Welcome to the August 1, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Juris Hartmanis discussing his contributions to the paper that received the ACM A.M. Turing Award. Juris Hartmanis, 1928–2022
Gödel’s Lost Letter and P=NP
R.J. Lipton; K. W. Regan
July 29, 2022

Juris Hartmanis, co-recipient of the 1993 ACM A. M. Turing Award and a professor in Cornell University’s computer science department since 1965, passed away on Friday at the age of 94. The Turing Award was bestowed on Hartmanis and Richard Stearns for their paper “On the Computational Complexity of Algorithms.” Dick Karp, a computational theorist at the University of California, Berkeley, said the paper "marks the beginning of the modern era of complexity theory. Using the Turing machine as their model of an abstract computer, [Hartmanis and Stearns] provided a precise definition of the 'complexity class' consisting of all problems solvable in a number of steps bounded by some given function of the input length {n}. Adapting the diagonalization technique that Turing had used to prove the undecidability of the Halting Problem, they proved many interesting results about the structure of complexity classes."

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New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas has pursued tech companies for violating the privacy of children and students. Cyberattack Illuminates Shaky State of Student Privacy
The New York Times
Natasha Singer
July 31, 2022

A cyberattack on student-tracking software provider Illuminate Education highlights the inadequacies of student privacy safeguards. The breach worries cybersecurity and privacy experts because it involved sensitive personal details about students or student data dating back over 10 years. Technology companies and education reformers have pressured schools to adopt software that can catalog and categorize student behavior to help educators identify and assist at-risk students. With hacks on school software vendors increasing, the exposure of such information could have long-term ramifications. Said New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas, "My concern is there will be bad actors who will exploit a public school setting, especially when they think that the technology protocols are not very robust. And I don't know why Congress isn't terrified yet."

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Smartphone Clip-On Can Detect Zika Virus in Blood Samples
University of Illinois Institute for Genomic Biology
Ananya Sen
July 25, 2022

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) researchers have developed an instrument that can be clipped to a smartphone to test for Zika virus in blood samples. The device features an insertable cartridge containing reagents that can detect the virus via Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification in a drop of blood. Explained UIUC's Brian Cunningham, "The smartphone's rear camera is looking at the cartridge while the amplification occurs. When there's a positive reaction, you see little green blooms of fluorescence that eventually fill up the entire cartridge with green light."

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Voice Jammer Stops Anyone from Recording Your Speech
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
July 29, 2022

Michigan State University's Qiben Yan and colleagues have developed an artificial intelligence voice jammer that can prevent anyone from recording the speech of a single target person. The Neural Enhanced Cancellation (NEC) tool exploits a bug contained within most microphones by introducing sounds at set distances above and below the microphone's recording frequencies. NEC taps this flaw to play inverse speech in the ultrasonic range outside of human hearing, the frequencies needed to clandestinely block an audible voice. The tool effectively blocked voices when tested on a range of Apple, Xiaomi, and Samsung smartphones from up to 3.6 meters (nearly 12 feet) away.

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Using a 3D printer that squirts soil mixed with seeds, researchers are considering how they could build structures with walls and roofs infused with greenery. Playing with Dirt Leads to Big Potential for Sustainable Buildings
UVA Today
Karen Walker
July 27, 2022

University of Virginia (UVA) researchers are experimenting with methods to incorporate plants into buildings to advance sustainability. The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of three-dimensionally (3D)-printing complex structures composed of soil and seed. UVA's Ehsan Baharlou said, "We are working with local soils and plants mixed with water; the only electricity we need is to move the material and run a pump during printing." UVA's Spencer Barnes tested 3D-printing soil and seed in sequential layers and combining seed and soil before printing, then proposed fabricating geometrically intricate soil structures like domes. The researchers discovered that although 3D-printed soil structures can support plant growth, it would likely be limited to plants compatible with drier climates.

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NASA has been using the Astrobee 12-inch-wide cube-shaped robots since 2018. NASA's Space Robots Hit Another Milestone
Liam Tung
July 26, 2022

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Astrobee robots have concluded the first stage of a project to assess autonomous spacecraft monitoring, maintenance, and incident response aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Electric fans propel each 12-inch-wide cube-shaped robot, which can independently return to a docking station to recharge. Each robot also has a perching arm that can grip handrails or help astronauts. The completed project phase involved two Astrobees, Bumble and Queen, working independently alongside astronauts in separate areas of the station. Bumble tested its navigation skills in ISS's Harmony module as it collected new station mapping data, while Queen recorded its first 360-degree panoramic image of the ISS's interior.

