Tag Archives: technology

DPRK 360

Watch the First 360-Degree Video Shot in North Korea

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Singaporean photographer Aram Pan has captured a number of fascinating images of North Korea since making his first trip to the country in 2013. He initially began photographing the hermit kingdom to quench his personal curiosity, but soon the project expanded into something greater.

Pan’s photography project DPRK 360 focuses on engaging North Koreans in a positive, friendly and non-political manner. With every subsequent visit, Pan has been allowed even more freedom to explore North Korea. He’s captured North Korean women’s fashion shows, couples publicly showing affection and locals working in the countryside in photos, videos and even 360-degree panoramas.

During his latest visit in June through Young Pioneer Tours, Pan brought along a new toy: a super-wide angle Entaniya Fisheye Lens from Entapano. The result is the world’s first 360-degree video entirely shot in North Korea. The 19-minute video includes footage of North Koreans studying in a classroom, tourists walking to the Tumen River, Pan chatting with locals and glimpses of North Korean landscapes.

What’s really cool is that viewers can “look around.” If you’re viewing the video through a mobile device (must install the latest YouTube app), you can move your phone as a lens to view the scenery, or use your fingers to adjust what you see. Computer users (must have the latest HTML5 capable browser) can click and drag to adjust the view, or use the WASD keys.

However, the video is quite heavy on memory usage and the Internet, so your best experience will be on capable mobile devices and computers with a decent Wi-Fi connection. The video is also compatible with VR headsets, just in case any of our readers own a pair.

You can watch the video below. Pan was excited to share the video with our readers, telling KoreAm, “I think everyone will be geeked out.”

Pan’s work will be included in a photo exhibition at the upcoming “Desire to Unify” event in Seoul from September 23 to 25. He recently spoke at the inauguration ceremony, sharing his approach and mindset in reaching out to North Koreans.

“[The North Koreans] are beginning to understand what I’m trying to do,” Pan told KoreAm in an interview back in November 2014. “I merely want to try to understand what they are all about. I believe that over time, they will show me more and more stuff about what it means to be North Korean.

“I strongly believe that what I’m doing is paving the way for a peaceful option for them to open up to the world. The results won’t be immediate, but let’s take it one step at a time.”

See Also


Photographer Aram Pan Presents a Different Angle to North Korea

Uri Tours Focuses on North Korea Tourism


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South Korean Startup Ybrain Targets Brain Disorders With Health Care Tech

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim


Wearable technology isn’t just relegated to fitness tracking and reading text messages off a $10,000-plus gold Apple Watch. Tech companies are exploring different opportunities to integrate devices with improving how we go about our lives, and healthcare is an open field.

South Korean health care startup Ybrain is going for our noggins—specifically, what’s impairing our memory. Their devices tackle some of the most degenerative brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and they may be available for consumer use by as early as next year.

“Our ambition is to challenge one of the toughest problems humanity faces today,” Ybrain CEO Kiwon Lee told Forbes. “Cancer is nearing a cure. But we don’t yet have a cure for Alzheimer’s, even with today’s most advanced medical technology.”

The devices work though a “very non-invasive form of brain stimulation” that is much more favorable to taking pills to combat symptoms, according to Lee. The wearable band for Alzheimer’s patients has two sensors embedded in the front, providing electronic signals at 2 mA at regular intervals to stimulate brain activity and combat the effects of the disease. Ybrain’s goal is to eventually get the synapses to function optimally on their own “more naturally without any failure.”

Ybrain began clinical trials last year on Alzheimer’s patients, and results were promising—Business Korea said the devices were the “best solution for combatting Alzheimer’s at [that] time.” After raising $4.2 million in funds last summer, Ybrain began clinical tests for similar treatment for clinical depression and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is characterized by memory problems beyond those associated with normal aging and may signal a serious decline of dementia in the future.

