RISELab's AI research wins $10M NSF award

The RISELab, led by Prof. Ion Stoica, has received an Expeditions in Computing award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), providing $10 million in funding over five years to enable game-changing advances in real-time decision making technologies.  The award is presented to research teams pursuing large-scale, far-reaching and potentially transformative research in computer and information science and engineering.   RISELab’s award will be used to develop technology for an era in which AI systems will make decisions that will play an increasingly central role in people’s lives in areas such as healthcare, transportation and business.

Richard Nixon (photo: Lotfi Zadeh)

Subjects natural, rational, and transcendental: the photos of Lotfi Zadeh

Prof. Lotfi Zadeh, who passed away in 2017, was an avid photographer who grew up in a multicultural environment, surrounded himself with a cosmopolitan crowd, and always kept his mind open to new ideas.   In the 1960s and 70s, he enjoyed capturing the people around him in a series of black and white portraits.  His burgeoning career gave him access to a number of artists, academics, and dignitaries who, along with his colleagues, friends, and family, proved a great source of inspiration for him.   Some of Zadeh's portraits can be viewed in the EECS Newsletter courtesy of Prof. David Attwood.

Ling-Qi Yan helps to improve computer rendering of animal fur

CS graduate student Ling-Qi Yan (advisors: Ravi Ramamoorthi/Ren Ng) and researchers at U.C. San Diego are the subject of an article in TechXplore titled "Scientists improve computer rendering of animal fur."  He is part of a team that developed a method for dramatically improving the way computers simulate fur, and more specifically, the way light bounces within an animal's pelt.  The researchers are using a neural network to apply the properties of a concept called subsurface scattering to quickly approximate how light bounces around fur fibers.  The neural network only needs to be trained with one scene before it can apply subsurface scattering to all the different scenes with which it is presented. This results in simulations running 10 times faster than current state of the art.  "We are converting the properties of subsurface scattering to fur fibers," said Yan. "There is no explicit physical or mathematical way to make this conversion. So we needed to use a neural network to connect these two different worlds."  The researchers recently presented their findings at the SIGGRAPH Asia conference in Thailand.

Dan Wallach to testify about election security and voting machines in Texas

EECS alumnus Dan Wallach (B.S. '93) will testify before the Texas Senate Select Committee on Election Security at a hearing about recent election irregularities in Texas, a review of voting security protocols and the responsibilities and duties of members of the Electoral College.  Specifically, the hearing will examine the use of electronic voting machines and paper ballots, voting fraud and disenfranchisement occurring inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities, outside interference and manipulation of elections, and the voting requirements of presidential electors.  Wallach is widely regarded as an expert on voting machine security.  He is currently an EECS professor at Rice University and a scholar at Rice's Baker Institute for Public Policy. 

Steve Wozniak emphasizes people over technology

CS alumnus Steve Wozniak (B.A.'86) was the inaugural speaker in the Business Thought Leader series at the University of South Florida College of Business.  He answered pre-submitted questions that asked for his best advice for college students and what he might tell his younger self.  He shared his "smiles minus frowns" happiness equation and said that how one feels is paramount to success.  While passion and vision are key, he stressed the importance of always choosing people over technology and cautioned students that ”the purpose [of your work] should never be, this is how I’m going to make a lot of money.”  Instead, if you think about how you can make the world a better place you will never regret the outcome.  He said that he was so famous when he came back to study at Berkeley, after taking time off to found Apple Computers, that he went by the pseudonym Rocky Raccoon Clark.

