Welcome to the April 30, 2021 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."

University of California, Irvine Professor Michael Franz. ACM Chuck Thacker Breakthrough Award Goes to Innovator Who Transformed Web Applications
April 28, 2021

ACM has named Michael Franz at the University of California, Irvine, recipient of the Charles P. "Chuck" Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award, for developing just-in-time (JIT) dynamic compilation methods that facilitate rapid, feature-rich Web services online. Franz invented a new compilation technique on which he based a JIT compiler for JavaScript, then worked with Mozilla to incorporate it into the Firefox browser. Franz later devised "trace tree" program-loop optimization and a compiler that operated in various settings, upgrading the JIT compiler's performance on JavaScript five- to 10-fold. ACM President Gabriele Kotsis said, "Franz displayed foresight in working with Mozilla to implement his ideas on their browser and in making his technology open source so that it could be continually refined and adapted by developers worldwide."

Full Article

A child plays with toys on the floor. Can a Gaze Measurement App Help Spot Potential Signs of Autism in Toddlers?
News-Medical Life Sciences
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo
April 28, 2021

Potential signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be identified in toddlers using computational gaze-measurement methods developed by Duke University researchers. The technique can detect eye-gaze patterns characteristic of ASD with 90% accuracy, using a mobile app on a smartphone or tablet. The children viewed videos in the app while the phone or tablet's camera recorded their gaze. The Duke team then used computer-vision analysis to measure the eye-gaze patterns elicited by the app to detect the likelihood of ASD in those toddlers. The researchers said, "These novel results may have the potential for developing scalable autism screening tools, exportable to natural settings, and enabling data sets amenable to machine learning."

Full Article

Girl Scouts with a Wing delivery drone. Girl Scout Cookies Take Flight in Virginia Drone Deliveries
Associated Press
Matt O'Brien
April 28, 2021

Wing, a subsidiary of Google's corporate parent Alphabet, is adding Girl Scout cookies to its commercial drone delivery tests in Christiansburg, VA. Since 2019, the company has used drones to deliver drugstore orders, FedEx packages, and food to residents of the suburb. Wing reached out to local Girl Scout troops, which have had a hard time selling cookies during the pandemic. Wing's autonomous drones, which made their first deliveries in Christiansburg in 2019, feature two forward propellers on their wings, 12 smaller vertical propellers, and a tether to drop the package as the drone hovers over the recipient's front lawn.

Full Article
'Brain-Like Device' Mimics Human Learning in Major Computing Breakthrough
The Independent (U.K.)
Anthony Cuthbertson
April 30, 2021

A device modeled after the human brain by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Hong Kong can learn by association, via synaptic transistors that simultaneously process and store information. The researchers programmed the circuit to associate light with pressure by pulsing a light-emitting diode (LED) lightbulb and then applying pressure with a finger press. The organic electrochemical material enabled the device to construct memories, and after five training cycles it associated light with pressure and could detect pressure from light alone. Northwestern's Jonathan Rivnay said, "Because it is compatible with biological environments, the device can directly interface with living tissue, which is critical for next-generation bioelectronics."

Full Article

Tiffany & Co.’s Jewelry Design and Innovation Workshop. Technology Could Turn You Into a Tiffany
The New York Times
Victoria Gomelsky
April 23, 2021

A number of companies are developing digital tools for the design of personalized jewelry, which can be fabricated via sophisticated three-dimensional (3D) metal printing. Joining these emergent businesses are conventional jewelry houses like France’s Boucheron, which used artificial intelligence (AI) for the first time last summer to create its Contemplation collection, crafting an algorithm with mathematicians to generate a cloudlike diamond-and-bead necklace. Nick Koss at Canada-based Volund Jewelry also uses AI to create jewelry through generative design. Another AI-enabled process considered to have even more potential for the jewelry industry is parametric design, which simplifies and expedites making patterns and exploring alternatives. High-end jeweler Tiffany & Company uses parametric design and 3D printing to create prototypes at its Jewelry Design and Innovation Workshop in New York City.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration
U.S. Army Technique Enhances Robot Battlefield Operations
U.S. Army DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory
April 27, 2021

Researchers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the University of Nebraska, Omaha, have developed a technique that preserves the resilience of robots working in teams amid patchy battlefield communications. ARL's Bradley Woosley said the robots coordinate by sharing their next task with the team; specific members of the team will recall this information, enabling others to ask if any other robot will execute that task without engaging with the robot that selected the task. A geometric approximation (a-shape) clusters regions of the environment in which one robot can communicate with others using multi-hop communications. Said Woosley, "To our knowledge, this work is one of the first attempts to integrate geometry-based prediction of potential conflict regions to improve multi-robot information collection under communication constraints, while gracefully handling intermittent connectivity loss between robots."