The Korean company plans to release two devices: the Brain Wellness and Brain Fullness. The former will be geared towards treating brain disorders, while the latter will be an option for those who want to enhance normal brain functions and condition their brain to work at a higher level. In other words, “brain fitness” is going to be a thing.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 5.22.05 PM(Screenshot captured from Ybrain.com)

Ybrain plans to follow up the initial line of headsets with ones that can treat depression and a number of other mental health conditions, including addiction, trauma, eating disorders and schizophrenia—all while being worn at home.

Further use of the technology could significantly lower the cost of research and treatment. Ybrain is developing a diagnostic platform that collects data from headset users, then relays the information to doctors and medical researchers. Usually, Lee said, devices can only be operated by experts.

“When we started the company we felt that everyone should be able to use it by themselves,” he continued. “Our device is connected to our platform, so brain management, neuromodulation can be operated remotely and closely studied to assess brain wave patterns.”

Ybrain’s products are expected to hit the market next year.


Featured image via Be Success

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Samsung’s ‘Safety Truck’ Allows Drivers to See the Road Ahead

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim


Overtaking a truck on a two-lane highway isn’t always the easiest task in the world. But what if we could see through the truck instead of cautiously attempting to peek around the edge of the semi?

Samsung’s experimental Safety Trucks could provide a solution in the near future. Utilizing a combination of wireless cameras and four Samsung monitors, the Safety Truck seeks to make driving on single-lane roads easier and safer.

Samsung Tomorrow wrote in a blog post that the Safety Truck technology can also help reduce accidents caused by sudden braking or animals crossing the road. The camera and displays also support night vision.

Samsung ran a pilot test with a prototype of the Safety Truck in Argentina, which has some of the worst accident rates in the world. While the prototype truck is no longer operational, the technology does work. With this in mind, the company said the next step would be to work with safe driving organizations and the government to obtain permits and approvals, as well as make sure any future versions of the Safety Truck comply with existing protocols.

Forbes brought up a few questions and potential issues—for one, would the system end up causing more problems than it proposes to solve? How distracting would the screens be, especially at night? How reliable will both the camera and display be in bad weather? Also, will the screens would be prime targets for stealing and/or vandalizing?

Regardless, if all things check out for Safety Trucks, there’s a possibility that the new tech will help reduce South Korea’s high number of road deaths. In 2014, South Korea was reported to have the second-highest traffic fatality rate among 31 OECD member nations, according to Yonhap News Agency.


Featured image via Samsung Tomorrow

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Fitbit Goes Public, Co-Founder Confident in Further Growth

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim


Fitbit on Thursday became the first startup in the wearable fitness tracker industry to go public, and needless to say, it got off to a running start. The company’s shares surged on the New York Stock Exchange more than 50 percent when trading began on Wall Street, opening at $30.40 per share, up 52 percent from its IPO price of $20. It closed up 48.4 percent ($9.68) at $29.68, raising $732 million for itself and shareholders. The IPO price valued Fitbit at $4.1 billion.

Since being founded in 2007 by James Park and Eric Friedman, Fitbit has become a household name due to its popular and lightweight wearable fitness trackers—in 2014, the company reported 10.9 million devices sold and $745 million in revenue with a profit of $131.8 million, reversing its negative net incomes from 2012 and 2013.

Park, Fitbit’s CEO, told Forbes the company’s recent profitability could be traced to “financial discipline,” as the company hasn’t relied much on outside investment. Earlier this year, the San Francisco-based company unveiled a new line of products—the Charge, Surge and Surge HR, priced from $59.95 to $249.95—which have also boosted sales.


The full Fitbit family (from left to right): Zip, One, Flex, Charge, Aria Smart Scale, Charge HR and Surge. Image courtesy of Fitbit

Fitbit owns an 85 percent market share in the competitive wearables industry, Park told the New York Times. Still, Chinese companies like Xiaomi are increasingly on the up-and-up with more cheaply priced products, while, on the other end of the extreme, the multi-dimensional Apple Watch (priced from $549 to more than $1,000) may leave simpler fitness trackers behind in the dust. But Park told the Times he isn’t worried, emphasizing that the market for wearables is big enough for coexistence. (Market analyst group CCS Insight predicts that the wristband market could nearly triple in sales over the next three years.)

