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CACM Reports: The New Generation of Bio-Inspired "Soft" Robotics

October Issue Reports on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS), Applications for the GameDay Concept in Web Operations, Predictions on Oracle vs. Google, and Improving Accessibility

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK – October 25, 2012 – The next generation of robotics will be composed of soft materials that enable capabilities beyond current robotic technologies, a development that could lead to a new industrial revolution, say researchers from the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute.  In the November cover story of Communications of the ACM, the authors contend that this transformation is based on robotic technologies that are inspired by biological systems that reflect the behavior of humans and animals.  The resulting interdisciplinary focus requires novel forms of cooperation driven by scientific, social, demographic, and economic forces.  Also in this issue, Communications Editor-in-Chief Moshe Y. Vardi assesses the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) phenomenon that has been described as a "tsunami" by Stanford University President John Hennessey. Vardi speculates that MOOCs may be the "battering ram" in an attack on the financial dilemma impacting  higher education that employs information technology as a seductive possibility to lower costs in this sector.

Communications, the flagship publication of ACM, offers readers access to this generation's most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available in print, Web, and digital format.

 Other Communications highlights:

  • Pioneers of resilience engineering consider their experiences in managing the inevitable system failures in large-scale Web operations.  Moderator Tom Limoncelli of Google led the discussion of actual situations where the “GameDay concept,” created by Amazon, resulted in a cultural shift that emphasizes how to deal with systems swiftly and expertly once they do fail.  
  • Science and technology writer Gregory Goth analyzes the computing systems aboard the Mars Exploration Rovers.  The technology, based on the Canny edge detector algorithm, enables the rovers to autonomously perform image and data analysis, planning, execution, and interaction with robotic control without real-time human direction, and has applications for earthbound projects as well. 
  • Pam Samuelson of the University of California Berkeley law school assesses the first phase of the trial between Oracle and Google, which addresses claims that Google’s Android platform infringes on Oracle’s Java-related copyrights and patents.  She predicts that the decision, which rejected Oracle’s claim of copyright in Java application program interfaces, will be affirmed, and points to the irony that Sun Microsystems, which was acquired by Oracle, was among the most vigorous proponents of pro-interoperability intellectual property rules. 
  • Researchers from Arizona State University highlight the privacy, security, and equitable access aspects of the emerging smart grid with its reliance on two-way information and communication technology (ICT) systems.  Although smart grid technology can improve energy efficiency, Timothy Kostyk and Joseph Herkert urge engineers to incorporate practical solutions to these societal challenges concurrent with its development in order to avoid higher costs in the future.
  • Despite the strong demand for computationally educated workers, Purdue University professors Arman Yadav and John T. Korb, argue that the field needs to adapt a multipronged approach to preparing computer science teachers is critical to success.  They urge adoption of a methods course about how computer science is learned and taught.  
  • ACM President Vint Cerf begins a dialogue on improving the state of accessibility in computer science.  He cites the need to build accessibility into the initial design, and urges ACM members and experts in the field to contact him about their experiences and ideas. 
  • Blog @CACM blogger Michael Stonebreaker expects a substantial increase in the number of New SQL engines using a variety of architectures in the near future.

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About ACM
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.