Welcome to the February 27, 2023, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A person amplifying their voice. Vocal Amplification Patch Could Help Stroke Patients, First Responders
Popular Science
Andrew Paul
February 24, 2023

Scientists at China's Tsinghua and Shanghai Jiao Tong universities have engineered a "graphene-based intelligent, wearable artificial throat" that can amplify the user's voice. The 25-micrometer (0.0009-inch)-thick patch sticks to the skin above the larynx and is linked via wires to a battery-powered microcontroller. The device monitors throat vibrations that are interpreted by an artificial intelligence model, which then projects artificial sound at up to 60 decibels through electrical input. Tests indicated the device was more than 99% accurate when used by people speaking audibly, and more than 90% accurate for those who cannot audibly speak, like victims of post-stroke aphasia.

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TREBUCHET: A High-Powered Processor for Cutting-Edge Encryption
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Julia Cohen
February 23, 2023

University of Southern California researchers were part of a team that developed a co-processor that can speed Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE) processing while using significantly less computing power. FHE enables algorithms to perform direct computations on encrypted data, making it more secure, but it requires around 100,000 times more computation than traditional methods. The researchers developed the co-processor, called TREBUCHET, for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's DRIVE Program (Data Protection in Virtual Environments). The tile-based chip features highly parallel Arithmetic Logic Units, which they customized to support wider data words. The researchers also added fast modulo arithmetic circuits, widened the on-chip networks, and redesigned the memory architecture and management.

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A team of scientists has developed smart electronic skin that could pave the way for soft, flexible robotic. Flexible E-Skin Could Spur Rise of Soft Machines That Can Sense
University of Edinburgh (U.K.)
February 23, 2023

Scientists at the U.K.'s University of Edinburgh and the University’s commercialization service, Edinburgh Innovations, have developed smart electronic skin (e-skin) that could clear a path for soft robotics capable of detecting their movements in the most sensitive environments. The proprietary technology provides soft robots real-time proprioception to sense three-dimensional shapes. The researchers fashioned the 1-millimeter-thick e-skin from a silicone layer embedded with wires and detectors; the material enabled soft robots to sense things only millimeters off in all directions. When fitted to a soft robot arm, the e-skin could perceive bending, stretching, and twisting movements across every area of the device.

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U.S. Air Force Giving Military Drones the Ability to Recognize Faces
New Scientist
David Hambling
February 23, 2023

Under a contract between the U.S. Department of Defense and RealNetworks, the Seattle-based company's machine learning software will equip autonomous drones operated by the U.S. Air Force with facial recognition technology. The contract indicated special operations forces will use the drones for intelligence gathering and foreign missions. University of California, Berkeley's Stuart Russell expressed concern about the contract, which states the software will "open the opportunity for real-time autonomous response by the robot." Russell said it's "hard to see what else it refers to, other than lethal action." The U.S. government's policy on lethal autonomous weapons calls for "appropriate levels of human judgment," but the Pentagon has not clarified what that means exactly.

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Technique Creates Greater Fidelity in Bioprinting Functional Human Tissues
UC San Diego Today
Emerson Dameron
February 22, 2023

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) engineers augmented digital light processing (DLP)-based three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting to reduce the impact of light scattering. The researchers' innovation reduced this effect 10-fold, allowing bioprinting with high cell densities and high resolution via infusion of the contrast agent iodixanol. UCSD's Shangting You said, "Using iodixanol, we developed a refractive index-matched bioink for DLP-based bioprinting to mitigate the light scattering of the cells, concentrating the energy within the user-defined light pattern to improve the printing fidelity." The process realized an approximately 50-micrometer feature size in a refractive-index-matched gelatin methacrylate bioink with 0.1-billion/milliliter maximum cell density.

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Cubot ONE, Taiwan’s first food delivery robot at a news conference in Kaohsiung. Delivery Robot Trial Begins in Kaohsiung
Taipei Times (Taiwan)
February 23, 2023

Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) said a 10-month test of the country's "first food courier robot" is slated to begin March 1 at the Kaohsiung Software Park. The institute said its Cubot ONE robot will transport food to workers in nearby offices. The robot will deliver orders submitted to a 7-Eleven convenience store by workers in the park's three office buildings, according to ITRI. The Ministry of Economic Affairs' Chang Neng-kai said Cubot ONE can navigate through crowded areas and enter and exit elevators. The robot features cellular-vehicle-to-everything technology, wireless Internet connectivity, three-dimensional positioning, and a navigation system, as well as a unique chassis.

