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The Best of CES 2021: Gadgets From the All-Digital Tech Show

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

CES 2021 was unlike any trade show we've ever experienced. Due to Covid-19, it was "all digital," which really meant "mostly websites." To find the hot stuff this year, we didn't wander the millions of square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center and surrounding facilities, but instead watched streamed presentations, combed through hundreds of exhibitors' "digital activations" and, of course, heard plenty of pitches from entrepreneurs and marketing folks eager to keep us in the loop--global pandemic or not. That means we weren't able to touch and feel the innovations like in years past--although we did get some stuff sent to our homes. Still, it hasn't stopped us from bringing you the craziest, coolest and kookiest gadgets we could find.


The language of a virus

Science

Uncovering connections between seemingly unrelated branches of science might accelerate research in one branch by using the methods developed in the other branch as stepping stones. On page 284 of this issue, Hie et al. ([ 1 ][1]) provide an elegant example of such unexpected connections. The authors have uncovered a parallel between the properties of a virus and its interpretation by the host immune system and the properties of a sentence in natural language and its interpretation by a human. By leveraging an extensive natural language processing (NLP) toolbox ([ 2 ][2], [ 3 ][3]) developed over the years, they have come up with a powerful new method for the identification of mutations that allow a virus to escape from recognition by neutralizing antibodies. In 1950, Alan Turing predicted that machines will eventually compete with men in “intellectual fields” and suggested that one possible way forward would be to build a machine that can be taught to understand and speak English ([ 4 ][4]). This was, and still is, an ambitious goal. It is clear that language grammar can provide a formal skeleton for building sentences, but how can machines be trained to infer the meanings? In natural language, there are many ways to express the same idea, and yet small changes in expression can often change the meaning. Linguistics developed a way of quantifying the similarity of meaning (semantics). Specifically, it was proposed that words that are used in the same context are likely to have similar meanings ([ 5 ][5], [ 6 ][6]). This distributional hypothesis became a key feature for the computational technique in NLP, known as word (semantic) embedding. The main idea is to characterize words as vectors that represent distributional properties in a large amount of language data and then embed these sparse, high-dimensional vectors into more manageable, low-dimensional space in a distance-preserving manner. By the distributional hypothesis, this technique should group words that have similar semantics together in the embedding space. Hie et al. proposed that viruses can also be thought to have a grammar and semantics. Intuitively, the grammar describes which sequences make specific viruses (or their parts). Biologically, a viral protein sequence should have all the properties needed to invade a host, multiply, and continue invading another host. Thus, in some way, the grammar represents the fitness of a virus. With enough data, current machine learning approaches can be used to learn this sequence-based fitness function. ![Figure][7] Predicting immune escape The constrained semantic change search algorithm obtains semantic embeddings of all mutated protein sequences using bidirectional long short-term memory (LSTM). The sequences are ranked according to the combined score of the semantic change (the distance of a mutation from the original sequence) and fitness (the probability that a mutation appears in viral sequences). GRAPHIC: V. ALTOUNIAN/SCIENCE But what would be the meaning (semantics) of a virus? Hie et al. suggested that the semantics of a virus should be defined in terms of its recognition by immune systems. Specifically, viruses with different semantics would require a different state of the immune system (for example, different antibodies) to be recognized. The authors hypothesized that semantic embeddings allow sequences that require different immune responses to