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Welcome to the September 30, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A panel discussion at the 2022 Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Computer Science's Challenges, as Seen by Its Pioneers
Inside Higher Ed
Susan D'Agostino
September 30, 2022

Pioneering recipients of prestigious computer science (CS) awards attending this year's Laureate Heidelberg Forum in Germany discussed the field's challenges. ACM Prize in Computing recipient Alexei Efros said rapid technological development complicates CS education because knowledge quickly becomes outdated. ACM Turing Award laureate Barbara Liskov cited a lack of clarity about incorporating ethics into CS courses, while students and practitioners also must learn how to expect problems before they occur. Vint Cerf, Turing Award recipient and Google's chief Internet evangelist, said the CS community should include experts from other fields in order to better anticipate societal responses as technology develops. Other issues raised by attendees included underrepresentation of women in the field, academic resistance to unconventional ideas, and the exodus of learners from academia to the more lucrative private sector.

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Cassie, Oregon State University’s bipedal robot, running on a track. Cassie the Running Robot Achieves Guinness World Record in 100-Meter Dash
USA Today
Scott Gleeson
September 28, 2022

A robot developed at Oregon State University's Agility Robotics set a Guinness World Record for a bipedal robot running the 100-meter dash, completing the run in 24.73 seconds. The robot, known as Cassie, uses machine learning to control its gait when running on outdoor terrain. Said Oregon State's Devin Crowley, "Machine learning approaches have long been used for pattern recognition, such as image recognition, but generating control behaviors for robots is new and different." Oregon State's Jonathan Hurst added, "Using learned policies for robot control is a very new field, and this 100-meter dash is showing better performance than other control methods. I think progress is going to accelerate from here."

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A 3D-printed MEMS unit placed for perspective next to a 2-cent Euro coin. 3D Printing Can Manufacture Customized Sensors
KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden)
David Callahan
September 28, 2022

A new three-dimensional (3D) printing method could cost-effectively fabricate insect-sized electronic sensors for robots and medical devices. Scientists at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology led the technique's development to overcome the limits of conventional microelectromechanical system (MEMS) manufacturing. The researchers enhanced two-photon polymerization, a process that can generate high-resolution objects hundreds of nanometers in size, to sense functionality. The method forms transducing elements via stencil-like shadow-masking. KTH's Frank Niklaus said the approach can produce about a dozen customized MEMS accelerometers in a few hours using commercial manufacturing tools. "The new capabilities offered by 3D-printed MEMS could result in a new paradigm in MEMS and sensor manufacturing," said Niklaus.

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AI Shows How Humans Misjudge Images
Cornell Tech
Patricia Waldron
September 20, 2022

Researchers at Cornell University and partner institutions analyzed how humans can misinterpret images in order to develop algorithms that could help people to better judge visual information. The researchers evaluated 16 million human predictions of whether a neighborhood voted for Trump or Biden in 2020 based on a Google Street View image, and found an algorithm was better than people at differentiating between voters. The analysis also identified objects in the images that led to misjudgments, like American flags and pickup trucks. The researchers said human errors were based on bias, variance, or noise, and suggested this research could lead to a hybrid human-machine system that makes more effective predictions.

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Quantum-Inspired Processor Solves Optimization Problems
Tokyo University of Science (Japan)
September 28, 2022

Takayuki Kawahara and colleagues at Japan's Tokyo University of Technology developed a scalable annealing processor that can solve combinatorial optimization problems faster and with greater energy efficiency than modern central processing units (CPUs). The processor uses an array calculator assembled from multiple coupled chips to calculate the system's energy state, and a control chip that collects the results and computes the total energy. Such quantum-inspired systems can simulate interactions between magnetic spins. The researchers implemented the design in a commercial field-programmable gate array (FPGA), which they said was 584 times faster and 46 times more energy-efficient when solving the maximum cut problem compared with a standard modern CPU modeling the same annealing system.

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Assembly of the Halo Rise bedside alarm clock, which can track sleep without using a camera or microphone. Amazon Bedside Device Tracks Sleeping Patterns
Associated Press
Haleluya Hadero
September 28, 2022

Amazon plans to roll out a bedside device that can track sleeping patterns using no-contact sensors and artificial intelligence later this year. The Halo Rise, which does not use cameras or microphones, can measure the user's movement and breathing patterns during the night. The $139.99 device can connect to Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa so users can wake to their favorite songs. It also features a light that, Amazon said, "simulates the colors and gradual brightening of a sunrise." The company said the health data captured by the device will be "encrypted in transit and at rest in the cloud," adding that it will not be used "for marketing, product recommendations, or advertising, and never sold."