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Pattern images of mice merge outlines of an organism’s position at different timepoints to depict movements. Open Source Tool Simplifies Animal Behavior Analysis
University of Michigan News
Emily Kagey
February 24, 2023

The LabGym open source software developed by scientists at the University of Michigan (U-M) and Northern Illinois University can streamline animal behavior analysis via artificial intelligence. The software can identify, categorize, and tally defined behaviors across diverse animal model systems by more closely reproducing the human cognition process. Researchers can use LabGym to input examples of the behavior they aim to analyze and teach it what it should count; the software improves its ability to recognize and measure this behavior through deep learning. Although LabGym was designed for the study of fruit flies, it can adapt to any species, according to U-M's Bing Ye.

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Researchers Find New Bug 'Class' in Apple Devices
Computer Weekly
Alex Scroxton
February 22, 2023

Researchers at cybersecurity company Trellix say they have discovered a new class of privilege escalation vulnerability in Apple devices, rooted in Israeli spyware maker NSO Group's ForcedEntry exploit. ForcedEntry enabled NSO's government clients to monitor activists, journalists, and political adversaries; Trellix claims iOS and macOS contain bugs that circumvent the upgraded code-signing mitigations Apple deployed to counter the exploit. If uncorrected, the bugs could grant attackers access to sensitive information on target devices, including but not restricted to messages, location data, call history, and photos. Trellix's Austin Emmitt said the vulnerabilities involve the NSPredicate code-filtering tool, whose restrictions Apple fortified with the NSPredicateVisitor protocol.

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MIT researchers’ new receiver chip for mobile devices blocks unwanted RF signals at the receiver without hurting performance or slowing the device. Chip for Mobile Devices Knocks Out Unwanted Signals
MIT News
Adam Zewe
February 21, 2023

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have created a new receiver chip for mobile devices that blocks unwanted radio frequency signals at input, without degrading performance or speed. The researchers designed the chip along a mixer-first framework to immediately convert the received radio frequency signal to a lower-frequency signal before handing it to the analog-to-digital converter to screen out the digital bits. They adapted block digital filtering to analog so the chip could block harmonic interference. The team learned stacking some capacitors in series and inducing charge sharing simultaneously allowed the device to block harmonic interference 40 times better than other wideband receivers, without losing any data.

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A magistrate speaking during a Colombian court hearing held in the Metaverse. Colombia Court Moves to Metaverse to Host Hearing
Isabel Woodford
February 24, 2023

This month, Colombia's Magdalena Administrative court held a two-hour hearing in the metaverse, with participants in a traffic dispute and the magistrate rendered as avatars in a virtual courtroom. Magistrate Maria Quinones Triana said the case proceedings will continue to be partly virtual, while metaverse hearings elsewhere also are possible. Quinones described the case as "an academic experiment to show that there it's possible ... but where everyone consents to it, [my court] can continue to do things in the metaverse." She supported metaverse proceedings in cases of abuse, so participants can appear in court without having to physically view each other. Juan David Gutierrez at Colombia's University of Rosario said virtual legal proceedings still have a long road ahead, with a lack of hardware raising issues "about accessibility to justice and equality."

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UC Irvine Researchers Create E. Coli-Based Water Monitoring Technology
UCI News
February 23, 2023

A technique developed by University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers uses the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) to detect heavy metal contamination in water. Using chemically assembled gold nanoparticle optical sensors, the researchers observed the slight biochemical response exhibited by E. coli in the presence of metal ions. They used a machine learning algorithm to analyze the optical spectra of metabolites released by the bacteria when exposed to chromium and arsenic. The 10-minute process detected metals in concentrations a billion times lower than those that cause cell death and was over 96% accurate in identifying the type and amount of heavy metal present. UCI's Regina Ragan said, "This system can provide an early warning of heavy metal contamination to safeguard human health and ecosystems."

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At Least One Open Source Vulnerability Found in 84% of Code Bases
CSO Online
Apurva Venkat
February 23, 2023

Researchers at application security company Synopsys found 84% of 1,481 analyzed commercial and proprietary code bases contained at least one known open source vulnerability, while 48% contained high-risk vulnerabilities. The researchers observed a 4% increase in the number of known open source vulnerabilities between 2021 and 2022. They also found 91% of the code bases had outdated versions of open source elements, meaning available patches had not been implemented. The researchers explained, "With many teams already stretched to the limit building and testing new code, updates to existing software can become a lower priority except for the most critical issues." They recommended organizations use a software bill of materials to prevent vulnerability exploits and keep open source code up to date.

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