be uncovered. In this context, words represent protein sequences (or protein fragments), and recognition of such protein fragments is the task performed by the immune system. To escape immune responses, viral genomes can become mutated so that the virus evolves to no longer be recognized by the immune system. However, a virus that acquires a mutation that compromises its function (and thus fitness) will not survive. Using the NLP analogy, immune escape will be achieved by the mutations that change the semantics of the virus while maintaining its grammaticality so that the virus will remain infectious but escape the immune system. On the basis of this idea, Hie et al. developed a new approach, called constrained semantic change search (CSCS). Computationally, the goal of CSCS is to identify mutations that confer high fitness and substantial semantic changes at the same time (see the figure). The immune escape scores are computed by combining the two quantities. The search algorithm builds on a powerful deep learning technique for language modeling, called long short-term memory (LSTM), to obtain semantic embeddings of all mutated sequences and rank the sequences according to their immune escape scores in the embedded space. The semantic changes correspond to the distance of the mutated sequences to the original sequence in the semantic embedding, and its “grammaticality” (or fitness) is estimated by the probability that the mutation appears in viral sequences. The immune escape scores can then be computed by simultaneously considering both the semantic distance and fitness probability. Hie et al. confirmed their hypothesis for the correspondence of grammaticality and semantics to fitness and immune response in three viral proteins: influenza A hemagglutinin (HA), HIV-1 envelope (Env), and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Spike. For the analogy of semantics to immune response, they found that clusters of semantically similar viruses were in good correspondence with virus subtypes, host, or both, confirming that the language model can extract functional meanings from protein sequences. The clustering patterns also revealed interspecies transmissibility and antigenic similarity. The correspondence of grammaticality to fitness was assessed more directly by using deep mutational scans evaluated for replication fitness (for HA and Env) or binding (for Spike). The combined model was tested against experimentally verified mutations that allow for immue escape. Scoring each amino acid residue with CSCS, the authors uncovered viral protein regions that are significantly enriched with escape potential: the head of HA for influenza, the V1/V2 hypervariable regions for HIV Env, and the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and amino-terminal domain for SARS-CoV-2 Spike. The language of viral evolution and escape proposed by Hie et al. provides a powerful framework for predicting mutations that lead to viral escape. However, interesting questions remain. Further extending the natural language analogy, it is notable that individuals can interpret the same English sentence differently depending on their past experience and the fluency in the language. Similarly, immune response differs between individuals depending on factors such as past pathogenic exposures and overall “strength” of the immune system. It will be interesting to see whether the proposed approach can be adapted to provide a “personalized” view of the language of virus evolution. 1. [↵][8]1. B. Hie, 2. E. Zhong, 3. B. Berger, 4. B. Bryson , Science 371, 284 (2021). [OpenUrl][9][Abstract/FREE Full Text][10] 2. [↵][11]1. L. Yann, 2. Y. Bengio, 3. G. Hinton , Nature 521, 436 (2015). [OpenUrl][12][CrossRef][13][PubMed][14] 3. [↵][15]1. T. Young, 2. D. Hazarika, 3. S. Poria, 4. E. Cambria , IEEE Comput. Intell. Mag. 13, 55 (2018). [OpenUrl][16] 4. [↵][17]1. A. Turing , Mind LIX, 433 (1950). 5. [↵][18]1. Z. S. Harris , Word 10, 146 (1954). [OpenUrl][19][CrossRef][20][PubMed][21] 6. [↵][22]1. J. R. Firth , in Studies in Linguistic Analysis (1957), pp. 1–32. Acknowledgments: The authors are supported by the Intramural Research Programs of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, USA. 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Cadillac of the sky: GM reveals flying autonomous car that hits 56mph - and a self-driving shuttle

