Welcome to the March 31, 2023, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A finger touches images of a circuit-brain. UNESCO Calls on Governments to Implement Global Ethical Framework for AI
March 30, 2023

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is urging all countries to implement its Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the first global ethical framework for the technology. This follows more than 1,000 technology workers calling for a moratorium on training powerful AI systems. UNESCO is troubled by many ethical issues surrounding AI, especially discrimination and stereotyping, disinformation, violation of the right to privacy, protection of personal data, and human and environmental rights. At the recommendation's core is a Readiness Assessment tool that enables nations to determine the competencies and skills their workforce needs to regulate the AI industry. More than 40 countries to date are collaborating with UNESCO to formulate national-level AI safeguards based on the recommendation.

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Students in Spellman College’s innovation lab learn skills for developing games. Black Developers Push to Diversify Creators Behind the Pixels
ABC News
Justin Finch; Tesfaye Negussie; Ivan Pereira
March 29, 2023

Black videogame developers and historically Black college and universities (HBCUs) hope to give people of color greater videogame industry representation. Said Jaycee Holmes with the CodeHouse nonprofit, "We're going to see diversity in all types of gaming, from the controllers that we use, to the storylines that are being told, to the characters that you're seeing." An annual CodeHouse event has invited 3,000 Atlanta high school students to work with developers from technology companies like Google and Netflix, to give the young developers hands-on experience of application and product production. Students also are learning videogame creation fundamentals at Spelman College's Innovation Lab, which hosted a game development crash course for students from a dozen other HBCUs.

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Algorithm Keeps Drones from Colliding in Midair
MIT News
Adam Zewe
March 29, 2023

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are launching an asynchronous, decentralized, multiagent trajectory-planner that plots flightpaths to prevent collisions between drones, even when communications between agents are delayed. The Robust MADER system is an overhaul of the team's MADER planner, which lacked up-to-date information on drone trajectories. It features an algorithm that incorporates trajectories received from other agents to optimize new flightpaths, avoiding collisions by continually optimizing and broadcasting trajectories. Robust MADER adds a delay-check step in which a drone postpones committing to a new optimized trajectory until it receives additional data from fellow drones. Robust MADER generated collision-free trajectories in simulations and flight experiments with actual drones with 100% success.

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Researchers trained a robotic dog to use its legs for locomotion and manipulation, such as pressing buttons, at the same time. Robots Using Legs as Arms to Climb, Push Buttons
IEEE Spectrum
Evan Ackerman
March 29, 2023

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley trained robot dogs to use their legs for both locomotion and manipulation. This enables the robots to perform such tasks as climbing walls, pushing buttons, and kicking a ball. In tests of a Unitree Go1 robot equipped with Intel RealSense technology for perception, the researchers found that after a single high-quality demonstration, the robot remembered the commands given and developed a behavior tree dividing tasks into connected locomotion and manipulation sub-tasks to be performed in order. If it failed a sub-task, the robot could go back through the behavior tree to a point of success and start over. The robot was able to balance against a wall, push a wheelchair access button, and then walk out the door.

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Making the Internet of Things More Secure
Washington University in St. Louis McKelvey School of Engineering
Beth Miller
March 27, 2023

Washington University in St. Louis' Shantanu Chakrabartty and Mustafizur Rahman used a prototype synchronized pseudo-random-number generator (SPRNG) to enhance the security of Internet of Things (IoT) communications. The prototype employs Fowler-Nordheim quantum tunneling to prevent tampering, snooping, and side-channel attacks. The method involves electrons jumping through and reshaping a triangular barrier, which offers a simpler, more energy-efficient, and self-powered connection that Chakrabartty called attack-proof. He said SPRNG “could be used as a trusted platform module on IoT and used to verify and authenticate secure transactions, such as software upgrades. Since this system does not require access to GPS [global positioning systems] for synchronization, it could be used in resource-constrained and adversarial environments, including healthcare and military IoTs."

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Plants in a hydroponic farm in Israel’s Kibbutz Midgal Oz. Do Plants Actually Emit Sounds?
The Jerusalem Post (Israel)
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
March 30, 2023

Scientists at Israel's Tel Aviv University (TAU) have recorded and analyzed sounds emitted by plants. The researchers said these sounds, imperceptible to the human ear, are typically generated under stress. The team isolated plants in an acoustic box in a basement with no background noise, and used ultrasonic microphones about 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) from each plant to record sounds they emit at frequencies of 20 to 250 kilohertz. The recordings were analyzed using algorithms that learned to distinguish among different plants and different types of sounds; the algorithms were able to identify each plant and determine the type and level of stress it was suffering from the recordings, even when the plants were put in a greenhouse with a great deal of background noise.

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A round semiconductor wafer. Chip Design Could Provide Greatest Precision in Memory to Date
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
March 29, 2023

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Massachusetts think they have designed a new type of chip with what they’re calling the best memory of any edge artificial intelligence processor to date. The chip features 11 bits, which USC's Joshua Yang describes as the highest information density per device of all types of known memory technologies. The low-energy intensive chips are formed from silicon integrated with metal oxide memristors, with atomic positions rather than the number of electrons representing information. This approach allows more data to be stored in an analog framework, while also removing the von Neumann bottleneck by processing information where it is stored.