Rather than going head-to-head with the Apple Watch, Fitbit plans to continue to focus solely on fitness, says Park. He told the New York Times that the capital from the IPO would be spent on investing in research and development of new hardware and software, and possibly even exploring further acquisitions (Fitbit bought fitness app developer FitStar earlier this year). Park estimated that the company would triple R&D costs this year to $150 million.

“It takes an enormous amount of R&D spending to create compelling products and software,” Park explained to Forbes. “A key part of our success has been focus. All we do are health and fitness tracking products. We don’t create phones and light bulbs. The focus has allowed us to succeed over the years.”

See Also:


Fitbit Searches for Identity in a Crowded Wearables Market – KoreAm Journal


Feature image via Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

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Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.03.33 PM

Will New Yorkers Go Cuckoo for KakaoTaxi?


by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Daum Kakao Corp. is considering bringing South Korea’s most popular cab-hailing app service to the Big Apple, according to Bloomberg.

KakaoTaxi launched just over two months ago, but since then, the Korean app has rapidly overtaken Uber, with reportedly more than 2 million cumulative bookings and about a third of the nation’s taxi drivers registered on the app.

KakaoTaxi’s popularity with Korean commuters isn’t just attributed to the brand recognition of KakaoTalk, South Korea’s most popular mobile messenger. Its software monitors real-time traffic—an invaluable resource in an urban setting like Seoul—to calculate the estimated time of arrival for a taxi to reach a passenger. Passengers can conveniently pay their fares with their T-money card, which is also used for buses, subways and select taxis.

KakaoTaxi also addresses many of the security issues that have plagued Uber’s services around the world. The app provides a full profile on the drivers, who must carry an official taxi license to be a KakaoTaxi driver. When passengers enter the cab, they can send push notifications to friends and family that includes their real-time location, pick-up time, estimated ride time and any messages.

John Jung, Daum Kakao’s director of business development, told Bloomberg that KakaoTaxi’s success also came from their willingness to work with the government and cooperate with the taxi industry—both of which were upset over Uber’s business. The government booked Uber Korea employees on suspicion of operating illegal taxi services in the country back in March, leading to the company suspending its services in Seoul.

Since Uber and other ride-sharing apps began operations in New York City in 2012, the city and its Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has heard complaints from both the established taxi industry and ride-sharing providers. Yellow-cab drivers have claimed Uber’s business is illegal because drivers do not have to pay fees or buy expensive medallions. Total yellow-cab trips fell 8 percent between 2012 and 2014 since Uber began operations in the city.

On the other hand, ride-sharing app providers have complained about city policies, opposing new regulations that they claim would “threaten the options” both riders and drivers rely on.

Uber and other ride-sharing companies are not permitted to operate outside of New York City. Lyft was shut down after a brief run in cities like Buffalo and Rochester due to concerns from state regulators. A bill was introduced in the New York State Legislature to open access to outside of New York City earlier this year, but the bill is reportedly stuck in limbo.

See Also


KakaoTaxi Hits the Road in South Korea, Challenging Uber

Uber Korea Employees Charged with Operating Illegal Taxi Ring

How KakaoTalk Founder Became South Korea’s Rarest Billionaire


Featured image via whowired.com

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South Koreans Seeking Transparency Develop MERS Info-Sharing Tools

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

South Koreans frustrated over the government’s handling of the MERS virus outbreak have taken matters into their own hands and have been developing tools to help share accurate information with one another, according to Korea Bizwire.

A popular website called MERS Map allows users to browse a map of the country to view and share information about which hospitals have treated, diagnosed and isolated individuals with the MERS virus. MERS Map accepts reports from the general public—these individuals must be logged in with their Facebook profile, and they must provide clear evidence from media reports. Other netizens can flag rumors, and if more than five individuals do so, the piece of information is deleted from the site.

There are talks of developing MERS Map into an app, while other similar maps have also made their rounds on social networks. For those seeking information on the virus itself, a medical industry labor union released a web page detailing past and current MERS virus outbreaks with links to additional information.