Daily Mail - Science & tech

General Motors (GM) is taking its business to new heights by unveiling a flying self-driving taxi under its Cadillac brand at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The American carmaker shared a concept video showcasing a single-seater electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that tops speeds of 56mph. Not only is GM's future taking to the skies, but the video also showed it is heading down the road with a new luxury autonomous shuttle that seats two passengers. The concept vehicles were revealed during the firm's morning remarks at the tech conference that is being held virtually for the first time due to the lingering coronavirus pandemic. General Motors (GM) shared a concept video of two futuristic vehicles under the Cadillac brand.


L.A. students must get COVID-19 vaccine to return to campus, Beutner says

Los Angeles Times

Once COVID-19 vaccines are available to children, Los Angeles students will have to be immunized before they can return to campus, Supt. He did not, however, suggest that campuses remain closed until the vaccines are available. Instead, he said, the state should set the standards for reopening schools, explain the reasoning behind the standards, and then require campuses to open when these standards are achieved. A COVID-19 vaccine requirement would be "no different than students who are vaccinated for measles or mumps," Beutner said in a pre-recorded briefing. He also compared students, staff and others getting a COVID-19 vaccine to those who "are tested for tuberculosis before they come on campus. That's the best way we know to keep all on a campus safe."


Pandemic-related technologies take center stage at the first-ever virtual CES

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Pandemic-related gadgets are taking over the first-ever virtual Consumer Electronics Show. The popular technology event moved online due to the lingering coronavirus pandemic, but that has not hindered companies from showcasing new innovations that help keep the virus at bay. Firms shared first looks of technologies that will help people return to the office, ease anxieties among those under lockdown and stay safe while out and about in the real world. These gadgets include a coin-sized device that monitors vitals to identify possible coronavirus symptoms, a cat-like robot that mimics a real pet and smart masks that measure air quality. Pandemic-related gadgets are taking over the first-ever virtual Consumer Electronics Show.


L.A. County will stop using Curative coronavirus test after concerns from the FDA

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County health officials said Sunday they will stop providing a commonly used coronavirus test after federal regulators raised questions about its accuracy. The decision affects only a small number of county-supported mobile testing sites. County health officials had already discontinued the broad use of oral swab tests produced by Silicon Valley start-up Curative over the summer because of concerns about too many false negatives. The use of Curative oral swab tests at the city of Los Angeles' 10 drive-through testing sites, including the massive facility at Dodger Stadium, are unaffected by Sunday's decision. Mayor Eric Garcetti has defended the tests as broadly effective and said that moving away from them could lead to fewer people being diagnosed and greater spread of the virus.


What to expect at the first ever all-digital CES 2021

CNN Top Stories

New York (CNN Business)Disinfectant gadgets, next-generation fitness equipment and robots that help you cook dinner. Those are a few of the countless new products expected to be unveiled next week at the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual splashy tech conference that typically sets the tone for the biggest trends of the year. Home automation, health and 5G will once again be buzzy topics, but many companies will also introduce pandemic-specific features to reflect our increased time at home. Each year, reporters, exhibitors and investors typically explore Las Vegas showrooms filled with giant TVs, smart cars and robots fixing martinis, but CES will be online only for the first time in its 54-year history due to Covid-19. The Consumer Electronics Association, the nonprofit behind the four-day event starting Monday, said 1,800 exhibitors from around the world will fill its "digital venue" this year -- a number that's down significantly from 4,000 in-person exhibitors last year.


This year's CES show, still must-see technology -- TVs, drones, robots -- but done virtually

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

The hot topics expected to dominate the 2021 CES show, kicking off officially Monday, may sound familiar. But the annual high-tech mecca where most of the biggest names in electronics, telecommunications and software show off new products will be anything but. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to afflict the nation, hundreds of thousands of attendees will not descend on Las Vegas to ogle super-thin OLED displays or listen to the latest advances in audio. Instead, this year's CES will more likely resemble a videoconferencing meetup in Zoom or Microsoft Teams – but on steroids. Exhibitors such as LG and Sony and will show off their wares virtually with high production-quality presentations for retailers, analysts and media, all connected online. CES 2021:LG's new QNED TVs add Mini LEDs for stunning 2021 lineup Hundreds of smaller, startup tech firms will still use the multi-day event, which runs through Thursday, to unveil projects and plans to pique the interest of consumers, as well as investors.


L.A. using coronavirus test that FDA warns may produce false negatives

Los Angeles Times

The coronavirus test being provided daily to tens of thousands of residents in Los Angeles and other parts of California may be producing inaccurate results, according to a warning from federal officials that could raise questions about the accuracy of infection data shaping the pandemic response. The guidance from the Food and Drug Administration warns healthcare providers and patients that the test made by Curative, a year-old Silicon Valley start-up that supplies the oral-swab tests at L.A.'s 10 drive-through testing sites, carries a "risk of false results, particularly false negative results." To reduce the risk of false negatives, the Curative test should be used only on "symptomatic individuals within 14 days of COVID-19 symptom onset," and the swab should be observed and directed by a healthcare worker, the FDA said. The guidance, issued Monday, repeats the instructions that the FDA issued when the test was first granted an emergency-use authorization. The FDA warning appears to sharply contradict Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who in April made coronavirus testing available to anyone, regardless of symptoms.


