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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Morgan Stevens
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This week’s list of top data news highlights covers April 16, 2022 to April 22, 2022 and includes articles on using data to close the digital divide and increasing voter turnout with augmented reality.

1. Detecting Polar Bears

Researchers at Polar Bears International, a U.S.-based polar bear conservation organization, and SpotterRF, a U.S.-based radar technology company, have created an AI-powered radar system that can detect polar bears in the Arctic tundra and warn nearby humans. The system, known as a bear-dar, uses radar to detect motion in the Arctic tundra and artificial intelligence to differentiate between polar bears and other animals such as caribou and dogs. 

2. Informing Health Policy with Data

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, a new agency that will use data analytics and modeling to inform policy responses to future infectious disease outbreaks. The team plans to build upon data practices developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to improve data collection, trend prediction, and emergency decision-making guidance.

3. Analyzing Musical Success

Researchers at Stanford have used an AI system to determine the differences between one-hit wonders and artists with more consistent success. The team analyzed 3 million songs from 1959 to 2010, and found that an artist’s novelty, their songs’ similarity to contemporary music, variety, or musical consistency in their work, were most likely to affect their continued success.

4. Mapping the Moon

Researchers at NASA have created a backpack that astronauts can use to create a map of the lunar surface. The backpack contains a mobile lidar scanner that uses light and lasers to create a high-resolution map of the surrounding terrain. NASA’s astronauts will use the backpack on a trip to the moon in 2025. 

5. Answering COVID-19 Vaccine Questions

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have created a chatbot that can answer questions about COVID-19. The system, known as the Vaccine Information Resource Assistant, allows users to receive up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccine guidelines.

6. Closing the Digital Divide

The U.S. National Governors Association, a political organization for governors of the United States and U.S. territories, has published a guide for states to better collect and use data on digital literacy in the workforce. The guide includes instructions on how to collect data, assess current data inventory, communicate trends found within data, and use the data to inform policy proposals. 

7. Detecting Drones

Researchers at the University of South Australia, Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and Midspar Systems, an Australian defense technology company, have created an AI system that can detect drones. The team trained the system with spectrograms, a visual way of representing sounds, of outdoor environments with passing drones. In practice, the system can detect drones from 50 percent farther away than current techniques by filtering out irrelevant data such as loud noises or interfering signals.

8. Estimating the Beginning of Life on Earth

Researchers at the University College London have found that life on Earth likely evolved earlier than previously thought. The team used a supercomputer to digitally recreate sections of an ancient rock estimated to be between 3.75 and 4.28 billion years old. They found that bacteria likely created tree-like structures inside of the rock, signifying that life existed around this time period. Prior to this discovery, a 3.46-billion-year-old rock was the oldest evidence of life on Earth.

9. Predicting Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health Clinical Center have created an AI system that can predict a patient’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes using data on factors such as visceral fat levels and pancreatic volume. The team trained the system with 471 non-contrast abdominal CT images.

10. Increasing Voter Turnout

Snapchat and the Australian Electoral Commission have partnered to launch Snapchat lenses to increase turnout from younger voters. The lenses use augmented reality to teach voters how old they need to be to vote, encourage younger voters to check their registration status, and display stickers users can post in their snapchat messages.

Image credit: Flickr user Diverse Stock Photos

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