The worlds first back-of-the-seat screens on a train have been installed today. However, you wont find them in Japan's Bullet Train, but instead on the UK's own First Great Western high-speed trains. So far 16 carriages have been fitted out…
There seemed to be a real kerfuffle on the news this morning caused by a Cisco-sponsored survey which showed that UK finished 25th out of 66th in the broadband quality league table, lower that is than Bulgaria and Latvia. The amazing thing is that anyone was really surprised by our relatively lowly position.
As anyone who has been to South Korea and Japan – the two countries that top the table – can tell you they are simply light years ahead of us in terms of broadband penetration, speeds and quality. Indeed the South Korean government recently promised universal speeds of up to 1Gigabit per second by 2012 while we struggle to meet the global average speed of 4.75 Megabits per second (Ofcom’s April research revealed that our average broadband download speed stands at 4.1Mbps.)
Now I haven’t been to Bulgaria and Latvia so I can’t vouch for their broadband (though one wag commented on the Daily Mail site of course that the roads were much better in Bulgaria than the UK). But again it doesn’t really surprise me.
So what’s the problem? Why does the UK lag behind seemingly less developed countries when it comes to high speed delivery of internet services. The reason is largely because of lack of fibre-optic cable which is the only way of delivering the high speeds necessary for superfast broadband (currently we rely mostly on old copper telephone wire via ADSL networks). This is because for years there were dozens of tin-pot little cable companies with no money who spent more time squabbling with each other than actually digging up the roads to lay high speed cable. Even today there are large parts of densely populated neighbourhoods in London which still don’t have fibre-optic cable.
The good news though is that could be about to change, albeit slowly, with Virgin now the only cable company on the block. It is rolling out a 50Mbps service while 24Mbps ADSL2+ services via BT and others are becoming more widespread. However, it seems there is still some way to go before we reach the average download speed of 11.25Mbps that’s needed to handle future applications such as High Definition Video.
Until then Britain will have to be content with the survey’s label of ‘Meeting Needs for Today’, the broadband equivalent of ‘must try harder’.
Stick your finger in your ear. Now smile, or wink, or wrinkle your nose. Can you feel the inside of your ear move? That’s the idea behind a Japanese invention called the “Mimi Switch”.
The device looks like a pair of earbuds but instead of containing speakers, they contain tiny infrared sensors that measure the movements inside your ears that are generated by different facial expressions. Inventor Kazuhiro Taniguchi says:
“You will be able to turn on room lights or swing your washing machine into action with a quick twitch of your mouth. An iPod can start or stop music when the wearer sticks his tongue out, like in the famous Einstein picture. If he opens his eyes wide, the machine skips to the next tune. A wink with the right eye makes it go back.”
It could also monitor your mood – Taniguchi also suggests that someone who ‘isn’t smiling enough’ could be forced to listen to only happy music until they cheer the fuck up. Call me moody, but I can’t think of anything worse. There’s also health applications – one mounted on a hearing aid would be able to monitor a person’s breathing or how much they sneeze.
The device will apparently be available within “two to three years”. But that’s in Japan, which has technology that’s practically indistinguishable from magic. Expect it over here sometime next century then.
There’s a long comic book tradition of people going slightly doo-lally, building massive robot suits in their garage, and then stomping all over their enemies. Well, the Japanese just did it. They’ve built HAL, who looks like he’ll stomp all over you in an instant.
HAL is worn over your arms and legs, and uses eight motors to attached to your shoulders, elbows, knees and waist to control your movements. Let just hope that whoever’s controlling it has the same ideas about what you want to do as you do. Still, longer term, this could be an incredible help for the disabled.
Poor old Japan is about to fall behind the UK in the global video game charts, with us lot finally spending more of our remaining cash on gaming than the Japanese – making the UK second only to the USA in how much cash we blow on various Halos and Mario Karts.
Figures released by UK sales-counter Chart-Track show that for the first five weeks of 2009 sales of games were up 37% in the UK, as kids spent their Christmas money on novelty Wii games like never before…