Welcome to the June 4, 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."
White House Sends Memo to Private Sector on Cyberattack Protections
The Hill
Tal Axelrod
June 3, 2021

A memo issued by the White House offers recommendations for private sector organizations to guard against cyberattacks, following recent high-profile incidents including those affecting Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds. Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger stressed that "all organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location." The memo calls on business executives to "convene their leadership teams to discuss the ransomware threat and review corporate security posture and business continuity plans to ensure you have the ability to continue or quickly restore operations." Companies are urged to, among other things, deploy multifactor authentication, test backups and update patches on a regular basis, test incident response plans, and restrict Internet access to operational networks.

Full Article

European Commissioner for Europe Fit for Digital Age Margrethe Vestager. EU Plans Digital ID Wallet for Post-Pandemic Life
Associated Press
Kelvin Chan
June 3, 2021

The European Union (EU) on Thursday announced plans for a post-pandemic smartphone application to enable EU residents to access services across the bloc. Europeans would be able to store digital credentials such as driver's licenses, prescriptions, and school diplomas through the European Digital Identity Wallet, and access online and offline public/private services while keeping personal data secure. The European Commission (EC) said the e-wallet would be available to all EU residents, although its use is not mandatory. Dominant online platforms, however, would have to accept the wallet, in line with the EC's agenda to regulate big technology companies and their control over personal information.

Full Article

An arm covered in fabric fiber with digital capabilities Engineers Create a Programmable Fiber
MIT News
Becky Ham
June 3, 2021

The first programmable digital fiber has been designed by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, and the Rhode Island School of Design. The researchers deposited silicon microscale digital chips into a preform that was used to fabricate a polymer fiber, which could support continuous electrical connection between the chips across tens of meters. The fiber also incorporates a neural network of 1,650 links within its memory. When sewed into a shirt, the fiber collected 270 minutes of surface body temperature data from the wearer, and when trained on this data could determine the wearer's current activity with 96% accuracy. MIT's Yoel Fink said, "This work presents the first realization of a fabric with the ability to store and process data digitally, adding a new information content dimension to textiles and allowing fabrics to be programmed literally."

Full Article

A quantum memory chip made from yttrium orthosilicate crystals. Quantum Memory Crystals Are a Step Towards Futuristic Internet
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
June 2, 2021

Hugues de Riedmatten and colleagues at Spain's Institute of Photonic Sciences have taken a step toward a secure quantum Internet by using crystals to execute quantum teleportation of information. The researchers were able to store a pair of entangled photons in yttrium orthosilicate crystals for 25 microseconds in two separate quantum memories. The experiment was conducted between two laboratories connected by 50 meters (164 feet) of fiber-optic cable; theoretically, 25 microseconds would allow communication between devices that are up to five kilometers (3.1 miles) apart. The researchers stored and retrieved photons in the order of transmission, and sent them using frequencies and cables already used in data networks.

Full Article

A grid of images taken by a drone showing different emotions. Shoot Better Drone Videos with a Single Word
Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
Aaron Aupperle
June 3, 2021

Aerial drones can shoot video according to emotional desires or viewer reactions through a model developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Brazil's University of Sao Paulo, and Facebook AI Research. CMU's Rogerio Bonatti said the new model is part of an effort "to map semantics, like a word or emotion, to the motion of the camera." The team first compiled several hundred videos, and then a few thousand viewers watched and scored 12 pairs of videos on the emotions they elicited. The researchers fed this data to a model that instructed the drone to imitate cinematography associated with specific emotions. Bonatti said the videos not only elicited intended emotions in viewers, but also could evoke different levels of emotions.

Full Article
Computer Simulations Visualize in Atomic Detail How DNA Opens While Wrapped Around Proteins
Hubrecht Institute (Netherlands)
June 3, 2021

Computer models developed by researchers at the Netherlands' Hubrecht Institute and Germany's Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine provide atomic-scale visuals of DNA transitioning from an inactive (closed) to an active (open) state while sheathing proteins. The simulations included real-time animations of nucleosomes (constituent elements of the chromatin that packs DNA within the cell nucleus) over one-microsecond intervals. The researchers used these films to track the nucleosomes' opening-closing motion, and Hubrecht's Vlad Cojocaru said increasing computational power soon will enable the team to model milliseconds of a nucleosome’s lifecycle. Cojocaru said the ability to simulate multiple nucleosomes “will give unprecedented insights into the mechanisms that regulate gene expression."

Full Article

The robotic picker. Researchers Develop Prototype Robotic Device to Pick, Trim Button Mushrooms
Penn State News
Jeff Mulhollem
June 1, 2021

A prototype robotic mushroom-picker/trimmer engineered by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) researchers successfully harvested button mushrooms growing in a shelf system. The device, designed to be integrated with a machine vision system, uses a suction cup mechanism to grip mushrooms. Laboratory testing showed the device’s picking mechanism could be potentially implemented in automatic mushroom harvesting with a success rate of 90% at first pick, increasing to 94.2% after second pick. Testing also showed the trimming end-effector achieved a success rate of 97% overall. Penn State's Long He said this achievement is significant, given labor shortages and mounting labor costs in Pennsylvania's mushroom industry.

