Microsoft acquires Semantic Machines

Semantic Machines, an artificial intelligence startup co-founded by Prof. Dan Klein and staffed by a number of EECS alumni, has been acquired by Microsoft to help Cortana hold more natural dialog with users.  The team has built a number of machine learning components which work together for a smarter AI, and move beyond the more basic back-and-forth currently supported by the Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa.

In addition to Klein, the team includes Percy Liang (Ph.D. '11), David Hall (Ph.D. '12), Adam Pauls (Ph.D. '12), David Burkett (Ph.D. '12), Jason Wolfe (Ph.D. '11 adviser: Stuart Russell), Yuchen Zhang (Ph.D. '16), Taylor Berg-Kirkpatrick (B.A. '08/Ph.D. '15), Greg Durrett (Ph.D. '16), Alex Nisnevich (M.S. '14), current grad student Jacob Andreas, Charles Chen (B.A. CS/Math '11), Andrew Nguyen (B.A. CS/Linguistics '12), Chuck Wooters (Ph.D. Speech Recognition '93), and consultant Prof. Michael Jordan.

What is 5G? Jan Rabaey explains the next generation of wireless

Prof. Jan Rabaey has written an article for The Conversation titled "What is 5G? The next generation of wireless, explained."  He reviews the evolution of cellular communication technology and describes some of the ways that 5G, which is able to send and receive more data more quickly than previous versions, opens new opportunities for augmented and virtual reality systems, as well as automation.

150 Years of Innovation: John Whinnery: Fields and waves

EECS Prof. and alumnus John Whinnery (1916-2009, EE B.S. '37/Ph.D. '48 ) is the subject of a Berkeley Engineering article celebrating UC Berkeley's 150th year.  Whinnery served as director of the Electronics Research Laboratory from 1952-56, department chair from 1956-59, and dean of the College of Engineering from 1959-63. He was a distinguished innovator in the field of electromagnetism and communication electronics and was recognized as one of the country’s top experts on the fundamentals of quantum electronics.  He was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1985 and the National Medal of Science in 1992

Aviad Rubinstein wins 2017 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award

CS alumnus Aviad Rubinstein (Ph.D. ' 17, advisor: Christos Papadimitriou) is the recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) 2017 Doctoral Dissertation Award for his dissertation “Hardness of Approximation Between P and NP.”  In his thesis, Rubinstein established the intractability of the approximate Nash equilibrium problem and several other important problems between P and NP-completeness—an enduring problem in theoretical computer science.  His work was featured in a Quanta Magazine article titled "In Game Theory, No Clear Path to Equilibrium" in July. After graduating, Rubinstein became a Rabin Postdoc at Harvard and will join Stanford as an Assistant Professor in the fall.

Luke Strgar thinks that Blockchain can be used to track gun sales in America

Graduating CS senior Luke Strgar thinks he might have a solution for the fraught issue of guns in America: Use blockchain to track gun sales.  Strgar thinks that Blockchain offers the perfect balance between security, anonymity and scale that could please people on all sides of the gun-control debate.  He spent two days in Washington, D.C. this month pitching the idea of a centralized, ultra-secure, online gun-sale database to legislative aides and think-tank analysts.  A database like this could be monitored by everyone and could not be abused by the government.  “The goal here is to find a solution that both parties can agree on,” Strgar said. “I am not interested in developing something for one side of the discussion, that people try to force down the throat of parties coming from the other side. One of the nice things about technology is that you can develop systems that work for people.”

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.

Will Huang, Vedant Saran, and Alvin Wan are 2018 U.S. Imagine Cup Winners

Three EECS students are in the top two teams which won the U.S. Imagine Cup Finals in San Francisco this week.  In the three-day event, sponsored by Microsoft, competing teams from across the United States presented and demoed their tech projects to a panel of VIP judges.  Will Huang (EECS M.Eng. program) and Vedant Saran (EECS senior) are on the 1st place U.C. Berkeley Pengram team, which received a $10k prize plus a $1k Judges' Mixed Reality Award.  The Pengram team built an AR/VR platform which allows engineers from around the world to be holographically ‘teleported’ into a workspace when needed.   Alvin Wan (EECS senior) is on the UC Berkeley/Johns Hopkins Boomerang team, which placed 2nd and received an $8k prize plus a $1k Judges' Data & IoT Award. The Boomerang team created a hybrid device and smartphone platform that monitors inhaler location for patients with asthma, notifying them of missing devices. The 6 winning teams will advance to the Imagine Cup World Finals this summer, where they will represent the United States for the chance to take home the trophy and win the $100,000 grand prize.  The competition is designed to empower "the next generation of computer science students to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications that shape how we live, work and play."

Alex Stamos to deliver Kahn lecture at CCNY

EECS alumnus Alex Stamos (B.S. '01), currently the Chief Security Officer at Facebook, will be the featured speaker on May 10 at the 2018 Robert Kahn & Patrice Lyons Lecture, hosted by the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York (CCNY).   The title of his talk is "Building Security for All." Stamos is an expert in global scale infrastructure, designing trustworthy systems, and mobile security, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and industry events, including Black Hat, RSA, DEF CON, Milken Global, Amazon ZonCon, Microsoft Blue Hat, FS-ISAC, and Infragard.   Before Facebook, Stamos served as the CISO of Yahoo, where he led the security team to develop innovative security technology and products. He was also the co-founder of security consultancy iSEC Partners, a company that helped hundreds of companies build secure and safe systems.  CCNY ranks #2 in the Chronicle of Higher Education among public colleges with the greatest success in ensuring the social mobility of their student body.