Welcome to the October 28, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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ACM Global Technology Policy Council Releases Joint Statement on Principles for Responsible Algorithmic Systems
October 26, 2022

ACM's Technology Policy Council has issued an updated Statement on Principles for Responsible Algorithmic Systems in conjunction with its U.S. and Europe Policy Committees. The statement sets forth nine instrumental principles to foster fair, accurate, and beneficial algorithmic decision-making: Legitimacy and Competency; Minimizing Harm; Security and Privacy; Transparency; Interpretability and Explainability; Maintainability; Contestability and Auditability; Accountability and Responsibility; and Limiting Environmental Impacts. The statement also offers four recommendations for how data is processed and systems are deployed. The statement is intended to serve as a guide for algorithm developers and designers to raise their awareness of the potential for bias and unfairness at each stage of the software development process.

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How Google Alerted Californians to an Earthquake Before It Hit
Amanda Hoover
October 26, 2022

On the morning of Oct. 25, over 1 million Android users in the San Francisco Bay Area received an alert about a 4.8 magnitude earthquake, in some instances seconds before it occurred. The Android alert was powered by data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) ShakeAlert program, which Google incorporated into its MyShake app. USGS uses a network of 1,300 sensors to detect soft seismic waves, with alerts sent to a data processing center when four sensors are triggered simultaneously. The ShakeAlert system then determines whether stronger S waves are possible. Google also takes advantage of smartphone accelerometers to identify signs of an earthquake, and uses data collected from multiple phones to determine its location and send alerts.

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An artistic illustration of digital circuitry leading to the brain. AIs Become Smarter if You Tell Them to Think Step by Step
New Scientist
Chris Stokel-Walker
October 26, 2022

Researchers at Stanford University and Google Research have determined that artificial intelligence (AI) models improve when prompted to tackle problems step by step. They tested three AI models—Codex, InstructGPT, and PaLM 540B—on 23 tasks that AI historically has not been able to complete better than humans. The researchers found that prompting the models to think step by step improved their performance across all tasks by 25% to 32%. University of California, Santa Barbara's William Wang thinks prompting boosts performance because it is similar to how the AI models are trained, with data presented sequentially.

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A cargo ship seen in the distance near the Channel Island. Using Drones, Algorithms to Save Whales — and the Rest of the Ocean
The Washington Post
Tatiana Schlossberg
October 27, 2022

The Whale Safe system developed by the University of California, Santa Barbara's Douglas McCauley and colleagues aims to protect whales from ship collisions, as part of a project to defend the ocean from industrialization. Whale Safe sends ships data on their chances of encountering whales, then grades shipping companies on whether they actually slow down during whale migrations. An acoustic buoy monitors whale songs in order to algorithmically identify the whales by species, then transmits that information to satellites. Additional data comes from a predictive habitat model for blue whales, along with data on whale sightings recorded in an application.

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A Microsoft engineer demonstrating HoloLens Microsoft's Hardware Struggles Enter the Metaverse
The Wall Street Journal
Aaron Tilley
October 26, 2022

Seven years after the release of its HoloLens augmented reality headset, Microsoft has tabled plans for a new version, amid staff departures and budget cuts in the HoloLens division. The company had struggled to develop a new version of HoloLens that would meet the technical requirements of its largest potential buyer, the U.S. Army, which wanted to use it to help soldiers train and interact on the battlefield. Although Microsoft's Frank Shaw contends the company is still "committed to all aspects of mixed reality and the metaverse," the company recently announced that its software products will be made available on Meta's Quest headsets.

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An airborne robotic falcon. Robotic Falcon Designed to Help Prevent Bird Strikes
Tamara Hardingham-Gill
October 27, 2022

Researchers at the University of Groningen (UG) in the Netherlands have developed a robotic peregrine falcon in a bid to prevent birds from colliding with aircraft. The ground-controlled RobotFalcon imitates a falcon's movements to ward off birds, using propellers on its wings and a camera on its head to facilitate a "first-person view while steering." UG's Rolf Storms said tests near the Dutch city of Workum showed the robot cleared flocks from fields within five minutes of taking off, with half the sites cleared within 70 seconds; a drone only managed to clear 80% of the birds from fields in the same time.