Full Article
Microscopists Push Neural Networks to the Limit to Sharpen Fuzzy Images
U.S. National Institutes of Health
June 1, 2021

Microscopists and computer scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) generated clearer cellular images under the extremely low illumination necessary to keep cells viable, through the use of a neural network. The researchers trained the neural network on matched image pairs, so it could learn to forecast a blurry image's appearance if it were sharpened, and then convert fuzzy images into clear ones. The NIH team partnered with imaging software provider SVision to enhance a residual channel attention network to denoise and sharpen three-dimensional fluorescence microscopy images with low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). NIH's Hari Shroff said, We were able to ‘beat’ the limitations of the microscope by using artificial intelligence to ‘predict’ the high SNR image from the low SNR image.”

Full Article

A person sitting in front of a screen, talking to Woebot. Something Bothering You? Tell It to Woebot.
The New York Times
Karen Brown
June 1, 2021

A chatbot application offered by Woebot Health uses the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to counsel patients via natural language processing and learned responses. Many mental health experts think CBT's structure and focus on fostering skills to change negative behaviors lends itself to algorithmic deployment to some extent. The Woebot app can emulate conversation, recall past sessions, and provide advice on sleep, anxiety, and stress. Woebot Health founder Alison Darcy said a well-designed bot can bond with users in an empathetic and therapeutic manner. Although Woebot does not approach actual therapy, the company is pursuing U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance to extend the app to help treat postpartum and adolescent depression.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration

Light reflected on water. Taking Underwater Communications, Power to New Depths with Light
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
June 1, 2021

Researchers at Turkey's Ozyegin University have determined a way to transfer more power and data to underwater vehicles using light, with greater efficiency than the traditional alternating current-direct current (AC/DC) separation technique. Ozyegin's Murat Uysal and his team crafted a simultaneous lightwave information and power transfer (SLIPT) optimization algorithm that facilitates more efficient energy extraction from the light spectrum. Uysal said deploying SLIPT in real-world conditions requires the commercialization of underwater devices that can harvest energy wirelessly, in addition to innovative underwater modems that can enable communication via visible light. Said Uysal, “The feasibility of wireless power was already successfully demonstrated in underwater environments [using light], despite the fact that seawater conductivity, temperature, pressure, water currents, and biofouling phenomenon impose additional challenges.”

Full Article

Different quilt patterns. Algorithm Helps Modern Quilters Focus on Creativity
Stanford News
Taylor Kubota
June 2, 2021

Stanford University's Mackenzie Leake and colleagues have devised prototype software to enable quilt pattern-making for foundation paper piecing, in which designs are laid out and sewn in accordance with a foundation paper backing. Leake said the biggest challenge was designing the software's core algorithm to automate the task, so quilters could concentrate on its creative aspects. The Stanford team used a hypergraph structure, which accounts for overlapping relationships between many data points, to mathematically represent a quilt pattern's paper piece-able properties. Users can apply the software to sketch out a design, while the hypergraph-based algorithm ascertains what paper foundation patterns, if any, could realize it.

Full Article

A hand holding a smartphone, with different social media icons floating by. Mass-scale Manipulation of Twitter Trends Discovered
EPFL News (Switzerland)
June 2, 2021

The Twitter Trends platform's algorithm for identifying and alerting Twitter users to popular hashtag-fueled topics is vulnerable to mass-scale manipulation, according to researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL). They found that in failing to account for deletions, the Twitter Trending Topics-deciding algorithm can be influenced by hackers to elevate specific topics to the top of Twitter Trends, despite deleting their tweets containing the candidate trend soon after. EPFL's Tugrulcan Elmas said attackers are using both fake accounts and accounts compromised either by malware or stolen credentials, with the result that "47% of local trends in Turkey and 20% of global trends are fake, created from scratch by bots." Despite alerting Twitter of the exploit, Elmas said the bug has not been corrected.

Full Article
UTSA Researchers Among Collaborative Improving Computer Vision for AI
UTSA Today
Milady Nazir
May 26, 2021

A new method to improve computer vision for artificial intelligence (AI) was developed by researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), the University of Central Florida, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and SRI International. The researchers injected noise, or pixilation, into every layer of a neural network, compared with the conventional approach of injecting noise into only the input layer. The result, UTSA's Sumit Jha said, is that "The network is now forced to learn a more robust representation of the input in all of its internal layers. If every layer experiences more perturbations in every training, then the image representation will be more robust and you won't see the AI fail just because you change a few pixels of the input image."

Full Article
ACM Computing Surveys
ACM Queue Case Studies

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]