Welcome to the July 8, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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VulcanForms has six 3D printers in its DEVENS, MA, facility and is scouting locations for a second factory. 3D Printing Grows Beyond Its Novelty Roots
New York Times
Steve Lohr
July 3, 2022

Companies like Massachusetts Institute of Technology spin-off VulcanForms are integrating three-dimensional (3D) printing, also known as additive manufacturing, into industrial-grade manufacturing. VulcanForms claims its technology can produce 100 times the laser energy of most 3D printers, and can fabricate parts many times faster; by supplying custom-made components to clients, the company can control the digital manufacturing process. The Biden administration hopes 3D printing will help lead a resurgence of U.S. manufacturing through public-private partnerships like the Additive Manufacturing Forward project. Administration officials say 3D printing's status as a high-tech digital manufacturing process dovetails with the U.S.' strength in software.

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The optical table on which the quantum computer developed at the University of Stuttgart can cool itself. Quantum Computer Cools Itself by Performing Calculations
New Scientist
Karmela Padavic-Callaghan
July 1, 2022

A small diamond-based quantum computer developed by researchers at Germany's University of Stuttgart performs a sequence of mathematical operations to cool itself. The computer is comprised of three qubits in a diamond that is missing two carbon atoms, one replaced with a nitrogen atom and the other by a vacancy. The qubits were hit with microwaves, which altered the spin of either the nucleus of the nitrogen atom or the nuclei of the two carbon atoms near the vacancy. Such manipulations of the qubits act as logic gates, with a sequence of gates used to change the computer's energy and cool it. The researchers said this algorithmic cooling was very close to the theoretical limit of maximum cooling efficiency.

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Researchers Create 'COVID Computer' to Speed Diagnosis
University of Leicester (U.K.)
July 1, 2022

An artificial intelligence tool developed by researchers at the U.K.'s University of Leicester detects COVID-19 with a high degree of accuracy by analyzing computed tomography (CT) chest scans. The software, which uses deep learning algorithms, can be deployed on portable devices. University of Leicester's Yudong Zhang said the tool "can find suspicious regions in the chest images automatically and make accurate predictions based on the representations.” Zhang added that the accuracy of the tool means it “can be used in the clinical diagnosis of COVID-19, which may help to control the spread of the virus."

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A bee on a skull-shaped honeycomb. Ransomware Switched Programming Languages From Go to Rust
Liam Tung
July 6, 2022

Microsoft security researchers have found new variants of Hive ransomware that were originally written in the Go coding language have been rewritten in Rust. The switch has been underway for a few months, as Hive’s authors appear to be copying tactics from BlackCat ransomware, also written in Rust. Researchers at cyberintelligence firm Group-IB determined the Hive gang had converted its Linux encryptor for targeting VMware ESXi servers to Rust so security researchers would be less able to surveil its ransom discussions with victims. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center blogged that the transition also involves more complex file encryption.

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Dominion Energy operators use an aerial drone to inspect areas of a power plant in Remington, VA. The Next Frontier for Drones: Letting Them Fly Out of Sight
Associated Press
Matt O'Brien; Nathan Ellgren
July 6, 2022

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has granted 230 waivers to power companies, railways, delivery services, and others to fly drones beyond the visual line of sight. The agency is preparing to relax some safety requirements for commercial drone applications, but not for hobbyists or other noncommercial usage. Said Adam Bry of drone maker Skydio, "Our ultimate goal is you shouldn't need a waiver for this process at all. It becomes an accepted practice." Critics of the pending changes to the rules are concerned about the potential for drone collisions with hot air balloons and other lightweight aircraft, as well as drone-related privacy issues.

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Robot Overcomes Uncertainty to Retrieve Buried Objects
MIT News
Adam Zewe
June 29, 2022

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a robotic system that can efficiently retrieve an unseen object buried under a pile. The target item does not need a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag for it to be recovered, so long as some of the objects in the pile have such tags affixed. The FuseBot system generates a three-dimensional model of the environment by scanning the pile with its camera, and uses its RF antenna to locate RFID tags on any of the items. In more than 180 experimental trials, FuseBot successfully located the target item 95% of the time, versus 84% for a state-of-the-art vision-only robotic system, with the FuseBot making 40% fewer moves. Said MIT's Fadel Adib, "We were able to do this because we added multimodal reasoning to the system."