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Sensors embedded into a face mask and t-shirt. Wearable Sensors Styled into T-Shirts, Face Masks
Imperial College London (U.K.)
Caroline Brogan
September 23, 2022

Researchers at the U.K.'s Imperial College London have developed a low-cost cotton-based conductive thread that can be used to embed sensors that monitor breathing, heart rate, and various gases in the user’s breath into t-shirts, face masks, and other clothing. A meter of the PECOTEX thread costs only 15 cents to produce, and can be used to integrate over 10 sensors into wearables. The thread also is compatible with industry-standard computerized embroidery machines, is machine-washable, and is stronger and more electrically conductive than commercially available silver-based conductive threads, which allows its use for the embroidery of multiple layers.

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Google senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan at an event in May. Google to Make Search, Maps More 'Immersive'
The New York Times
Nico Grant
September 29, 2022

Google executives announced at this week's Search On event that the company plans to update its search engine to be more "immersive" and image focused. They said users will be able to conduct image- and text-based searches simultaneously by aiming their cameras at objects, for example, and refining inquiries with text. Users also will be able to search with Google Maps' Live View direction-finding application by moving their cameras so Google can direct them to the nearest desired locations via augmented reality. Google's Prabhakar Raghavan blogged that these updates offer "more natural and intuitive" information-searching capabilities.

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A magnified view of the WhatsApp icon on a smartphone. WhatsApp Fixes Security Bugs That Put Android Phone Data at Risk
Carly Page
September 27, 2022

WhatsApp disclosed details of a "critical"-rated security vulnerability that could allow hackers to plant malware on an Android smartphone remotely during a video call. The integer overflow bug occurs when an application attempts a computational process but has no room in its allotted memory, causing data to leak and to overwrite other memory segments with potentially malicious code. Security research company Malwarebytes said the bug resides in WhatsApp's Video Call Handler, which if activated would allow attackers to hijack a target's app. WhatsApp's Joshua Breckman said the company has seen "no evidence of exploitation" of the bug. WhatsApp also reported a second bug with a "high" severity rating that could allow hackers to run malware on a victim's iOS device through malicious video files; the company says it has patched both flaws.

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A model of ovarian cancer. ML Creates Opportunity for Personalized Therapies
Michigan Health Lab
Anna Megdell
September 27, 2022

Researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) Rogel Cancer Center have created a computational platform that can predict new metabolic targets in ovarian cancer and suggest opportunities for personalized therapies. The researchers combined metabolic modeling, machine learning, and optimization theory in cell-line and mouse models, and found the MTHFD2 ovarian cancer enzyme triggered an imbalance in the NAD+ metabolite in mitochondria. The algorithm forecast MTHFD2 reversing its role to provide NAD+, generating a flaw that could be exploited to selectively destroy cancer cells without significantly affecting healthy cells. "Our platform makes predictions by considering the metabolic functionality and mechanism, increasing the chances of success when translating to the clinic," said U-M's Abhinav Achreja.

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This robot can tell where it is by detecting disturbances in magnetic fields. Robot Tracks Magnetic Field Anomalies to Navigate Indoors
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
September 23, 2022

Scientists at the University of Florida (UF) and the Air Force Research Lab at Florida's Eglin Air Force Base have demonstrated autonomous robots that can navigate indoors by tracking magnetic field anomalies. The researchers mapped such anomalies in an 11-meter-by-6-meter (36-foot-by-19-foot) area, and showed a magnetometer-outfitted robot could travel to specific waypoints without knowing its starting position. The robot reads magnetic fields at its initial location and creates a database of possible locations based on the anomaly map. The machine collects more readings while moving, pruning and ranking guesses by probable correctness; within several readings, the robot can determine its position and navigate to its target destination. UF's Prashant Ganesh said the robot used metal pipes under the floor as landmarks.

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Meta Using AI to Generate Videos from Words
CNN Business
Rachel Metz
September 29, 2022

Meta researchers are generating videos from short text prompts using their Make-A-Video research, which uses a text-to-image artificial intelligence (AI) model to ascertain how words correspond with images, and unsupervised learning to work out realistic motion by analyzing videos. The researchers said their text-to-image AI model was trained on Internet data, so it learned "and likely exaggerated social biases, including harmful ones." Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on Facebook, "It's much harder to generate video than photos because beyond correctly generating each pixel, the system also has to predict how they'll change over time."

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More Bosses Spy on Quiet Quitters. It Could Backfire
The Wall Street Journal
Christopher Mims
September 17, 2022

More companies are using technology to monitor virtually everything workers do on their devices, with Gartner reporting that one in three medium-to-large companies in the U.S. implemented a worker surveillance system since the pandemic started, and that two out of three such companies currently use these systems. The technology can screenshot a worker's computer every 10 minutes, record the apps and websites they visit, and document how long was spent on each site, among other things. However, critics are concerned such "bossware" can be counterproductive. Teramind's Isaac Kohn said, "Realistically, the vast majority of customers don't find the need to enable full monitoring on all users all the time." However, Kohn acknowledged that "the system can be abused if placed in the wrong hands."

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