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In his office at the VA hospital in Seattle, Dr. Nadeem Zafar needed to settle a debate. Zafar is a pathologist, the kind of doctor who carries out clinical lab tests on bodily fluids and tissues to diagnose conditions like cancer. It’s a specialty that often operates behind the scenes, but it’s a crucial backbone of medical care. Late last year, Zafar’s colleague consulted with him about a prostate cancer case. It was clear that the patient had cancer, but the two doctors disagreed about how severe it was. Zafar believed the cancer was more aggressive than his colleague did. Zafar turned to his microscope – a canonically beloved tool in pathology that the doctors rely on to help make their diagnoses. But the device is no ordinary microscope. It’s an artificial intelligence-powered microscope built by Google and the U.S. Department of Defense. The pair ran the case through the special microscope, and Zafar was right. In seconds, the AI flagged the exact part of the tumor that Zafar believed was more aggressive. After the machine backed him up, Zafar said his colleague was convinced. “He had a smile on his face, and he agreed with that,” Zafar told CNBC in an interview. “This is the beauty of this technology, it’s kind of an arbitrator of sorts.” The AI-powered tool is called an Augmented Reality Microscope, or ARM, and Google and the Department of Defense have been quietly working on it for years. The technology is still in its early days and is not actively being used to help diagnose patients yet, but initial research is promising, and officials say it could prove to be a useful tool for pathologists without easy access to a second opinion.  There are currently 13 ARMs in existence, and one is located at a Mitre facility just outside of Washington, D.C. Mitre is a nonprofit that works with government agencies to tackle big problems involving technology. Researchers there are working with the ARM to identify the vulnerabilities that could cause issues for pathologists in a clinical setting. At first glance, the ARM looks a lot like a microscope that could be found in a high school biology classroom. The device is beige with a large eyepiece and a tray for examining traditional glass slides, but it’s also connected to a boxy computer tower that houses the AI models. When a glass slide is prepared and fixed under the microscope, the AI is able to outline where the cancer is located. The outline appears as a bright green line that pathologists can see through their eyepiece and on a separate monitor. The AI also indicates how bad the cancer is, and generates a black-and-white heat map on the monitor that shows the boundary of the cancer in a pixelated form.  Patrick Minot, a senior autonomous systems engineer at Mitre, said since the AI is overlaid directly onto the microscope’s field of view, it doesn’t interrupt the pathologists’ established workflow. The easy utility is an intentional design choice. In recent years, pathologists have been contending with workforce shortages, just like many other corners of health care. But pathologists’ caseloads have also been mounting as the general population grows older. It’s a dangerous combination for the specialty. If pathologists are stretched too thin and miss something, it can have serious consequences for patients. Several organizations have been trying to digitize pathologists’ workflows as a way to increase efficiency, but digital pathology comes with its own host of challenges. Digitizing a single slide can require over a gigabyte of storage, so the infrastructure and costs associated with large-scale data collection can balloon quickly. For many smaller health systems, digitization is not yet worth the hassle. Full deatils are posted on OUR FORUM.

The United States government is taking on one of the world's most powerful companies: Google. A court battle kicks off on Tuesday in which the U.S. Justice Department will argue that Google abused its power as a monopoly to dominate the search engine business. It's the government's first major monopoly case to make it to trial in decades and the first in the age of the modern internet. The Justice Department's case hinges on claims that Google illegally orchestrated its business dealings so that it's the first search engine people see when they turn on their phones and web browsers. The government says Google's goal was to stomp out competition. "This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google's grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses, and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist," said former Attorney General William Barr when the case was first filed in October 2020. Now nearly three years later, with millions of pages of documents produced and depositions from more than 150 people, the case is going to trial.  The government's case challenges how tech companies are able to amass power and control the products people now use daily in their lives. The outcome of the case could change how tech giants are able to do business and, in effect, how the internet is run. Google, which is worth $1.7 trillion, controls around 90% of the U.S. search engine market. It's put together a massive legal team and brought on outside law firms to help fight its case. The company says its search product is superior to competitors and that is why it dominates the industry. Google says if people don't want to use its search engine, they can just switch to another. "People don't use Google because they have to — they use it because they want to," Kent Walker, one of Google's top lawyers and its president of global affairs, wrote in an emailed statement. "It's easy to switch your default search engine — we're long past the era of dial-up internet and CD-ROMs."  The last antitrust case of this magnitude took place in 1998, when the Justice Department sued Microsoft. That trial centered around claims that Microsoft illegally grouped its various products together in a way that both stifled competition and compelled people to use its products. The judge ruled in favor of the Justice Department in that case, saying Microsoft violated antitrust laws and held "an oppressive thumb on the scale of competitive fortune." The Justice Department's case against Google is strikingly similar and its lawyers are angling for the same outcome. "That case was about a monopolist tech platform and the government won," says Rebecca Haw Allensworth, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who specializes in antitrust law. "And so, everybody has viewed that as a kind of blueprint for how we might enforce the laws against the current tech giants." Learn more by visiting OUR FORUM.

Smic Huawei chip

Pic: a Huawei phone equipped with a processor manufactured by SMIC can run as fast as Apple’s iPhone. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), a Shanghai-based chipmaker, is said to have advanced its technology and supplied 7-nanometer chips to Huawei Technologies, bypassing the United States’ sanctions.

The sanctioned Chinese chipmaker hires Taiwanese engineer and uses secondhand equipment to make chips that are equivalent to Apple’s.

After Huawei unexpectedly announced on August 29 its plan to sell the Mate60 Pro, some analysts had speculated that the phone’s central processing unit (CPU) chipset, the Kirin 9000s, could have been made either by TSMC before the US curbs took effect in September 2020 or by SMIC with its latest technology.

The latest analysis shows that it is the latter case: SMIC has already developed the N+2 processing knowhow to use deep-ultraviolet (DUV) lithography to make high-energy 7nm chips.

Speed and performance testing conducted by Canadian research firm TechInsights for Bloomberg showed that Mate60 Pro’s speed reached 350 megabits per second, which is on par with Apple Inc’s iPhones. It found that the phone is equipped with 5G wireless capabilities and a system-on-chip (SoC) processor made by SMIC.

This news has caused considerable excitement. In an article published on Monday, Lu Xingzhi, a semiconductor analyst, comments:
Assuming that SMIC is making 169 square millimeter wafers with an 80% yield, it needs to have a N+2 production capacity of about 144,000 wafers. If it has to produce them within six months, its monthly production must reach 24,000 wafers, which is much higher than expected.

Lu says if these estimations are close to reality, it means that Chief Executive Liang Mong-song and his team have made a significant breakthrough in SMIC’s 7nm chip technology. He says other industry players should pay attention to this development.
Via X, Huawei, Asiatimes, Image: Handout