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SA students win global supercomputing challenge

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Four students from Wits University and two students from Stellenbosch University represented South Africa at the International Supercomputing Conference in Germany this week and emerged the champions.

The students were participating in the event through the Centre for High Performance Computing’s (CHPC) Student Cluster Competition programme.

The team members from the Wits School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics are Craig Bester, Sabeehah Ismail, Andries Bingani and Avi Bank, supported by Professor Turgay Celik and mentored by Atif Muhammad. The Wits students were joined by Ashley Naúde and Leanne Johnson from Stellenbosch University.

The CHPC team advisors and mentors were CHPC engineers David Macleod and Matthew Cawood. Dell South Africa sponsored the teams travel, accommodation and equipment. Mellanox sponsored the team’s high performance network interconnect.

The CHPC team beat 11 other teams from Germany, China, Singapore, Estonia, Spain and the USA to clinch the title.

Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib adds: “We are extremely proud of our talented students who are at the cutting edge of technology. This global win demonstrates that the quality of our education is up there with the best in the world. We should also thank our partners – the Department of Science and Technology and the CSIR, as well as industry partners such as Dell and Intel for their contribution to the project. These kinds of innovative public-private partnerships will help us to move South Africa forward.”

The four Wits students, as the then Wits, team won the South African Centre for High Performance Computing Student Cluster Competition in December 2015. As the winners of the CHPC Student Cluster Competition their team formed the base of the CHPC’s ISC team. The judges chose two other competitors to bring the team up to the six members required for participation in the ISC competition.

The CHPC’s ISC team travelled to the Dell Research & Development Headquarters and the Texas Advanced Computing Center in Texas, US, in February 2016 and represented South Africa in the finals in Germany this week.

“The Faculty of Science is proud of the success of our students. The School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics has once again produced a winning team. We extend our congratulations to both the School and the students,” says Professor Ebrahim Mamoniat, Deputy Director: DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

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ConceptD: Creatives get a tech brand of their own

The unveiling of a new brand by Acer recognises the massive computing power needed in creative professions, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It’s a crisp Spring morning in Brooklyn. The regular water taxi from Manhattan pulls up at Duggal Greenhouse on the edge of the East River. It’s a building that symbolises the rejuvenation of Brooklyn as a hub of artistic and creative expression.

Inside the vast structure, global computer brand Acer is about to unveil its own tribute to creativity. Company CEO Jason Chen takes to the stage in faded blue jeans and brown t-shirt, underlining the connection of the event to the informality of the area.

“Brooklyn is become more and more diverse,” he tells a gathering of press from around the world, attending the Next@Acer media event. “It’s an area that is up and coming. It represents new lifestyles. And our theme today is turning a new chapter for creativity.”

Every year, Next@Acer is a parade of the cutting edge in gaming and educational laptops and computers. New devices from sub-brands like Predator, Helios and Nitro have gamers salivating. This year is no different, but there is a surprise in store, hinted in Chen’s introduction.

As a grand finale, he calls on stage Angelica Davila, whose day job is senior marketing manager for Acer Latin America. But she also happens to have a Masters degree in computer and electric engineering. A stint at Intel, where she joined a sales and marketing programme for engineers, set her on a new path.

Angelica Davila, marketing manager for Acer Latin America

For the last few months, she has been helping write Acer’s next chapter. She has shepherded into being nothing less than a new brand: ConceptD.

Click here to read more about ConceptD.

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Which voice assistant wins battle of translators?

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Take the most famous phrase from the Godfather – “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” – or “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” from the inaugural address of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and see just how the virtual assistants do in translating them using their newly introduced Neural Machine Translation (NMT) capabilities. One Hour Translation (OHT), the world’s largest online translation service, conducted a study to find out just how accurate these new services are.

OHT used 60 sentences from movies and famous people ranging from the Godfather and Wizard of Oz to Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, US presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy and historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Aesop. The sentences were translated by Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri from English to French, Spanish, Chinese and German and then given to five professional translators for their assessment on a scale of 1-6. 

Google Assistant scored highest in three of the four languages surveyed – English to French, English to German and English to Spanish and second in English to Chinese.  Amazon’s Alexa, whose translation engine is powered by Microsoft Translator, was tops in the English to Chinese category. Apple’s Siri was second place in English to French and English to Spanish and third place in English to German and English to Chinese.  (See chart). All three virtual assistants are compatible with mobile phones.

“The automated assistants’ translation quality was relatively high, which means that assistants are useful for handling simple translations automatically,” says Yaron Kaufman, chief marketing officer and co-founder of OHT. He predicts that “there is no doubt that the use of assistants is growing rapidly, is becoming a part of our lives and will make a huge contribution to the business world.” 

A lot will depend on further improvements in NMT technology, which has revolutionized the field of translation over the past two years.  All the companies active in the field are investing large sums as part of this effort. “OHT is working with several of the leading NMT providers to improve their engines through the use of its hybrid online translation service that combines NMT and human post-editing,” notes Kaufman. He adds that this will no doubt have a huge impact on the use of assistants for translation purposes.

OHT has made a name for itself in assessing the level of translations by NMT engines.  Its ONEs Evaluation Score is a unique human-based assessment of the leading NMT engines conducted on a quarterly basis and used as an industry standard. 

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