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Think Your Street Needs a Redesign? Ask an AI
Marie Patino
July 30, 2022

Brooklyn-based artist and former activist Zach Katz is using artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory OpenAI's DALL-E 2 system to redesign streets to be more friendly to pedestrians and bikes. DALL-E 2, the second iteration of the DALL-E neural network, can convert text into visual features and display how these features could relate to one another, thanks to a massive training dataset. Users can input text queries and request specific styles and features from the AI, although results can be biased against women and people of color due to a lack of diversity in its training data. Katz posts images of DALL-E-reimagined streets on Twitter, and has a backlog of requests for such reimaginings from around the world.

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Moderating Online Content Increases Accountability, but Can Harm Some Platform Users
University of Michigan News
July 27, 2022

University of Michigan researchers suggest online content moderation can boost accountability, but also can harm marginalized users by focusing more attention on offensive content. The researchers examined the Reddit and Twitch platforms, analyzing live chat and streaming in a Twitch category involving women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals, and text-based transgender user communities on Reddit. The platforms' content moderation processes exhibited different levels of visibility; the researchers said visibility is less crucial in cases where content obviously violates community guidelines. They observed greater transphobic activity on Reddit and racist/misogynistic activity on Twitch, but also saw marginalized users receive social support. The researchers say platforms must continue to use tools and detection devices to mitigate offending content.

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A hearing-impaired individual using new XRAI AR glasses. AR Glasses Allow Deaf People to 'See' Conversations by Turning Audio into Subtitles
Aisling Ní Chúláin
July 29, 2022

U.K. startup XRAI Glass has unveiled new augmented reality (AR) glasses that can translate audio into subtitles for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. The XRAI Glasses, developed with Chinese AR glasses manufacturer Nreal, are connected to a mobile phone that manages processing and graphics generation. "What our software effectively does is it takes an audio feed from the microphone on these glasses [and] sends it down to the phone," said XRAI Glass' Dan Scarfe. "On the phone we are effectively turning that audio into closed captions and then, using that Nreal software, we can project those subtitles into the real world."

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Meta, U.S. Hospitals Sued for Using Healthcare Data to Target Ads
Bill Toulas
July 30, 2022

A class action suit against Facebook parent Meta, the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, and the Dignity Health Medical Foundation accuses the organizations of illegally collecting patients' healthcare data for use in targeted advertising. The suit claims the collection transpires in medical portals where patients enter sensitive information; neither the hospitals nor Meta notify patients about the data collection, request user consent, or make this process visible. The lawsuit claims the tool used to collect patient data, Meta Pixel, can be found on 33 of the top 100 U.S. hospital sites. Court documents showed patients received targeted ads on Facebook and over email, and the plaintiffs said they felt violated since they had not agreed to the collection of their medical information.

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A Tortuga AgTech robot makes its way between rows of plants on hydroponic tabletops/ California's Strawberry Fields May Not Be Forever. Could Robots Help?
The Los Angeles Times
Sam Dean
July 26, 2022

With climate change, water rights, changing chemical regimes, and other factors threatening the future of California's strawberry industry, some experts see agricultural robots as necessary for keeping the sector afloat. Agricultural robot startup Tortuga AgTech makes robots that harvest berries by combining an articulated arm, sensors, and machine vision software. The harvesters are deployed at a farm in Santa Maria, CA, where the crop is arranged on hydroponic tabletops, reducing exposure to the elements while simplifying berry-picking. Also appealing to farmers is the robots' increased reliability and potential to boost cost-efficiency over time. "We want to accelerate the adoption of tabletop and controlled-environment growing, and help these farms succeed," said Tortuga's Eric Adamson.

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BMW's 3,854-Variable Problem Solved in Six Minutes with Quantum Computing
Tom's Hardware
Francisco Pires
July 28, 2022

Quantum Computing Inc. (QCI) solved a 3,854-variable optimization problem for German automaker BMW in six minutes, using its Entropy Quantum Computing (EQC) solution to determine the ideal placement of vehicle sensors in BMW's Vehicle Sensor Placement Challenge 2022. EQC factors the changing environment into its calculations, saving time and expense by not having to control for all variables outside the Quantum Processing Unit. Said QCI's Bob Liscouski, "We believe that this proves that innovative quantum computing technologies can solve real business problems today.”

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Edsger Wybe Dijkstra: His Life, Work and Legacy
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