News

SiFive receives $50.6M in series C funding

SiFive, a fabless provider of customized semiconductors built on research by alumnus Yunsup Lee (MS '11/Ph.D. '16), alumnus Andrew Waterman (M.S. '11/Ph.D. '16), and Prof. Krste Asanović, received $50.6M in series C funding in April.  Lee is Chief Technology Officer,  Waterman is Chief Engineer, and Asanović is Chief Architect at SiFive. The funding round was co-led by Osage University Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, Spark Capital, and Intel Capital.  SiFive's semiconductors are built on Risc-V, an instruction set architecture (ISA), which acts as the conduit between a computer's software and hardware.  The series C round is being used to commercialize additional products based on Risc-V.  The company has raised $64.1M in funding to date.

Nick Carlini embeds hidden commands to Alexa and Siri in recordings of music and spoken text

CS graduate student Nicholas Carlini  is featured in a New York Times article titled "Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t." He and his advisor, David Wagner, have published a paper showing they can embed audio instructions, undectable by human beings, directly into recordings of music or spoken text. They can secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.  “We want to demonstrate that it’s possible,” he said, “and then hope that other people will say, ‘O.K. this is possible, now let’s try and fix it.’ ”  Carlini was among a group of researchers who showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

Rikky Muller is building brain implants to change lives

Assistant Prof. Rikky Muller is featured in an Institution of Mechanical Engineers" article titled "This machine can read your mind – engineers unlock secrets of the brain."  The article explores some of the newest breakthroughs in brain-machine interfaces, and some of the obstacles encountered by researchers.  Muller, a co-founder of Cortera Neurotechnologies,  discusses implant therapies like deep-brain stimulation (DBS) and assistive technologies like ‘intra-cortical recording’--where electrodes are inserted directly into patients’ neurons to allow them to control an external device.  She and her colleagues are working on miniaturising these technologies, to make them wireless and less invasive.  “Our vision is to create devices that are so small, safe and minimally invasive that they can be implanted in the patient for their lifetime,” she said.

Laura Waller on the appeal of working at the intersection of two fields

EE and CS Associate Prof. Laura Waller was interviewed by Computer Vision News in advance of her keynote address to the IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI) in April.  She describes the appeal of working at the intersection of two fields:  design of optical systems and computational algorithms.  She also talks about breakthroughs in computational imaging and industry/academia, and offers advice to conference attendees.

Scott Shenker wins 2017 ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award

Prof. Scott Shenker has been named the 2017 ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award recipient.   The award honors specific theoretical accomplishments that have had a significant and demonstrable effect on the practice of computing.   Shenker is honored for pioneering contributions to fair queueing in packet-switching networks, which had a major impact on modern practice in computer communication. His work was fundamental to helping the internet grow from a tool used by a small community of researchers to a staple of daily life used by billions.   Previous winners of this award include EECS Chair Prof. James Demmel and Prof. Emeritus Robert Brayton.

Pieter Abbeel, Robert Full, and Ken Goldberg will speak at TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics 2018

Three EECS professors are featured speakers at the upcoming TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics on May 11 at Zellerbach Hall.  The single-day event will focus on the crossroads of the latest AI and robotics technology and the startup ecosystem.  Prof. Pieter Abbeel, who works in machine learning and robotics (and who co-founded  covariant.ai and Gradescope), will talk about "Teaching Robots New Tricks with AI."    Prof. Robert Full, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Integrative Biology (and who founded of CiBER), will talk about "What Robots Can Learn from Nature." Prof. Ken Goldberg, who holds appointments in IEOR, the School of Information, Art Practice, and the UCSF Dept of Radiation Oncology, will talk about "Getting A Grip on Reality: Deep Learning and Robot Grasping."  He is the co-founder of the Center for New Media.  Alumnus Paul Birkmeyer (Ph.D. '13), co-founder of Dishcraft Robotics, is also slated to speak.

Editing brain activity with holography

The research of Associate Prof. Laura Waller is highlighted in a Berkeley News article titled "Editing brain activity with holography."  Waller is co-author of a paper published in the journal Nature Neuroscience that describes a holographic brain modulator which can activate up to 50 neurons at once in a three-dimensional chunk of brain containing several thousand neurons, and repeat that up to 300 times a second with different sets of 50 neurons. The goal is to read neural activity constantly and decide, based on the activity, which sets of neurons to activate to simulate the pattern and rhythm of an actual brain response, so as to replace lost sensations after peripheral nerve damage, for example, or control a prosthetic limb. “The major advance is the ability to control neurons precisely in space and time,” said Waller's postdoc Nicolas Pégard, who is a first author of the paper.  “In other words, to shoot the very specific sets of neurons you want to activate and do it at the characteristic scale and the speed at which they normally work.”

Umesh Vazirani and Sanjeev Arora elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Prof. and alumnus Umesh Vazirani (Ph.D. '86) and alumnus Sanjeev Arora (Ph.D. '94) have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).  Membership is awarded in recognition of distinguished and continuing achievements in original scientific research.  Vazirani is the Roger A. Strauch Professor of EECS and the co-director of the Berkeley Quantum Computation Center (BQIC). His research interests lie primarily in quantum computing.  Arora, whose interests include uses of randomness in complexity theory and algorithms,  efficient algorithms for finding approximate solutions to NP-hard problems (or proving that they don't exist), and cryptography, is now the Charles C. Fitzmorris Prof. of Computer Science at Princeton University.

Alex Bayen wins 2018 IEEE TCCPS Mid-Career Award

Prof. Alexandre Bayen has won the 2018 Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Technical Committee on Cyber-Physical Systems (TC-CPS) Mid-Career Award.  This award recognizes a mid-career researcher from either academia or industry who has demonstrated outstanding contributions to the field of cyber-physical system (CPS) in his/her career development. CPS addresses the close interactions and feedback loop between the cyber components such as sensing systems and the physical components such as varying environment and energy systems.   Bayen is the director of the Institute for Transportation Studies and heads the Mobile Sensing Lab, which focuses on applications of control and optimization to problems involving data collected by mobile sensors, in particular onboard phones and connected wearables.  His research project Mobile Millennium includes a pilot traffic-monitoring system that uses the GPS in cellular phones to gather traffic information, process it, and distribute it back to the phones in real time.

Jitendra Malik wins IJCAI-18 Award for Research Excellence

Prof. Jitendra Malik has won the 2018 Award for Research Excellence from the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence Organization (IJCAI).  The Research Excellence award is given to a scientist who has carried out a program of research of consistently high quality throughout an entire career yielding several substantial results. The recipients of this honor, including CS Prof. Michael Jordan who won in 2016, are considered among "the most illustrious group of scientists from the field of Artificial Intelligence."  Malik is known for his research in computer vision.  The award will be presented at the 27th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the 23rd European Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI-ECAI 2018) in Stockholm, Sweden, in July.