How the USB Taught North Korea to Love K-Pop

By Jeremy Hsu | April 6, 2018 4:13 pm
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets four members of the K-pop group Red Velvet and other South Korean music artists. Credit: KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets four members of the K-pop group Red Velvet and other South Korean music artists. Credit: KCNA

A seemingly cheap and ordinary technology may have paved the way for a cultural exchange breakthrough that saw South Korean K-pop idols receive an unprecedented welcome from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

It was not the first time that democratic South Korea has sent music acts to North Korea as part of diplomatic overtures to the authoritarian regime. In 1999, two pioneering K-pop groups, including the girl group Fin.K.L. and the boy band Sechskies, performed in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. In 2003, a similar K-pop outreach concert featuring the K-pop boy band Shinhwa and the girl group Baby V.O.X. met with a fairly lukewarm reception from a blank-faced North Korean crowd.

But this year’s K-pop delegation received a standing ovation from a North Korean audience that included Kim Jong Un, whose presence at the April 1 concert marked the first time a North Korean leader has ever attended a South Korean performance in Pyongyang. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Fastest Delivery Drone Starts Lifesaving Flights

By Jeremy Hsu | April 3, 2018 12:07 am
Zipline Delivery Drone Launch

The launch of a Zipline delivery drone that can parachute medical supplies to remote hospitals and clinics. Credit: Zipline

Delivery drones can be game changers if they go beyond merely offering convenience to becoming lifesaving technologies on a daily basis. That has already become reality in Rwanda, where a Silicon Valley startup called Zipline uses delivery drones to make timely drop-offs to hospitals and clinics across the country. Now Zipline has begun flying what it describes as the world’s fastest commercial delivery drones in its expanding operations that could include the United States by the end of 2018. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

WWII Warship Lost with Five Sullivan Brothers Has Been Found

By Jeremy Hsu | March 27, 2018 4:18 pm
A gun turret containing a Mark 12 5-inch gun from the USS Juneau that was discovered as part of the sunken warship's wreckage on March 17, 2018. Credit: Navigea Ltd.

A gun turret containing a Mark 12 5-inch gun from the USS Juneau that was discovered as part of the sunken warship’s wreckage on March 17, 2018. Credit: Navigea Ltd.

One of the most well-known stories of family sacrifice in wartime is the loss of the five Sullivan brothers aboard the light cruiser USS Juneau during World War II. That story resurfaced after an expedition headed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen discovered wreckage from the USS Juneau lying on the ocean floor in the South Pacific. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Video Shows Self-Driving Uber Inaction in Pedestrian Death

By Jeremy Hsu | March 21, 2018 9:57 pm
An Uber self-driving car prototype on the road. Credit: Uber

An Uber self-driving car prototype on the road. Credit: Uber

A self-driving Uber accident that killed a homeless woman represents a somber milestone in the development of self-driving car technologies. Now a video of the accident may raise more questions about why the Uber vehicle failed to react to the woman and thereby claimed the life of the first pedestrian victim in self-driving car history. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Rediscovered US Carrier Sank in Historic WWII Duel

By Jeremy Hsu | March 18, 2018 10:19 pm
An antiaircraft gun from the wreckage of the USS Lexingon, a U.S. Navy carrier that was sunk during the Battle of Coral Sea in World War II. Credit: Navigea Ltd.

An antiaircraft gun from the wreckage of the USS Lexingon, a U.S. Navy carrier that was sunk during the Battle of Coral Sea in World War II. Credit: Navigea Ltd.

When the aircraft carrier USS Lexington sank beneath the surface of the Coral Sea, it represented a significant casualty of history’s first clash between carriers during World War II. 76 years later, an expedition led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced that it had rediscovered wreckage from the carrier known as “Lady Lex” lying on the seafloor about 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Ride-Hailing Congestion Dims Promise of Robot Taxis

By Jeremy Hsu | February 28, 2018 11:51 pm
Self-driving car prototypes belonging to Uber's Advanced Technologies Center. Credit: Uber

Self-driving car prototypes belonging to Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center. Credit: Uber

