MS In Computer Science
Welcome to the June 2, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Chest x-rays that were analyzed by deep learning AI. AI Tool Helps Doctors Manage COVID-19
University of Waterloo News (Canada)
Brian Caldwell
May 26, 2021

Researchers at Canada's University of Waterloo have developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology to evaluate the degree of COVID-19 severity, as part of the open source COVID-Net project between Waterloo, spinoff startup DarwinAI, the Stony Brook School of Medicine, and the Montefiore Medical Center. The researchers trained the deep learning AI to extrapolate the extent and opacity of infection in the lungs of COVID-19 patients from chest x-rays. The software's evaluations were compared to expert radiologists' evaluations of the same images, and were found to align well with them. Waterloo's Alexander Wong said, “The promising results in this study show that artificial intelligence has a strong potential to be an effective tool for supporting frontline healthcare workers in their decisions and improving clinical efficiency, which is especially important given how much stress the ongoing pandemic has placed on healthcare systems around the world."

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Russian Hackers Launch Major Cyberattack Through U.S. Aid Agency's Email System, Microsoft Says
Sam Shead
May 28, 2021

Microsoft reported that Nobelium, the Russian hacking group believed to be responsible for last year's SolarWinds attack, has targeted more than 150 organizations in at least 24 countries in the last week in another major cyberattack. More than 3,000 email accounts received phishing emails as part of the latest attack. Microsoft's Tom Burt said at least 25% of the affected organizations are involved in international development and humanitarian and human rights work. The hackers gained access to the U.S. Agency for International Development's email marketing account to distribute the phishing emails. The malicious file distributed as part of the attack contains the NativeZone backdoor, which Burt said can "enable a wide range of activities from stealing data to infecting other computers on a network."

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Young women working on a computer science project for Girls Who Code, a training and advocacy group that supports female students. How to Get More Women into Technology
The Wall Street Journal
Jillian Berman
June 1, 2021

Recent initiatives aimed at swelling the ranks of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields include enrichment programs, mentorships, and engagement with potential employers. Cornell Tech's Break Through Tech program initially focused on women attending the City University of New York, to get more students hired for summer internships. The program’s founder, Judith Spitz, said it "tried to act as a concierge facilitator" to introduce employers to those students, but their eligibility criteria rarely matched students' experience. To address this problem, Break Through Tech now offers paid internships during academic recess, algorithmically matching students with employers. Other efforts are attempting to transform computing education for girls by removing biases and other factors that discourage women from pursuing STEM, as well as consulting with partner employers to hire more women.

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong with VR?
University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
May 31, 2021

Researchers at Denmark's University of Copenhagen (UCPH) hope to inform design and experiential improvements to virtual reality (VR) technology by analyzing YouTube videos of accidents that occur while using the technology. The researchers studied 233 YouTube videos of so-called “VR fails” to determine where things go wrong in order to optimize user experience, said UCPH's Andreea-Anamaria Muresan. The team has compiled a VR fail catalog that includes clips of accidents and their causes, including users colliding with walls, furniture, or spectators during their VR experiences. Muresan said the researchers can help designers improve their VR accident-avoidance approaches, by changing certain virtual game elements to prevent collisions, for example.

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Police officers patrol along a steel wall at the Evros river near the Greek-Turkish border. In Post-Pandemic Europe, Migrants Face Digital Fortress
Associated Press
Derek Gatopolous; Costas Kantouris
June 1, 2021

European governments are installing and testing new digital technologies to bar migrants' illegal entry in the post-pandemic era. Observation towers are being equipped along the Greek-Turkish border with long-range cameras, night vision, and multiple sensors that will send data to control centers to flag suspicious movement through artificial intelligence (AI) analysis. The automated surveillance network is designed to detect migrants early and prevent them from crossing the border. Academic researchers across Europe, working with private companies, have developed surveillance and verification tools such as AI-powered lie detectors and virtual border-guard interview bots, and tested them in more than a dozen projects at Greek borders.

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Google Sees Sweeping German Antitrust Probes into Data Terms
Aoife White; Karin Matussek
May 25, 2021

Germany's Federal Cartel Office announced the launch of two antitrust probes of Google under an expansion of its investigative authority, focusing on the company's data processing terms and whether it offers users "sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data." Cartel Office president Andreas Mundt said, "Due to the large number of digital services offered by Google, such as the Google search engine, YouTube, Google Maps, the Android operating system, or the Chrome browser, the company could be considered to be of paramount significance for competition across markets. It is often very difficult for other companies to challenge this position of power." Limiting Google's data collection could potentially jeopardize its business model of tracking people online to help serve up personalized advertising. Google spokesperson Ralf Bremer said the company will cooperate fully with the Cartel Office investigations.