UC Berkeley wins 2018 Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship

For the second year running, UC Berkeley has won the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship, sweeping UC Irvine 3-0.  CS majors Kevin "SlurpeeThief" Royston and Gandira “Syeikh” Prahandika were on the Berkeley team, which battled in front of a sold-out crowd at the game in Tempe, Arizona, the first partnership between a collegiate bowl game and eSports tournament.  Royston, who was profiled in on Overwatch Wire article before the tournament, is in the top 1% of all players worldwide, has had a peak skill rating of 4626, and was on the winning team last year.  He notes that the balance between esports and school has been a tough road.  “It’s definitely rough, this week is the first time I had a homework assignment slip because of Overwatch. (Laughs) Hear me out! It’s for Machine Learning which is the hardest class at Berkeley. We had to travel (for the Fiesta Bowl) and I worked sixteen hours on an assignment and didn’t even get halfway through it.”  Overwatch is a team-based shooter game that was created by Blizzard Entertainment and released in 2016.  Teams are made up of six players, who select different characters, known in the game as “heroes,” to complete different objectives. The Berkeley team won $42,000 of the $100,000 total in scholarships and other prizes.

Security for data analytics – gaining a grip on the two-edged sword

Prof. Dawn Song and graduate student Noah Johnson are taking a new approach to enable organizations to follow tight data security and privacy policies while enabling flexible data analysis, as well as machine learning for analysts.  Working with Uber, they tested their system using a dataset of 8 million queries written by the company’s data analysts. The system is currently being integrated into Uber’s internal data analytics platform.  With help from the Signatures Innovation Fellows program, they are advancing the system to provide the same level of security and flexibility for a broad range of data analysis and machine learning, whether needed in basic and medical research or business analytics.

Small robots with smart bodies can safely bump into obstacles

Prof. Ron Fearing's team have modified a palm-size robot with a soft, roach-like exoskeleton and six legs, called the Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod (DASH), to use the momentum of a head-on crash to tip itself upward to climb a wall.  Kaushik Jayaram (Ph.D. Robotics/Biology '14, advisor: Robert Full) discovered how cockroaches use the energy from collisions to propel themselves up and over obstacles.  “Their bodies are doing the computing, not their brains or complex sensors,” explains Jayaram. DASH can now scurry up an incline, if equipped with gecko toes – sticky pads that Full and Fearing has also investigated and adapted for robots – they may one day become as nimble as a cockroach. The work “shows that small robots can be built with simple, robust, smart bodies to safely bump into obstacles instead of using complex and expensive sensing and control systems," says Full. 

Teresa Meng (photo: EE Times)

Teresa Meng on winning the game in a male-dominated industry

EECS distinguished alumna Teresa Meng (M.S. '85/Ph.D. '88) is the subject of an article in the EE Times about a keynote presentation she recently gave at the  International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) on sexism in her profession.   Meng, who was the first female professor in electrical engineering at Stanford in 1988 (she retired in 2013) and also co-founded Atheros Communications (later acquired by Qualcomm), was named one of the top 10 entrepreneurs by Red Herring in 2001.    The title of her speech was “Winning the game in a male-dominated industry” and she said that she was initially very reluctant to speak because the subject was “just too painful.”  She discussed when and how gender discrimination happens, describing “unconscious” male behaviors that hurt women and discourage female engineers from pursuing higher positions in their organizations. She also discussed how women must pick their battles.  Her talk was nothing like what anyone in the audience would have expected in the semiconductor industry — especially at a highly technical conference like ISSCC, where only 2 percent of attendees are women.

Anca Dragan and Raluca Popa

Anca Dragan and Raluca Popa win Sloan Research Fellowships

Assistant Profs. Anca Dragan and Raluca Ada Popa have been awarded 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships.  They are among 126 early-career scholars who represent the most promising scientific researchers working today. Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada. Winners receive $65,000, which may be spent over a two-year term on any expense supportive of their research.  Popa and Dragan were both selected in the Compter Science category.   Popa is a co-founder of the RISELab where she is trying to develop a learning and analytics framework that can run on encrypted data.  Dragan runs the InterACT lab and is a PI for the Center for Human-Compatible AI.  Her goal is to enable robots to work with, around and in support of people, autonomously generating behavior in a way that formally accounts for their interactions with humans. “The Sloan Research Fellows represent the very best science has to offer,” said foundation president Adam Falk. “The brightest minds, tackling the hardest problems, and succeeding brilliantly – fellows are quite literally the future of 21st century science.”