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Welcome to the October 26, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A recent ad for real-estate startup reAlpha stars a ‘deepfake’ version of Tesla chief Elon Musk. 'Deepfakes' of Celebrities Appearing in Ads
The Wall Street Journal
Patrick Coffee
October 25, 2022

Deepfakes of celebrities have started to appear in ads, with and without their consent. Experts say the growing use of deepfake software could change the marketing industry significantly while raising new legal and ethical issues, making it difficult for celebrities to rein in unauthorized digital reproductions and brand manipulation. U.S. legislative efforts to contain deepfakes include criminalization of their use in revenge porn in Virginia, and a Texas ban on their use in political campaigns. However, experts cite a lack of legislation addressing deepfake usage in commercials, and anticipate as a result deepfakes will become increasingly popular in advertising.

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Visualization Tool Helps Identify Human Trafficking
Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
Aaron Aupperle
October 25, 2022

The TrafficVis data visualization tool developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), CMU spinoff Marinus Analytics, and Canada's McGill University could help anti-human trafficking agencies by identifying patterns in online escort ads. TrafficVis employs data compiled by InfoShield and similar algorithms that scan and cluster similarities in online ad text to help law enforcement guide investigations and better identify traffickers and victims. InfoShield can accumulate millions of ads and identify common phrasing or duplication among them; because traffickers may compose ads for multiple victims, clustering common features can signal suspicious activity.

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Confirming Election Results with Risk-Limiting Audits
Rice University News
Mike Williams
October 24, 2022

Rice University's Dan Wallach, working with Matthew Bernhard at nonprofit VotingWorks, found risk-limiting audits (RLAs) can be used to confirm election outcomes. Bernhard said RLAs offer "a high degree of accuracy and transparency without the enormous undertaking that is counting every contest on every ballot by hand." The researchers said most scenarios would fit one of three RLA levels. Ballot comparison audits, described as most efficient and precise, involve paper ballots being individually numbered by the ballot scanner, so auditors can verify the corresponding electronic record. Less-precise are ballot-polling audits, which compare a random sample of ballots to electronic totals, and batch comparison audits, which compare groups of ballots.

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Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) introduced magnetically reprogrammable materials that can self-assemble. Reprogrammable Materials Selectively Self-Assemble
MIT News
Rachel Gordon
October 20, 2022

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Canada's University of Calgary have magnetically programmed materials to selectively self-assemble into specific shapes. The researchers coated the faces of cubes with magnetic material from refrigerator magnets on each of their faces, each of which selectively attracts only one other face from all the other cubes. When tossed into a water tank, a random disturbance causes the cubes to cohere into a programmable structure. After a search algorithm checks each signature for mutual compatibility with all previously programmed signatures to ensure they are selective enough for successful self-assembly, the researchers can use a magnetic plotting machine to reprogram the cubes.

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Eight-year-old David, who suffers from cerebral palsy, uses a robotic exoskeleton to walk and play. 'A Joy for Him': Boy with Cerebral Palsy Can Walk, Play Using This Exoskeleton
Roselyne Min
October 20, 2022

Mexico's Association for People with Cerebral Palsy (APAC) plans to use the Atlas 2030 pediatric exoskeleton to help at least 200 children with cerebral palsy to walk, play ball, draw, and engage in other motion-based activities. The device, developed by 2022 European Inventor Award winner Elena García Armada, is designed to support children aged 3 to 14 who lack thoracic control from the trunk to the feet. APAC's Guadalupe Maldonado said the exoskeleton enables patients to achieve rehabilitation goals "in record time" compared to months with conventional therapies, and also boosts their morale.

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Facebook's Ad-Delivery Algorithm Discriminates Based on Race, Gender, Age
Cody Mello-Klein
October 25, 2022

Northeastern University researchers found Facebook's ad-delivery algorithm sends advertising to users based on their race, gender, and age. For example, "When you choose to include a picture of a woman versus a man, in general it will go more to women, except images of young women, which go more to older men," explained Northeastern's Alan Mislove. Facebook's algorithm is trained on the data parent company Meta has collected from all ads run on the platform and the responses those ads received. Northeastern's Piotr Sapiezynski said the algorithm uses race, gender, and age to make "very crude" estimations about where to transmit ads.

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The logo for Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in New York City. Google Sets Up High-Tech School in Israel
Emily Rose
October 24, 2022

Google and Israel's Reichman University have partnered on the new School of High Tech, which will offer computer programming, software testing, business development, sales, and data analysis courses as part of a training program to address the country's severe shortage of skilled tech workers. The School of High Tech will subsidize students from underrepresented communities. Students will earn credit toward a degree and have access to scholarships from Google. Said Google Israel's Barak Regev, "We believe that a variety of voices, opinions and perspectives enriches Israeli high-tech and its developments." The classes will be offered at the Google Campus in Tel Aviv and at Reichman University in nearby Herzliya.