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An infographic showing how health is measured with a smartphone, using the characteristic motion of a human body that has been computed from a phone sensor. Predicting Mortality Risks Using Smartphones
Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Ananya Sen
October 20, 2022

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign scientists have generated models of health status and mortality risk from smartphone sensor data. The researchers used the health records of 100,000 participants in the U.K. Biobank that wore motion sensor-equipped activity monitors for a week, which measured walking intensity from short bursts of normal perambulation. The researchers modeled the signature motions of these walking sessions from the datasets to predict mortality risk, and checked the U.K. Death Registry to determine which participants had died over five years. They found study participants who engaged in more moderate-to-vigorous activity had lower mortality rates than those who did not.

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A photo of a computer screen running “Real Time Face Detector” software shows visitors’ expressions analyzed and explained in real time. U.K. Watchdog Issues Warning Against 'Immature' Emotional Analysis Tech
Mack DeGeurin
October 26, 2022

The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the country's independent privacy watchdog, is warning companies against the use of "emotional analysis" technology, calling it an "immature" technology and stressing that the risks of its use significantly outweigh any possible benefits. ICO's Stephen Bonner said the ICO is "concerned that incorrect analysis of data could result in assumptions and judgments about a person that are inaccurate and lead to discrimination." Emotional analysis or recognition systems use scans of a person's facial expressions, voice tones, or other physical features to predict their mental state or feelings. Bonner said, "the only sustainable biometric deployments" are those "backed by science."

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Device Provides Early Diagnosis of Degenerative Eye Disorders
EPFL (Switzerland)
October 28, 2022

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL), EPFL spinoff EarlySight, and the French National Health and Medical Research Institute (INSERM) together created an ophthalmological device that can help diagnose degenerative eye disorders before the first symptoms appear. The Cellularis system identifies deterioration of the retinal pigmentary epithelium prior to symptom onset. Cellularis uses a retinal camera trained on the white of the eye, paired with an adaptive optical system that corrects distortions to generate clear images. The camera can capture 100 raw images in an exposure time of less than five seconds, which algorithms then align and cluster into a single, high-quality image.

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Japan Steps Up Push to Get Public Buy-in to Digital IDs
Associated Press
Yuri Kageyama
October 24, 2022

Japan's government is urging the public to sign up for digital IDs, warning they could lose access to public health insurance otherwise. The government is asking people to apply for plastic My Number cards featuring microchips and photos, and to use them with drivers' licenses and public health insurance plans. Many Japanese fear the misuse or theft of this information. Music copyright business professional Saeko Fujimori said the card's microchip raises the risk of fraud, adding, "If a machine is reading all the information, that can lead to mistakes in the medical sector, too." The National Confederation of Trade Unions' Koichi Kurosawa said digitalization would be more appealing if it streamlined and shortened labor, adding that many Japanese workplaces are seeing the opposite effect, and people "are worried it will lead to tighter surveillance."

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All Solid-State LiDAR Sensor that Sees 360°
Pohang University of Science and Technology (South Korea)
October 25, 2022

Researchers at South Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and Sungkyunkwan University have developed a fixed LiDAR sensor with a 360-degree view. The sensor is made from a metasurface, a flat optical device one-thousandth the thickness of a human hair, which expands the LiDAR viewing angle to enable three-dimensional (3D) views of objects. This involves scattering an array of over 10,000 dots of light from the metasurface to target objects, then using a camera to capture the irradiated point pattern. POSTECH's Junsuk Rho said, "This will be an original technology that will enable an ultra-small and full-space 3D imaging sensor platform." Nanoimprint technology will enable the devices to be printed on glass and curved surfaces.

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AI Knows How Much You're Willing to Pay for Flights Before You Do
Angus Whitley
October 20, 2022

Airlines are using artificial intelligence to predict how much passengers are willing to pay for air travel tickets, and to reprice them continuously in response to that data. "We are able to determine at every price point how many people will buy a ticket," said Roy Cohen at Israeli live-pricing engine operator Fetcherr. Cohen claims Fetcherr's demand models are so accurate that fares set by algorithms for flights six months in advance rarely change by the time the plane takes off. Last year, Ireland-based real-time pricing provider Datalex announced a test with Irish Airline Aer Lingus. Although historical information remains the chief factor for calculating current and future flight demand, Datalex’s Conor O’Sullivan said computers are increasingly considering one-time events, hotel reservations, and airport lines when predicting ticket prices.

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