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A microscopic image of proteins, shown as strands. DeepMind's AI Used to Develop Tiny 'Syringe' for Injecting Gene Therapy, Tumor-Killing Drugs
Nicoletta Lanese
March 29, 2023

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers used DeepMind's AlphaFold artificial intelligence program to modify a syringe-like protein found in the bacteria Photorhabdus asymbiotica to inject cancer-killing drugs, gene therapies, and other proteins into human cells. To test whether these molecular "syringes" could be used in humans, the researchers loaded the hollow "needle" with a protein, used AlphaFold to predict the structure of the bottom of the syringe that would contact the target cell surface, and modified the structure to latch onto the surface proteins found on human cells. MIT's Joseph Kreitz said, "With AlphaFold, we were able to obtain predicted structures of candidate tail fiber designs almost in real time, significantly accelerating our efforts to reprogram this protein."

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The outline of a human brain, connected to a network pattern. Experts Use Microscope, Algorithm, Voltage Indicators to Image Deep Brain Electrical Activity
BU Experts
Katherine Gianni
March 27, 2023

Scientists at Boston University (BU) and Yale University noninvasively imaged approximately 100 mouse neurons at a time in mice using a new microscope, an artificial intelligence algorithm, and voltage indicators. BU's Jerry Chen said he developed a new microscope to image a greater number of neurons at very high speed, and complemented it with more sensitive voltage indicators and the algorithm that extracts voltage signals under noisy conditions. Chen said the DeepVID denoising algorithm programmed by BU's Lei Tan “a game changer” that overcomes the “shot noise” that limits reliable measurement in microscopy. Said Chen, extending the method to image 1,000 or more neurons "will allow us to better understand how information is processed in the brain.”

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Microsoft Patched Bing Vulnerability That Allowed Snooping on Email, Other Data
The Wall Street Journal
Robert McMillan
March 29, 2023

Microsoft last month patched an issue discovered by security firm Wiz Inc. in the Bing search engine that allowed unauthorized access to email and other data. The researchers determined an error in the way applications were configured on Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform could allow unauthorized access to Bing users' Microsoft 365 emails, documents, calendars, and other tools. The software giant said a small number of applications using the Azure Active Directory login management service were impacted by the misconfiguration issue. Wiz said it had no evidence the issue had been used by anyone. In announcing in a blog post the issue had been fixed, Microsoft offered ways in which companies and consumers can better protect themselves from such unauthorized intrusions.

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A host of multi-colored arrows. Magnon-Based Computation Could Signal Computing Paradigm Shift
EPFL (Switzerland)
March 29, 2023

Researchers at Switzerland's École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) demonstrated that data can be sent and stored through charge-free magnetic waves (magnons).. EPFL's Dirk Grundler explained in traditional computing architecture, processors and memory are separated, and the “signal conversions involved in moving data between different components slow down computation and waste energy." The researchers developed yttrium iron garnet (YIG) nanomagnet devices, and used radiofrequency signals to excite spin waves at specific gigahertz frequencies in the devices and reverse their magnetization. Said Grundler, "We can now show that the same waves we use for data processing can be used to switch the magnetic nanostructures so that we also have nonvolatile magnetic storage within the very same system."

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The COVID-19 virus attached to cells. Team Uncovers New Details of SARS-COV-2 Structure
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
March 30, 2023

An international research team led by Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Dmitry Korkin found the SARS-COV-2 virus has an elliptical envelope that morphs or "breathes" as it moves within the body. The researchers fed genetic sequencing information and vast volumes of real-world data about COVID-19 into a supercomputer in Texas to computationally simulate the envelope in "near atomistic detail." In addition to the elliptical configuration, Korkin said the analysis yielded insights into the role of the envelope's M proteins in its shape-shifting ability. These findings about the virus' structure "should allow us to model the actual process of the virus attaching to the cell and apply this knowledge to our understanding of the therapies at the molecular level," according to Korkin.

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The front of the Weill Cornell Medical College building. An Effective Breast Reconstruction Process Using 3D Printing
The Cornell Daily Sun
March 29, 2023

A three-dimensionally (3D)-printed breast reconstruction method developed by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine aims to produce more natural nipples for post-mastectomy breast cancer patients. Jason Spector's laboratory at Weill Cornell 3D-printed a scaffold into the shape of a nipple using Poly-4-Hydroxybutyrate, a biodegradable material manufactured by the Tepha company. The researchers used the scaffold to reconstruct a nipple and covered it with flaps of skin. The structure's shape holds up and resists skin contraction during the first three to six months after surgery, after which it degrades and is replaced with local tissue. Less skin contraction occurs after healing, according to the researchers, which supports a softer nipple that has good long-term projection.

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