Government officials said they would be stepping up their response on Friday, following the death of the fourth victim. Currently, 41 people have been infected, and more than 1,600 people have been placed under quarantine. Precautionary masks are commonplace as more than 1,000 schools and colleges have closed.

South Koreans have largely been skeptical of reassurances from public officials, and they have blasted the government for their lack of transparency and what they saw as an inadequate response. The health ministry drew criticism for taking a while to release the name of the hospital where the first person diagnosed with MERS was treated.

It doesn’t help that public officials are going back and forth. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon criticized the government for not reporting the first MERS diagnosis of a doctor who was believed to have attended a conference with nearly 1,500 people while infectious. The mayor told reporters on Friday that the city would be “embarking on a war against MERS” and take “swift and stern measures.”

Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo apologized for causing public anxiety but shot back at Park, accusing him and other Seoul officials of giving out incorrect information that he said would increase public alarm.

See Also


More Reason for Calm Than Panic in South Korea’s MERS Scare

“South Korea’s Tally of MERS Rises to 12″


Feature image via Yonhap/AFP/Getty Images

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campus seoul

Google Opens First Asian ‘Startup Campus’ in Seoul

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

South Korea’s startup scene is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing in the world, and Google’s “Campus Seoul” is expected to only add fuel to its growth.

Google officially opened Campus Seoul on May 8 after announcing the entrepreneurial center’s launch last August. Seoul is Google’s first Asian start-up campus and third international campus, following two other campuses in London and Tel Aviv. Google also plans to establish campuses in Warsaw and Sao Paulo in the near future.

Campus Seoul will support local entrepreneurs by serving as a “community hub” and foster creative ideas by connecting professionals on a local level. Additionally, the campus gives entrepreneurs access to Google’s extensive international network, which allows them to connect with fellow startups and venture capital firms on a global scale.

South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) expects that Campus Seoul participants will attract more investment by targeting the global market from the beginning of establishing their startups. Previously, Google and the MSIP joined forces to support the K-Startup program, which attracted more than $23 million (USD) in investment and created 77 startup companies from 2012 to last year, according to Business Korea.

South Korea is quite fitting to house the first Google Campus in Asia. The country already boasts a reputation for being the perfect place to test next-gen IT technology, since it has the highest smartphone penetration rates and Internet of Things (IoT) utilization rates. The government is also pouring money into the startup scene, and the trendy neighborhood of Gangnam has become the brightest spot in the country for new tech businesses.


Featured image courtesy of Google’s Asia Pacific Blog 


Samsonite and Samsung Partner Up to Create ‘Smart Luggage’

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Travelers rejoice—you may soon never have to worry about lost luggage again.

Travel luggage maker Samsonite is teaming up with Samsung to utilize GPS and computer chips to keep track of your bags the moment they leave your hands, according to the Daily Mail. Samsung will understandably provide the chips while Samsonite figures out a way to build them into their line of bags.

The concept of GPS-tracking chips isn’t original, as most of our smartphones (and now wearable tech) come with one. It was only a matter of time that a company would utilize the well-proven technology with luggage, but this “smart luggage” goes beyond just tracking where the luggage goes.

Through an app, travelers receive alerts when their luggage is unloaded from, say, an airplane and when they are about to appear on the carousel at the airport. Smart bags can also notify their owners when they’re being opened or moved beyond a comfortable distance from the owner.

There’s no release date as of yet, but it can’t be too far off. The Verge noted that NYC-based company Bluesmart unveiled its Indiegogo campaign back in October 2014 with similar “smart luggage” technology that also utilizes Bluetooth technology. The crowdfunding campaign for Bluesmart’s carry-on blasted past its initial $50,000 goal easily, topping the $2 million mark in just a few months. There’s clearly a demand for more smart luggage on the market.

Future iterations may also include smart bags that allow you to skip the check-in line, as they’ll relay their own weight and destination to the airline’s computer system. Samsonite is also exploring the concept of self-propelling smart luggage that follows its owner around, according to the company’s chief executive, Ramesh Tainwala. As of right now, though, the technology is too bulky and heavy for commercial use.