Raising standards for global data-sharing

Science

In their Policy Forum “How to fix the GDPR's frustration of global biomedical research” (2 October 2020, p. [40][1]), J. Bovenberg et al. argue that the biomedical research community has struggled to share data outside the European Union as a result of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which strictly limits the international transfer of personal data. However, they do not acknowledge the law's flexibility, and their solutions fail to recognize the importance of multilateral efforts to raise standards for global data-sharing. Bovenberg et al. express concern about the thwarting of “critical data flows” in biomedical research. However, the limited number of critical commentaries ([ 1 ][2], [ 2 ][3]) and registered complaints ([ 3 ][4]) indicate that hindered data exchange may not be a substantial global problem. Moreover, the authors concede that during the COVID-19 pandemic, data transfers remain ongoing because transfers “necessary for important reasons of public interest” are already provided in the law [([ 4 ][5]), Article 49(1)(d)]. The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) has cautioned that transfers according to this derogation shall not become the rule in practice ([ 5 ][6]), but this conditional support for international COVID-19 data sharing shows that the law already provides suitable flexibility. This flexibility also shows the EDPB's recognition of the pressing social need that biomedical research represents for the global research community during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also seeking to ensure that this remains the exception and not the beginning of a normalized practice. Bovenberg et al. contend that pseudonymized data should not be considered personal data in the hands of an entity that does not possess the key needed for re-identification. This proposal runs against well-established guidance in EU member states such as Ireland ([ 6 ][7]) and Germany ([ 7 ][8]), and it does not take into account the cases in which identifiers remain attached to transferred biomedical data or in which data could be identified without a key. Bovenberg et al. also neglect to state that the GDPR has special principles and safeguards for particularly sensitive re-identifiable data, not just for the protection of privacy but also for the security and integrity of health research data—aims that align with all high-quality scientific research. Respecting these standards (both technical and organizational) is fundamental to ensuring better data security and accuracy in the transferring of huge datasets of sensitive health data that are essential to global collaboration [([ 4 ][5]), Articles 5 and 9, Recitals 53 and 54, and ([ 8 ][9])]. Thus, these rules should not be subject to exemptions, which would result from not classifying pseudonymized data as personal data. The purpose of the GDPR's strict rules is to ensure that when personal data are transferred to non-EU countries, the level of protection ensured in the European Union is not undermined. The EU's Court of Justice decisions ([ 9 ][10], [ 10 ][11]) make it clear that ensuring an adequate level of protection in non-EU countries, especially independent oversight and judicial remedies—which the Court found lacking in the United States—is a matter of fundamental rights. This discrepancy is an opportunity for non-EU countries, including the United States, to raise their data protection standards to the level of the European Union's, not for the European Union to decrease its own standards in a regulatory race to the bottom. We encourage research organizations and country delegations to work with the European Commission, national data protection authorities, and the EDPB to craft interoperable rules on data sharing applicable for biomedical research in ways that do not undermine fundamental rights owed to data subjects. 1. [↵][12]1. R. Eiss , Nature 584, 498 (2020). [OpenUrl][13] 2. [↵][14]1. R. Becker et al ., J. Med. Internet Res. 22, e19799 (2020). [OpenUrl][15] 3. [↵][16]1. A. Jelinek , EDPB response letter to Mark W. Libby, Chargé d'Affaires, United States Mission to the European Union (2020); [https://edpb.europa.eu/sites/edpb/files/files/file1/edpb\_letter\_out2020-0029\_usmission\_covid19.pdf][17]. 4. [↵][18]GDPR (2016); . 5. [↵][19]EDPB, “Guidelines 03/2020 on the processing of data concerning health for the purpose of scientific research in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak” (2020). 6. [↵][20]Data Protection Commission, “Guidance on Anonymisation and Pseudonymisation” (2019); [www.dataprotection.ie/sites/default/files/uploads/2019-06/190614%20Anonymisation%20and%20Pseudonymisation.pdf][21]. 7. [↵][22]German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, “Draft for a Code of Conduct on the use of GDPR compliant pseudonymisation” (2019); [www.gdd.de/downloads/aktuelles/whitepaper/Data\_Protection\_Focus\_Group-Draft\_CoC\_Pseudonymisation\_V1.0.pdf][23]. 8. [↵][24]1. D. Anderson et al ., Int. Data Privacy L. 10, 180 (2020). [OpenUrl][25] 9. [↵][26]Case C-362/14 Maximilian Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner (Court of Justice of the EU, 2015). 10. [↵][27]Case C-311/18 Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland Limited and Maximillian Schrems (Court of Justice of the EU, 2020). 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