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Scientists Map Water in Molecular Crystals to Aid Drug Development
New York University
October 24, 2022

Scientists at New York University (NYU) and biopharmaceutical firm AbbVie have mapped water molecules within crystal structures using a new computational tool. The Mapping Approach for Crystal Hydrates (MACH) algorithm can ascertain whether a given compound is likely to produce a crystal hydrate. The algorithm directs the computer to build a dry-form crystal structure, then tests whether water will fit into the framework; MACH then weighs additional water-crystal interaction rules, further reducing the number and location of water molecules, generating a map of the remaining molecules and likely hydrate-forming crystals. NYU's Mark Tuckerman said MACH "offers a promising tool for efficiently predicting hydrates and could be integrated into drug development and formulation workflows to build a more complete landscape of possible crystal structures."

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Rent-Setting Software Maker Sued for Collusion
Ars Technica
Heather Vogell
October 24, 2022

Renters have filed a lawsuit claiming rent-setting software maker RealPage colluded with nine of the largest U.S. property managers to artificially inflate rents in violation of federal law. The suit was filed days after ProPublica published an investigation suggesting the software is potentially hiking rents above competitive levels, enabling price-fixing, or both. The suit charges the property managers and RealPage with organizing "a cartel to artificially inflate the price of and artificially decrease the supply and output of multifamily residential real estate leases from competitive levels." RealPage's software sifts through data nightly to suggest daily prices for available rental units, after considering factors such as what nearby competitors are charging. ProPublica found the software's design and scope invited expert scrutiny into whether it is helping landlords indirectly coordinate pricing, potentially breaking federal law.

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Interactive Media Tools Shape Political Feelings, Attitudes
Penn State News
Matt Swayne
October 24, 2022

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have found online tools that encourage interaction with political news can influence users' feelings toward those with opposing views. The researchers randomly assigned over 360 volunteers to interact with different versions of a news website boasting low-effort thumbs-up/thumbs-down features, or high-effort commenting options. Participants were asked their political views on 12 issues before and after viewing or using the different versions of the news site. CUHK's Jinping Wang said users seeing the comment button considered the site more interactive, and felt warmer toward people with opposing views; however, they reflected more extreme attitudes when they left comments or signaled likes or dislikes. Penn State's S. Shyam Sundar suggested these findings could encourage the design of less-polarizing news and social media sites.

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Artist’s rendering of a robot painting on a canvas. AI-Generated Art Already Transforming Creative Work
The New York Times
Kevin Roose
October 21, 2022

Artificial intelligence (AI) has made inroads among content creators, with apps like DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion gaining popularity among those looking for a fast, low-cost way to create hyper-realistic images. These "generative AI" apps allow users to input a small amount of text to generate unique images. It is uncertain whether such apps will result in artists and illustrators losing their jobs. San Francisco interior designer Isabella Orsi, for instance, uses InteriorAI to create mock-ups for clients, she says such apps help interior designers formulate ideas in the early stages of a project. Says Orsi, "I don't feel like it will take my job away. Somebody has to discern between the different renderings, and at the end of the day, I think that needs a designer."

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U.S., Switzerland Enter Quantum Partnership
Alexandra Kelley
October 24, 2022

The U.S. State Department announced a new U.S.-Swedish partnership to develop quantum information sciences technologies (QIST). Said Monica Medina of Switzerland's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, "We intend to strengthen bonds between our two nations to advance quantum information science and benefit from its immense potential." The new partnership will explore QIST applications in quantum computing, as well as in quantum networking and quantum sensing. National Quantum Coordination Office director Charles Tahan said the agreement "constitutes an important step in developing a trusted global network for this critical emerging technology that advances computing, networking, and sensing for the benefit of society."

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A sample organism captured with 'Bio-photogrammetry', a process that captures highly detailed 3D models of animals and plants. 3D Flora, Fauna at Your Fingertips
Kyushu University (Japan)
October 25, 2022

Yuichi Kano at Japan's Kyushu University has created a "bio-photogrammetry" method for the scanning and rendering of flora and fauna as three-dimensional (3D) models in a public repository. Kano said the process involved capturing multi-angle photos of biological samples suspended on a fishing line, and feeding up to 500 of the best images into a photogrammetry program, which provides information about, and measurements of, those samples through the analysis of those photos. Kano said he is currently focused on scanning aquatic animals such as fish and amphibians. More 1,400 specimens currently are available for free use under the CC BY 4.0 license.

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Semantic Web For The Working Ontologist, Third Edition: Effective Modeling In RDFs And Owl
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