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A person working in a futuristic virtual environment. ML Algorithms Help Healthcare Staff Diagnose Alcohol-Associated Hepatitis, Acute Cholangitis
Mayo Clinic
Jay Furst
July 1, 2022

A study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic and South Korea's Hanyang University found that machine learning algorithms can help healthcare providers distinguish between acute cholangitis and alcohol-associated hepatitis, which have similar symptoms. The researchers developed and trained eight machine learning algorithms using data from 260 patients with alcohol-associated hepatitis and 194 with acute cholangitis. Said Mayo Clinic's Dr. Joseph Ahn, "The machine-learning algorithms demonstrated excellent performances for discriminating the two conditions, with over 93% accuracy." The researchers also found that the algorithms outperformed physicians who took part in an online survey. Ahn said making these algorithms easily accessible via an online calculator or smartphone app "would lead to improved diagnostic accuracy and reduce the number of additional tests or inappropriate ordering of invasive procedures, which may delay the correct diagnosis or subject patients to the risk of unnecessary complications."

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A hawk preparing to land. Braking Mid-Air to Prioritize Safety Over Energy or Speed
University of Oxford (U.K.)
June 30, 2022

A team of researchers at the U.K.'s University of Oxford used computer simulations and motion capture to simulate how birds optimize landing maneuvers for an accurate descent, in the hope that knowledge could help the development of small aircraft capable of perching like birds. The researchers recorded on motion capture cameras the movements of four Harris' hawks flying between perches 1,500 times. Computer models of those recordings showed the hawks control their flight to guarantee the safest landing conditions when perching, even if it requires them to expend more time and energy. Oxford's Graham Taylor said understanding how animals learn complex motor skills like flying might help revolutionize robots to perform the same tasks.

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The LiDAR system differentiates between vehicles, static objects, and pedestrians. Smart Cars Are on the Radar: Automatic Object Recognition, Tracking Using LiDAR
SPIE Newsroom
July 6, 2022

Xiangtian Zheng at China's Yunnan University harnessed light detection and ranging (LiDAR) for automatic object detection and tracking in smart cars. Zheng replaced a smart car’s optical cameras with LiDAR sensors, and used advanced signal acquisition and processing to improve the vehicle’s ability to identify other vehicles and "understand" their movements. By using LiDAR, Zheng said, "we can accurately calculate the distance between the object and the device within a resolution of mere centimeters." Zheng's model is based on a grid map and can distinguish vehicles from pedestrians and static objects, while also estimating the objects' pathways. Zheng said his model outperforms more conventional LiDAR-based techniques in this regard, and can recognize objects faster.

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A brown thrasher perched on a tree stump. AI-Powered BirdNET App Makes Citizen Science Easier
Cornell Chronicle
Pat Leonard
June 28, 2022

The free machine learning-powered BirdNET application can identify more than 3,000 types of birds by the sounds they make. Cornell University's Stefan Kahl said, "Our guiding design principles were that we needed an accurate algorithm and a simple user interface." Users listen for birds and record their sounds on a smartphone via the app; BirdNET then employs artificial intelligence to automatically identify the bird’s species, and captures the recording for research. The researchers chose test-cases in the U.S. and Europe to test BirdNET's reliability, and found the app data accurately reproduced the established distribution pattern of song-types among white-throated sparrows, and the brown thrasher's seasonal and migratory ranges.

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Researchers, robots, and AI working together in a laboratory. Human-Robot-AI Teamwork Accelerates Regenerative Medicine
RIKEN (Japan)
June 28, 2022

Researchers at Japan's RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research have created a robotic artificial intelligence (AI) system for regenerative medicine that can autonomously optimize conditions for growing replacement retina layers. The system uses a humanoid robot called Maholo to repeatedly facilitate a series of movements and manipulations, and AI software to assess the results and draw up the next experiment. The software applies an optimization algorithm to ascertain which parameters should be adjusted and how, to improve differentiation efficiency in the next experimental series. The researchers fed the protocols for cultivating retinal pigment epithelium cells from stem cells to Maholo, and the algorithm increased differentiation efficiency from 50% to 90% in 185 days (compared to the 30 months human scientists would have needed to accomplish this).

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