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Published: August 14, 2017

HP Labs intern Swetha RevanurHP Labs intern Swetha Revanur

We first met with Swetha Revanur last summer, when she was a recent high school graduate heading for Stanford University and interning in HP’s Emerging Compute Lab on a project that used sensor data to create simulations of how people move around in different living spaces. This year, Revanur is back in the same lab but working on a new challenge. We caught up with her to see how her academic interests have developed over the last twelve months and to learn about what she’s been working on this time around.

HP: First of all, how was your freshman year at Stanford?

I had an amazing freshman year! I’ve met some of the most brilliant people, the classes were just the right amount of challenging, and I joined an acapella group on campus. In December, I also traveled out to Sweden to speak at the 2016 Nobel Prize Ceremonies and meet the laureates. I’m excited to start my sophomore year in September!

HP: Are you still planning to major in computer science?

Yes, that hasn’t changed! When I started at Stanford, I was interested in biocomputation, but my interests have since shifted to artificial intelligence.

HP: What prompted the change?

The decision was actually driven largely by my work at HP Labs last summer where I had a lot of exposure to the algorithmic side of computer science. I think that if I can understand these algorithms and optimize them, I can have a much larger impact in whatever sector I choose to work in. At the end of the day, machine learning can always be applied to health, and it has a huge scope. 

HP: So what are you working on this year?

I’m with the same team in the Emerging Compute Lab, but instead of looking at sensor analytics, I’ve shifted my focus to the intersection of deep learning and robotics. I’m using techniques in reinforcement learning, which lets us train software agents to find the optimal actions to take in specific environments. I’ve developed a hybrid approach that maintains the same performance as state-of-the-art reinforcement learning algorithms, while improving data and cost efficiency.

HP: How’s it going?

Reinforcement learning is a new area of study for me, and so it’s been a fruitful process of self-teaching. Initially, I was wrangling with pages of linear algebra to understand how existing methods work. Once I got my bearings, I was able to point out gaps and come up with optimizations, and now I’ve implemented the algorithm in TensorFlow.

HP: How will you test the new algorithm?

The new hybrid algorithm will be tested in simulation. I’ll start with simple tests with basic software agents. For example, I recently ran a test where a pendulum was trained to stay upright. Gradually, we’ll work up to full humanoid simulations.

HP: Why is HP interested in this work?

A lot of folks in HP Labs are working in a fundamental robotics research space, on projects like mapping, localization, and navigation. My hybrid approach helps cut time and cost requirements in that space. In general, robotics dovetails really well into the social, business, and home application layers that HP is a major player in.

I was invited to speak at the HP Labs global all-employee meeting with our CTO, Shane Wall. The implications of better reinforcement learning are broad, the interest is there, and I’m excited to see where it takes us.

    HP Labs Innovation
Published: September 14, 2017

Sound-graph_Immersive-Audio.jpg

Audiophiles know that sound reproduction is improved by adding more speakers to a room and making them larger. But that won’t help make today’s increasingly slim and often tinny-sounding laptops, tablets, and phones sound good.

There is a way, however, to make small devices sound larger and better, enabling a high-quality, immersive audio experience, suggests HP Labs researcher Sunil Bharitkar a member of the Media team in HP’s Emerging Compute Lab.

“We can use software to process the audio signals on HP devices so that they approximate the spatial quality of sound that you hear in a room with a multi-loudspeaker audio system,” he says. “We call it immersive audio.”

While competing approaches offer similar processing techniques, the key to HP’s lies in applying specific audio filters and “transforms” that create natural sounding audio with a low compute complexity.

Bharitkar has been guiding an effort at HP Labs, in partnership with colleagues in HP’s Personal Systems and Print groups spearheaded by Personal Systems Chief Technologist Mike Nash, to use this research to upgrade the audio quality on HP’s mobile and desktop devices.

