature nooks and crannies where small creatures in the intertidal zone can live; sea walls typically are flat. The researchers attached creviced tiles to harbor walls in 14 locations worldwide; after a year, they found the tiles contained 19% to 51% more species, and 59% to 416% more animals, compared to flat tiles deployed in the same areas. "Seeding" the tiles with oysters before applying them to the walls improved their effectiveness, serving as food for predators and providing additional habitats for small organisms.

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A Japanese man in front of a Gundam robot. Japanese Scientists Create Mind Control Tech for Robot
Interesting Engineering
Chris Young
November 6, 2020

Japanese scientists have engineered a prototype device that allows anyone to control a miniature toy Gundam robot with thought. The researchers customized a mobile suit Zaku Gundam robot toy, which lets buyers manually program the device with the Zeionic Technica smartphone application. A team from NeU, a joint venture between Tohoku University and Hitachi, designed a version of the toy that moves in response to brain activity received through a headband-like device that synchronizes with the robot. The device is programmed to transmit brain activity data to the app, which then translates those signals into movements. The headband quantifies three different levels of brain activity, each connected to a particular movement sequence. Zeonic said the Zaku package is intended to be a tool for teaching robotics and programming fundamentals.

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AI on the Edge
WSU Insider
November 6, 2020

A framework developed by researchers at Washington State University (WSU) would allow more efficient use of artificial intelligence algorithms on mobile platforms and portable devices by bringing decision-making back to the devices themselves. Decisions for voice-recognition software, mobile health, robotics, and Internet of Things devices are made in the cloud, which generally does not allow for real-time decision-making. The framework can run complex neural network-based algorithms locally, using less power and computation. This involves prioritizing problem-solving, with most energy spent on the complex parts of problems and less devoted to the easier parts. Said WSU's Janna Doppa, “The goal is to push intelligence to mobile platforms that are resource-constrained in terms of power, computation, and memory,” which “has a huge number of applications.”

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Robots Now Can Understand What You Are Saying to Follow Commands
New Scientist
Chris Stokel-Walker
November 6, 2020

University of Michigan (UM) researchers have developed a model that simplifies robots' ability to follow commands by allowing them to understand what people are saying. Many robots utilize simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) to know their whereabouts, concurrently tracking their location on a map and updating their environmental knowledge. UM's Jason Corso and colleagues remote-controlled a robot around a tabletop maze arranged in 116 configurations without being able to see the labyrinth, while a natural language processing model associated the navigator's commands to the driver. Once the language dataset was compiled, the models that parse them were trained under simulation, and learned to follow plain-text commands. Corso said, "The challenge for humans to interact with SLAM-based machines is we need to think on their terms. It's really rigid and we have to adapt to the robots. The goal is to flip that and have the robot adapt to the human language."

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Researchers Claim Algorithm Helps Doctors Pick the Right Antibiotics
Kyle Wiggers
November 4, 2020

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) said a recommendation algorithm they designed predicts the likely treatability of urinary tract infection by first- or second-line antibiotics. The model recommends a treatment using a first-line agent as often as possible, avoiding excessive treatment failures. The MIT team said it trained the algorithm on data from more than 10,000 patients, and the program would enable clinicians to cut the use of second-line antibiotics by 67%. For patients for whom doctors selected a second-line drug but the algorithm recommended a first-line drug, the latter worked more than 90% of the time; when clinicians selected an inappropriate first-line drug, the model chose an appropriate first-line drug nearly half of the time.

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