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Jedi mind tricks, Virginia tech and Ebola modeling

Shutterstock image: ebola virus.

Apparently, these are the droids IARPA was looking for

The winning solution for of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity's first public challenge contest, has the name to match the initiative.

IARPA said the solution, chosen from among almost 40 submissions for its Investigating Novel Statistical Techniques to Identify Neurophysiological Correlates of Trustworthiness (INSTINCT) challenge, is called "Jedi Mind."

The solution was submitted in the crowdsource challenge IARPA launched in February. IARPA is planning another challenge to get speech recognition software ideas.

The idea of the INSTINCT challenge, said IARPA, was to drive high-risk, high-payoff research using neural, physiological, and behavioral signals to help anticipate other people's intentions or behavior -- in other words, what's known colloquially as a "Jedi mind trick."

The solution, provided by two researchers at BAE Systems' Adaptive Reasoning Technologies Group, Troy Lau and Scott Kuzdeba, is called JEDI MIND, short for "Joint Estimation of Deception Intent via Multisource Integration of Neuropsychological Discriminators." Lau and Kuzdeba, said IARPA, combined innovative statistical techniques that improved predictions approximately 15 percent over the baseline analysis. The agency said the men found that a person's heart rate and reaction time were among the most useful signals for predicting how likely their partner was to keep a promise.

McAuliffe: Virginia looking to tech as federal dollars wane

Federal agencies aren't the only ones still feeling the effects of sequestration -- and turning to IT as a way to manage with tighter budgets. As Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe stressed at an Oct. 10 discussion with area tech leaders, the state of Virginia itself is feeling the pinch.

At a gathering hosted by local venture firm TandemNSI, McAuliffe and other Virginia officials noted that federal budget cuts and agency relocations have resulted in more vacant office space and less tax revenue for places like Arlington County, where the event was held.

"How do you replace those lost defense job assets?" McAuliffe asked. "It's going to be all technology."

The governor touted a range of programs and incentives to help technology startups, and promised to push for more IT talent as well. "There are 31,000 technology jobs in northern Virginia that we can't fill," he said. "I want 50,000 credentials in the next three years while I'm in office."

McAuliffe also said state government could be a "first customer" for firms trying to turn early federal funding into a viable product -- "startups that have applications for us, you should come to us first," he said.

Such aggressive efforts to support tech firms are not optional, McAuliffe said. "The Virginia economy of old, where we relied on the federal government," is gone and must be retooled, he said. That "15 percent of our [economy] is about to be cut dramatically."

CDC's online modeling tool deployed against Ebola

An online modeling tool offered free by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping the governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia construct projections of Ebola cases and how they can better slow the disease.

The Ebola Response modeling tool helps planners make better-informed decisions about their emergency response resources, allowing input of the most current data reflecting situations on the ground in the affected countries and local communities.

The tool, based on Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet, makes case projections, but the health agency said it also models the impact of key elements essential to controlling the outbreak, such as the number of sick individuals who have been effectively isolated and safe burial practices. Non-isolated cases and traditional burial practices have been blamed for the rapid spread of the disease in West Africa.

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