Full Article
AI, Captain! First Autonomous Ship Prepares for Maiden Voyage
April 30, 2021

The autonomous ship Mayflower 400 is preparing for a transatlantic journey from England to Plymouth, MA. The solar-powered, radar- and camera-equipped trimaran has an onboard artificial intelligence which learned to identify maritime obstacles by analyzing thousands of photos. IBM’s Rosie Lickorish said the unmanned craft provided an advantage in the "unforgiving environment" of the open ocean; "Having a ship without people on board allows scientists to expand the area they can observe." The Mayflower 400 will analyze marine pollution and plastic in the water, as well as tracking aquatic mammals; the data it collects will be released for free.

Full Article
With Smartphones, Anyone Can Help Track Brood X—and Maybe Unlock Cicada Mysteries
The Washington Post
Meryl Kornfield
April 29, 2021

Tens of thousands of people have signed up to participate in a crowdsourced project to track Brood X, the largest emergence of cicadas in the U.S., using a smartphone application developed by researchers at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, OH. The Cicada Safari app lets users of any expertise level participate, building a community as they share photos and videos, marking Brood X sightings with green pins on maps. The University of Maryland's Mike Raupp said the app has already yielded significant findings, which could inform his own investigations into how heat emissions from cities could doom cicadas that surface prematurely. Cicada Safari creator Gene Kritsky said he hopes "boots on the ground" cicada tracking will offer scientists "a really good baseline map" to evaluate anthropogenic effects on cicadas.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration

A smartphone screen displaying icons for prominent Internet sites such as Facebook and Netflix. Category Killers of the Internet Are Significantly Reducing Online Diversity
University of New South Wales Sydney Newsroom
Neil Martin
April 29, 2021

A multi-institutional team of Australian researchers has found the diversity of online players is declining, although the Internet continues to grow along with functional and geographic opportunities. The large-scale longitudinal study measured the distribution of attention given in the online environment to competing organizations going back 15 years, and showed that a small number of competitors are likely to gain control of each functional market segment. Between 60% and 70% of all attention on key social media platforms in different market segments is concentrated on just 10 popular domains, according to the study. The University of New South Wales Sydney's Paul X. McCarthy said the Internet "is now becoming a medium that actually stifles competition, promotes monopolies, and the dominance of a small number of players."

Full Article

The front of an Amazon Books store. Is Amazon Recommending Books on QAnon, White Nationalism?
USA Today
Jessica Guynn
April 29, 2021

A study by London-based think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) found that Amazon's recommendation algorithms directs people to books about conspiracy theories and extremism, including those by authors banned by other online platforms. People browsing a book about a conspiracy on Amazon are likely to receive suggestions of more books on that subject, as well as books about other conspiracy theories. ISD's Chloe Colliver said features like auto-complete in the search bar and content suggestions for the author or similar authors also can steer users toward extremist content. Said Colliver, "Given how vital the recommendation systems are to Amazon's sales functions, it is safe to assume that recommendations of dangerous extremist or conspiracy content could be extremely pervasive."

Full Article
Spending on Cloud Computing Hits US$42 Billion Worldwide: Tracker
Business Times (Singapore)
April 30, 2021

Market tracker Canalys said global cloud computing spending reached a record-high US$41.8 billion in the first quarter of 2021 as businesses used the Internet heavily to weather the pandemic. Worldwide spending on cloud infrastructure services rose nearly US$11 billion year over year, according to Canalys. The company’s Blake Murray said, "Organizations depended on digital services and being online to maintain operations and adapt to the unfolding situation," although most businesses have not yet made the "digital transformation." Canalys ranked Amazon Web Services as the world’s top cloud service provider, accounting for 32% of the market, followed by Microsoft's Azure platform with 19% and Google Cloud with 7%. Going forward, Murray expects continued migration to the cloud amid improving economic confidence and the revitalization of postponed projects.

Full Article

Physicist Andrew Alt in front of an image of a coronal mass ejection. Composite image by Elle Starkman Computer Model Helps Brings the Sun Into the Laboratory
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Raphael Rosen
April 28, 2021

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Princeton University have developed a computer model that predicts the behavior of plasma above the surface of the sun. In doing so, the team discovered that "torus instability," or jiggling plasma behavior, causes roped-together magnetic fields to escape the sun's surface as coronal mass ejections, which can disrupt electrical and communications systems when they strike the Earth's magnetic field. PPPL's Andrew Alt said, "Our model's ability to accurately predict the behavior of magnetic ropes indicates that our method could ultimately be used to improve space weather prediction."

Full Article

A series of test tubes in a laboratory. Algorithm for the Diagnostics of Dementia
University of Eastern Finland
April 28, 2021

A new biomarker-based algorithm for the diagnosis of dementia has been developed by an international team of researchers. The algorithm, developed by scientists at Finland's Universities of Eastern Finland and Oulu and their international colleagues, will help to differentiate patients with different forms of dementia, and can help select patients for clinical drug trials. The program also enables diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease based on blood sample analysis, while cerebrospinal fluid-based analyses might be required to diagnose rarer types of dementia. The researchers think the algorithm's results will expedite the accessibility of biomarker measurements in the near future.

Full Article
May 2021 Issue of Communications of the ACM
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]