It’s still too early to give a definite thumbs up or thumbs down to promises of future driverless cars reducing private car ownership by acting as robot chauffeurs. But evidence from today’s ride-hailing services suggests that Uber, Lyft and Waymo may only worsen traffic congestion by crowding roads with robot taxis in the near future. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Grocers Get Robotic Help to Compete Against Amazon

By Jeremy Hsu | February 21, 2018 11:54 pm
The startup CommonSense Robotics aims to create automated warehouses that enable faster and cost-efficient grocery delivery within cities. Credit: CommonSense Robotics

The startup CommonSense Robotics aims to create automated warehouses that enable faster and cost-efficient grocery delivery within cities. Credit: CommonSense Robotics

“What happens if grocery retailers can help you put a fresh dinner on the table faster than pizza delivery and cheaper than restaurant delivery?” That vision comes from CommonSense Robotics, an Israeli startup with plans to open its first AI-run fulfillment centers staffed by both robots and human workers in Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom before the end of 2018. Such a service could help local grocery stores survive the coming onslaught from Amazon’s aggressive expansion into online grocery shopping. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Ford’s Robot Police Car Is No RoboCop

By Jeremy Hsu | February 12, 2018 4:10 pm
A view from a cyborg police officer in the 2014 film "RoboCop." Credit: Sony Pictures

A view from a cyborg police officer in the 2014 film “RoboCop.” Credit: Sony Pictures

Before the RoboCop future arrives, a robot police car that pulls over speeding vehicles and issues tickets or warnings on its own could someday help ease a shortage of human officers at police departments across the United States. But the vision of a self-driving police vehicle described in a Ford patent also raises many questions about whether such technology is the right tool for law enforcement. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Why Star Wars Space Nazis Shun Killer Robots

By Jeremy Hsu | January 19, 2018 2:50 pm
Captain Phasma stands with several of her First Order stormtroopers in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Credit: Disney

Captain Phasma stands with several of her First Order stormtroopers in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Credit: Lucasfilm | Disney

Star Wars films tend to dwell upon space fantasy adventures that mix starships with space wizards wielding laser swords in a galaxy far, far away. Despite that focus, a number of Star Wars films also happen to feature another staple of science fiction: killer robots.

Fictional killer robots often represent either the agents of greater villains or the primary existential threat to humanity in many science fiction films. Iconic Star Wars villains such as Darth Vader and Kylo Ren would seem to naturally go glove-in-hand with the idea of commanding killer robot armies to do their bidding. But the Star Wars films generally go in a different direction by featuring villains who mostly disdain the use of killer robots—even if the bad guys may secretly like the idea of mindless automatons doing their bidding.

Turn back now if you want to avoid spoilers on any of the Star Wars films other than “The Last Jedi.”

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

This Tycoon’s Secret Radar Lab Helped Win WWII

By Jeremy Hsu | January 15, 2018 1:48 pm
Alfred Lee Loomis in his Tower House lab, Tuxedo Park, NY. Credit: Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, image # SIA2008-5428

Alfred Lee Loomis in his Tower House lab, Tuxedo Park, NY. Credit: Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, image # SIA2008-5428

Scientists and engineers who worked for MIT’s Radiation Laboratory had a saying about World War II: The atomic bomb may have ended the war, but radar won it. A new PBS documentary makes the case for that bold statement by telling the story of Alfred Lee Loomis, a founder of the Radiation Lab and a millionaire Wall Street tycoon who directed the U.S. government’s wartime effort to develop radar technologies into effective weapons. But even before the war, Loomis had built up his scientific credentials by inviting the best U.S. and foreign scientists to visit his private science laboratory in a renovated mansion that famed physicist Albert Einstein dubbed a “palace of science.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts
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Lovesick Cyborg

Lovesick Cyborg examines how technology shapes our human experience of the world on both an emotional and physical level. I’ll focus on stories such as why audiences loved or hated Hollywood’s digital resurrection of fallen actors, how soldiers interact with battlefield robots and the capability of music fans to idolize virtual pop stars. Other stories might include the experience of using an advanced prosthetic limb, whether or not people trust driverless cars with their lives, and how virtual reality headsets or 3-D film technology can make some people physically ill.
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