“Audio is an essential, and often underestimated, component of any technology experience, which is why we’re thrilled to be working in close collaboration with HP Labs to make our devices sounds second to none in the industry,” says Nash.

 

Immersive Audio Flow Chart.png

The team first needed to establish objective metrics against which to measure audio performance on HP devices. Based on the outcome of those measurements, they then started redesigning HP’s audio processing technology from the ground up, an effort that has included creating a novel signal topology and a unique set of audio filters.

Additionally, the researchers are applying machine learning in their audio processing topology to classify the sound content (whether it was a movie, for example, or a song). Furthermore, using machine learning it can be ensured that multiple layers of unnecessary processing are not applied where the content is identified as having already been processed, reducing the signal processing compute load and minimizing artifacts.

 

Head, Torso & Mouth Simulator used by HP Labs for extracting directional cues associated with sound localization, and for speech reproduction.Head, Torso & Mouth Simulator used by HP Labs for extracting directional cues associated with sound localization, and for speech reproduction.This is rapidly taking users towards an experience – delivered either through a device’s small speakers or a set of headphones – that faithfully reproduces the intent of its creator of any kind of audio, from a song recorded in a small studio to a Hollywood blockbuster, while consuming as little processing power as possible.

Thanks to commonalities between internationally standardized testing methodologies used for image and audio quality assessments, the HP team have been able to draw on the experience of HP’s Print Quality Evaluation group to test their improvements, assembling several panels of non-experts to evaluate their innovations..

In an effort led by HP Mobility’s Head of Software, Chris Kruger, the first iterations of HP’s new audio processing algorithms are now being packaged into the Qualcomm Snapdragon audio processing chips used in HP mobile devices. Next up: further refining the technology and adding it to HP’s consumer offerings, and towards that the Labs are working closely with Sound Research, an HP partner, for integration.

Published: September 10, 2017

HP_Security_Council_Banner.jpg

 

HP’s Security Advisory Board enlists a trio of security experts to help it triumph in a malicious new world.

 

For decades, hackers fell squarely into two camps: “black hats” in it to show off their skills, and then later, for money, espionage and data theft, and “white hats” who breached systems to uncover flaws before the bad guys could find them and make sure companies promptly fix them.

Now, destruction for destruction’s sake has become a hallmark of the global cyberattack.  The foremost example being the 2012 Shamoon attack in Saudi Arabia on one of the world's largest oil companies, that wiped or destroyed 35,000 computers before the devastation was halted. Similar attacks aiming to render PC hardware inoperable have continued since, with Shamoon 2.0 earlier this year or even some of the NotPetya variants more recently. With malicious actors everywhere looking for any possible exploit, one key to surviving the constant escalation of threats is to keep reinventing how you stay ahead of the game.

A new Security Advisory Board organized by HP aims to do just that, by bringing a trio of outside security experts inside the company. All three initial members have unique first-hand expertise in the world of hacking and the latest developments in security technology and strategies.  

Michael CalceMichael CalceThe board builds on over two decades of HP leadership in cybersecurity for endpoint devices. As the world’s largest PC manufacturer and leading maker of printers, HP has driven a slew of security innovations, from technology that provides cryptographically secure updates of a device’s BIOS to run-time intrusion detection, which checks for anomalies, automatically rebooting when an intrusion is detected.

These security experts will act as a reconnaissance team, providing insights from the front lines that the company will use to reinforce its own security work. The board will also generate strategic conversations about the rapidly shifting security landscape with HP executives and the market. 

“We want to be the sharpest we can be on what the future holds, understanding the threat landscape today and being able to address the real problems of tomorrow,” says Boris Balacheff, HP’s chief technologist for system security research and innovation. 

The person HP chose to lead the advisory board is far from your run-of-the-mill corporate security expert. The new chairman, security consultant Michael Calce, a.k.a. “Mafiaboy,” launched his public career in 2000 at the age of 15 by unleashing a massive cyberattack that brought down Yahoo!, eBay and Amazon. It led to an FBI manhunt and $1.7 billion in economic fallout.  