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Eye-Tracking Software Could Make Video Calls Feel More Lifelike
New Scientist
Chris Stokel-Walker
May 31, 2021

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers have designed an eye-tracking system that could make video conversations truer to life. UCSD's Shlomo Dubnov and Ross Greer developed software that employs two neural networks: one network captures a videoconferencing system's screen and records the location of each participant's video window and their name; the other network uses the call leader's camera feed to locate their face and eye position, then analyzes their eye movements to estimate where on the screen they are looking, and at whom. The system cross-checks that with the first network to determine who is in that position on screen, and shows their name to all participants. The algorithm, once trained, is able to estimate where participants were looking, and to get within 2 centimeters of the correct point on a 70-by-39-centimeter screen.

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Location marks formed into a question mark over a Google Maps page. Why Apple, Google Virus Alert Apps Had Limited Success
The New York Times
Natasha Singer
May 27, 2021

Apple and Google's smartphone-based virus alert application has not been the game-changer that the collaboration suggested, with some researchers claiming the product and policy choices made by the companies have constrained its utility. The app uses Bluetooth signals to detect users coming into close contact with those who later test positive for the coronavirus; it then anonymously alerts others with whom they may have crossed paths. Computer scientists have cited accuracy problems with the proximity-detecting Bluetooth technology, while some users have cited failed notifications. The University of Minnesota's Michael T. Osterholm said the software's privacy features, designed to bar government agencies from identifying app users, have complicated research to determine whether the alerts helped to impede virus transmission.

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Tesla Activates In-Car Camera to Monitor Drivers Using Autopilot
Kirsten Korosec
May 27, 2021

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has turned the in-car camera in its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles into a monitor for when its Autopilot advanced driver assistance system is in use. A Tesla software update specified that the "cabin camera above the rearview mirror can now detect and alert driver inattentiveness while Autopilot is engaged," and that the system can only save or transit information if data sharing is intentionally enabled. Tesla has been criticized for failing to activate its in-vehicle driver monitoring technology amid growing evidence that owners were misusing Autopilot. Consumer Reports' Jake Fisher said, "If the new system proves effective, it could help prevent distraction and be a major improvement for safety—potentially saving lives."

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Technology to Manage Mental Health at Your Fingertips
Texas A&M Today
Vandana Suresh
May 26, 2021

An electronic platform can read facial cues and vocal patterns, and integrate readings from smartwatch sensors to detect psychological stress, according to Texas A&M University (TAMU) researchers. They developed the monitoring and feedback system with Houston Methodist Hospital collaborators and other researchers in Texas and Hawaii, using smartwatch-collected data to train machine learning algorithms to recognize patterns that correspond with the normal state of arousal. The algorithms can then continuously monitor readings from the sensors and recognition applications to identify the state of hyperarousal, a sign of psychiatric distress. TAMU's Farzan Sasangohar said the technology “will give providers and counselors continuous access to patient variables and patient status, and I think it’s going to have a lifesaving implication because they can reach out to patients when they need it. Plus, it will empower patients to manage their mental health better.”

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Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology researchers Dongwon Yun (left) and Junmo Yang. A Helping Hand for Working Robots
Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology Research News (South Korea)
May 27, 2021

A new human-like mechanical hand developed by researchers at South Korea's Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) is designed to be both strong and resilient. The new design features a crossed flexural hinge (CFH) that can flex or bend in one position and remain rigid in others without creating fiction. DGIST's Dongwon Yun said, "Our findings show the advantages of both a rigid structure and a compliant structure can be combined, and this will overcome the shortcomings of both." The robotic hand was found to be 46.7% more shock-absorbent than pin joint-oriented robotic hands; it also is capable of holding objects weighing up to four kilograms (8.8 lbs.).

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Bristol Researchers' Camera Knows Exactly Where It Is
University of Bristol News (U.K.)
June 1, 2021

A camera developed by researchers at the U.K.'s University of Bristol can construct a pictorial map to ascertain its current location. The camera employs a processing-on-sensor Pixel Processor Array (PPA) that can recognize objects at thousands of frames per second, to generate and use maps at the time of image capture, in conjunction with an on-board mapping algorithm. When presented with a new image, the algorithm determines whether it is sufficiently different to previously observed images, and stores or discards data based on that assessment. As the PPA device is moved around by a person or robot, for example, it compiles a visual catalog of views that can be used to match any new image in localization mode. The PPA does not send out images, which boosts the system's energy efficiency and privacy.

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CyLab IoT Security, Privacy Label Effectively Conveys Risk
Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Security and Privacy Institute
Daniel Tkacik
May 26, 2021

Researchers found that Carnegie Mellon University CyLab's prototype security and privacy label adequately conveys the risks associated with the use of Internet-connected devices. Their study involved 1,371 participants who were given a randomly assigned scenario about buying a smart device, and asked whether information on the label would change their risk perception and their willingness to purchase. The label detailed a device's privacy and security practices, like the purpose of data collection and with whom data is shared. Most of the attributes on the label resulted in accurate risk perceptions, although the study found some misconceptions. Researcher Pardis Emami-Naeini said, "Our findings suggest that manufacturers need to provide consumers with justifications as to why patching may be necessary, why it takes them a specific amount of time to patch a vulnerability, and why it might not be practical to patch vulnerabilities faster."

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Event Mining for Explanatory Modeling
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