Will these be the quickest movie downloads ever? South Korea to slash film download times to one second

Having to wait for films and games to download could be a thing of the past, at least for those living in South Korea. The government has announced plans to introduce superfast mobile internet that will allow users to download and start watching a film instantly.

The South Korean government announced this week that it is going to invest $1.5bn in the development of mobile technology that’s 1,000 times faster than the best services available at the moment.

The proposed 5G technology, which will improve upon current 4G technology, will allow users to download full-length films in one second.

For customers this will mark an almost total elimination of waiting times when wanting to download a movie. While it should also be possible to use the greater internet capacity for running multiple applications and background updates while

South Korea is the latest interested party to begin researching the next generation of mobile internet. Samsung is currently at the forefront of development and announced a breakthrough in technology last year.

However those eager for a more connected world will have to wait for a few years yet as the South Korean government have said if all goes to plan a trial 5G service should be in place by 2017. A full commercial service is intended to be in place three years later.

Sceptics of the faster speeds will question the time it will take to upgrade systems, with 4G in the UK taking a long time to be implemented by mobile networks.

EE was the first company to start providing a live 4G network in the UK, which was switched on and launched at the end of October.  The network is available in 160 towns and cities across the country but coverage still remains patchy in areas – with approximately 70% of the country covered by the end of 2013.

Other competitors started rolling out their coverage in the months after EE but some lagged behind. Judging by the time it has taken for the 4G network to be adopted in the UK, including the lengthy bidding processes for a share of the network, it could be a long time after 2020 before 5G is introduced.


Image courtesy of Ariel da Silva Parreira.


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IMAX unveils first virtual reality center

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Beyond biomimicry: Scientists find better-than-nature run style for six-legged robots

Researchers have found a running style for six-legged robots that significantly improves on the traditional nature-inspired method of movement.

The research, conducted by scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL) in Switzerland, found that as long as the robots are not equipped with insect-like adhesive pads, it is faster for them to move with only two legs on the ground at any given time.

Robotics has in the past few years made heavy use of biomimicry – the practice of mimicking natural systems – resulting in six-legged robots being designed to move like insects. In nature, insects use what is known as a tripod gait, where they have three legs on the ground at a time, so it had been assumed that this was the most efficient way for similarly legged robots to move.

However, by undertaking a series of computer simulations, tests on robots and experiments on Drosophila melanogaster – better known as the common fruit fly – the scientists found that the two-legged approach, which they have dubbed the bipod gait, results in faster and more efficient movement.

The core goal of the research, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, was to confirm whether the long-held assumption that a tripod gait was best was indeed correct.

“We wanted to determine why insects use a tripod gait and identify whether it is, indeed, the fastest way for six-legged animals and robots to walk,” said Pavan Ramdya, study co-lead and corresponding author.

Initially, this involved the use of a simulated insect model based on the common fruit fly and an algorithm designed to mimic different evolutionary stages. This algorithm simulated different potential gaits to create a shortlist of those that it deemed to be the fastest.

This, however, shed light on why insects have a tripod gait – and why it may not be the best option for robots. The simulations showed that the traditional tripod gait works in combination with the adhesive pad found on the ends of insects’ legs to make climbing over vertical surfaces such as rocks easier and quicker.

Robots, however, are typically designed to walk along flat surfaces, and so the benefits of such a gait are lost.

“Our findings support the idea that insects use a tripod gait to most effectively walk on surfaces in three dimensions, and because their legs have adhesive properties. This confirms a long-standing biological hypothesis,” said Ramdya. “Ground robots should therefore break free from only using the tripod gait”.

Study co-lead authors Robin Thandiackal (left) and Pavan Ramdya with the six-legged robot used in the research. Images courtesy of EPFL/Alain Herzog

To for always corroborate the simulation’s findings, the researchers built a six-legged robot that could move either with a bipod or tripod gait, and which quickly confirmed the research by being faster when moving with just two legs on the ground at once.

However, they went further by confirming that the adhesive pads were in fact playing a role in the insect’s tripod movement.

They did this by equipping the fruit flies with tiny polymer boots that would cover the adhesive pads, and so remove their role in the way the insects moved. The flies’ responses confirms their theory: they began moving with a bipod-like gate rather than their conventional tripod-style movement.

“This result shows that, unlike most robots, animals can adapt to find new ways of walking under new circumstances,” said study co-lead author Robin Thandiackal.

As bizarre as the research sounds, it provides valuable new insights both for roboticists and biologists, and could lead to a new standard in the way that six legged robots are designed to move.

“There is a natural dialogue between robotics and biology: Many robot designers are inspired by nature and biologists can use robots to better understand the behavior of animal species,” added Thandiackal. “We believe that our work represents an important contribution to the study of animal and robotic locomotion.”