Robert MasseRobert MasseJoining him is Robert Masse, a partner at a major consulting firm (acting independently in this instance), with more than 20 years of experience in cybersecurity, focusing on risk management and – ironically – a shared history with Calce. Following his own run-in with law enforcement over hacking when he was a teen, Masse provided guidance to Calce after his arrest.

A third member is Justine Bone, who began her career doing reverse engineering and vulnerability research at New Zealand’s version of the U.S. National Security Agency before leading security for companies, including Bloomberg LP. She’s now the CEO of MedSec, which analyzes technology security for healthcare companies.Justine BoneJustine Bone

The Security Advisory Board will work with HP to identify evolving threats and help companies adapt to the fundamental changes taking place in the security landscape. One of these changes is that inadequate security can’t be hidden anymore; the hackers’ armory is too deep and sophisticated and automated attack tools are constantly on the lookout for flaws to exploit. Bone says it takes only two and a half minutes after you plug in a smart camera or screw in a smart light bulb for an internet bot to compromise that device. Billions of connected devices span every inch of our economy and our lives, from supply chains and energy grids to connected cars.

That’s putting everyone under a microscope, from the top of the chain to the bottom. “Security has become an imperative for our customers,” says HP’s Balacheff.  With the average U.S. breach costing $7 million and intensifying scrutiny from consumers and investors, it’s increasingly clear that everyone throughout an organization, from a company’s security group up to the board, needs to be involved in anticipating security threats. “Originally cybersecurity was an IT problem. What we’re seeing is now it's being heavily looked at by the board and the audit and risk committee and treated like any other risk,” says Masse. “I think now's the time where we really have the opportunity to improve things at a much better level than before.”

Additionally, organizations need help understanding just how profoundly the thinking behind security strategy needs to change. Traditionally, companies felt that software or network security solutions would be the answer, however with the evolution of attacker sophistication and our increased dependency on devices for everything we do, it is no longer that simple. Security needs to start at the lowest level of hardware and firmware design.

When baby monitors are conscripted into botnets to launch assaults that take down Twitter and Netflix, it’s clear that any connected device can be attacked. And as the flood of network-connected gadgets continues to rise — 20 billion such devices are expected to be in service by 2020 — this challenge will only grow.

That’s why every device must be built from the ground up to be secure and able to adapt, says Calce. This principle is one the tech industry has always preached, but hasn’t always practiced. An example of this, Calce explains, is when a computer or printer boots up: up to a million lines of code can be executed before the device’s operating system is even loaded, in what is known the device's 'firmware' (often still referred to as BIOS in PCs). This occurs before the user is even able to see any kind of welcome screen. Designing protections, but also the ability to detect attack and recover a compromised device, that is how far HP has gone, trailblazing the future of endpoint security by designing hardware-enforced cyber-resilient devices.

“For years,” says Bone, “software and hardware makers were able to rely on security by obscurity. There was no upside to building in this quality all the way through the product because nobody was asking questions. Now, though, people are definitely asking.”

That’s where HP has been focused for years. The security board members say it’s paying off — that’s why they’re eager to work with HP to get this message out. 

“HP is looking to implement security on anything and everything they develop,” says Calce. “That’s the type of mindset we need if we ever want to have some level of security in this world.”

For more information on how HP is creating the most secure business devices in the world visit www.hp.com/reinventsecurity.

Published: August 09, 2017

HP Labs intern David HoHP Labs intern David Ho

David Ho is about to enter his fifth year in Purdue University’s Ph.D. program in electrical and computer engineering where he specializes in image processing and computer vision research. Ho moved to the US from Gwangju, Korea during high school, and then attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study for both undergraduate and Masters degrees in electrical and computer engineering. This summer, Ho has been working on a collaboration between HP’s Print Software Platform organization and Emerging Compute Lab, called Pixel Intelligence, applying his expertise in image segmentation to the challenge of picking out people in any specific image.

HP: Can you tell us more about your internship project?

I’ve been using deep learning to improve what we call person segmentation, which is where a computer is able to separate the image of a person from any background. Humans can distinguish between different kinds of images very easily. But computers just see images as an array of pixel values. So we need to find ways to make computers “understand” images of people as people.

HP: How have you been doing that?

I’ve been taking several existing data sets of images where we have already established the “ground truth” of the images and using those data sets to teach a computer program what a person looks like. Once it is trained, I input new images and see how well the program can pick people out of them. The idea is to reduce the number of errors we get in doing that, and to be able to do it faster.

HP: How has it been going?

We’ve had some good results. One thing we’ve been able to do is get this running on a webcam camera, so that it can segment out people in every frame it records.

HP: What’s the challenge in doing that?

One is getting it to work for a relatively crude camera. Another, which we’re still working on, is reducing the processing required to do the segmentation. So far we’ve been running it on a processing unit designed for heavy computation. But we’d like to be able to run it on a smaller device.

HP: Will this work feature in your Ph.D. thesis?

Not directly. In my Ph.D., I’m also looking at applying deep learning to image processing, but I’m looking at understanding microscope images and segmenting out different biological structures. So the application is different but the main idea is the same: helping computers to make sense of interesting images.

HP: Is this your first time interning at HP Labs?

Yes, and it’s my first internship in an industrial lab.

HP: What has struck you as different about working in an industrial lab setting?

I’ve been impressed how industrial labs value creating software that anyone can use. My segmentation solution was pretty good, for example, but required a lot of processing power. So my mentor, Dr. Qian Lin, has pushed me to make it smaller so it’s of more value to more people.

Published: July 27, 2017

HP Labs intern Allison MooreHP Labs intern Allison Moore

Allison Moore is a rising senior at Homestead High School in Cupertino, California. She’s a competitive fencer and member of her school’s robotics team. She’s been surprised at how seriously high school interns are taken at HP Labs. “I expected that I’d just be told what to do and not really be involved in developing a study,” Moore says. “But we’re all working together and I have a lot of flexibility to follow my interests in terms of the contribution I’m making.”

HP: So what are you working on this summer?

I’m helping with a user study on self-expression and clothing in HP’s Immersive Experiences Lab. Right now we’re working on developing what we want to ask people. We’re going to have people bring in pictures of different outfits that they wear for different kinds of activities and then talk about items that they use to customize and personalize their appearance in those situations.

HP: Can you explain the thinking behind the study?

People say a lot through what they wear. Sometimes it’s visual, where you are saying it to everybody. Sometimes it’s more private. It can also seem like you are making a trivial decision in deciding what to wear, but it has a big impact on how people look at you and how you feel about yourself. When you wear an item that doesn’t make you feel comfortable, you really notice it and it can change how you behave. We’re interested in that, and in how we can make people feel more comfortable with who they are.

HP: What’s your role in the study?

I’m making props that we’re using to get people thinking about possible applications of personalization and customization using 2D and 3D printing. For example, I just designed some buttons that we’re going to 3D print. I might also be going in the room and asking people questions when we do the study itself.

HP: What are you hoping you’ll find?

I hope we find ways in which people can use printing to express themselves in different situations, even ones where they feel vulnerable. So that even if you are in an environment where you have to wear clothing that you don’t like, you can still express yourself in that environment and feel comfortable in it.

HP: Is interning at HP Labs changing your thinking about what you’d like to major in at college?

It’s definitely helping me figure out the general area I want to go into. And I’m seeing that it’s okay to pursue multiple options, like science and the liberal arts, at the same time. It’s also got me thinking more about what I want out of a career – how do I follow my passions and also make a difference, and what kind of work will I want to come in and do every day?