BBC iPlayer to Offer Higher Quality Content

Technology, The Interwebs, TV & Film 1 Comment »

The BBC iPlayer has been provided with a recent upgrade courtesy of an Adobe Flash upgrade. The upgrade has provided the iPlayer with a reason to encode its video content at a higher bit rate for its popular iPlayer VOD service.

At 800kbps and in H.264 format, the BBC promises better and sharper images which will be ideal for large size, HD ready screens and simultaneously, the BBC will start using AAC+ for audio.

This development also means that both the iTouch and the iPhone will be provided with better quality content via the iPlayer.

The move away from VP6 compression technology is due partly to the fact H.264 and AAC+ are fairly open platforms compared to the aforementioned one which was developed by On2.

Version of the iPlayer that are to be developed in the future will also detect which bit rate to stream automatically, enabling the new iPlayer to cater for a wide range of broadband speeds throughout the country.

“The advantage for the audience will be a noticeable improvement in audio and video quality. Furthermore, it should become easier for the media to simply work across a broader range of devices. While it’s not a magic bullet, it certainly is a significant step in the right direction.”
- BBC director of future media and technology Erik Huggers

The Shelf has previous highlighted how Internet Service Providers had suggested that they should not carry sole responsibly for paying for the extra costs that come as a result of the popularity of the iPlayer’s success. (Titled ISPs vs BBC iPlayer)

Well, after this ISPs could be even more miffed, since it means that in effect, the bandwidth consumed by the average iPlayer user could jump by nearly 60 percent overnight piling pressure on them.

Predictions for Robotics

Technology 3 Comments »

The future of robotics could see robots taking an active role in law enforcement and the provision of social order according to predictions by AI Professor Noel Sharkey from Sheffield University.

After a two month long study of the evolution of robotics it was predicted that in the future robots that have the ability to access large amounts of data instantaneously to identify people could play an active role on UK streets.

The core prediction made focus around the computing power that could be made implemented into portable units, allowing for near instant facial recognition, body scanning for foreign objects such as weapons, and even detection of explosive substances. It is thought that these units could then be dispatched to public places, providing extra levels of security that are not currently possible.

It was also thought that any such robots would be armed, and with super human strength would be able to make arrests and break up groups with anti-social behaviour.

It was predicated that robots of this type could be in place within 30 years. It is thought that is likely to be more likely to be 60 years be enough advancements are made to replace other enforcement roles such as traffic ticketing.

At the time of robotic ticketing it is predicted that advancements will have been made enabling autonomous police cars, which would be capable of immediate number plate recognition. They could then stop cars to make arrests for a variety of misdemeanours as well as bring joyriding to an end.

Te 80 year prediction says that robots will be made from inorganic materials and have human face expressions and will patrol calmer streets armed with bionic tools. They will be able to take DNA tests and use respiration, heart rate and temperature as lie detector technologies.

“Hollywood movies and TV shows such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles have been dismissed as fantastical over the years, but this report, based on existing research and current technological developments, suggests that robots will play a much bigger role in society over the next 75 years than previously anticipated.”

“These robot developments could be extremely beneficial in the protection of citizens and police in the hands of benevolent governments. But in the wrong hands, as warned in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, robot law enforcement could be a major blow to individual privacy and basic human rights.”

Google Street View to Launch in UK

Technology, The Interwebs 2 Comments »

Google’s new Street View service was this week given the go ahead in the UK after the service was given the okay forms the privacy watchdog. The service had attracted opposition from civil liberties campaigners concerned that that the service would infringe on individual’s right to privacy and break data protection laws.

The Street View system will take photos of streets at ground level to provide users of Google maps with a ground level view of the location they are viewing.

The information commissioner said in a statement that it was “satisfied” Google had put safeguards in place to avoid risking anyone’s privacy or safety. These safeguards include blurring the faces of people and number plates of vehicles.

The statement read – “Although it is possible that in certain limited circumstances an image may allow the identification of an individual, it is clear that Google are keen to capture images of streets and not individuals.”

It was also reiterated that due to the time delay between picture and update to the web, the service could not be used as a tracking tool.

The Street View tool has already been launched in the US in 2007 with ground views of a selection of major cities. It has since expanded it reach and is now looking to expand the service internationally.

Street View cars have been seen throughout the UK but Google has yet to reveal when pictures will be added to UK maps.

Google said of the ruling – “We’ve always said we will not launch in UK until we are comfortable Street View complies with local law,” they added, “and that we will use technology, like face-blurring, licence plate blurring and operational controls, such as image removal tools, so Street View remains useful and in keeping with local norms wherever it is available.”

New iPod Touch to Include GPS?

Music, Technology 1 Comment »

Early in 2008 Apple announced the launch of the 32GB iPod Touch to the extremely popular 8GB and 16 GB range. Knowing the new iPod Touch is due to be launched in the future is not breaking news, however some sources are reporting that there are new clues suggesting significant developments will be made in the new model.

It is being reported today that there are references being made to an Apple iPod Touch 2,1, which would insinuate a big step forward in the devices capabilities.

Currently the iPod Touch models are know as 1,1 the same group as the first generation iPhone. With the addition of models carrying extra capacity the group number is not usually altered, as was the case in January with the launch of the 32GB version.

Instead these numbers are often changed when the device launched has new features, such as the iPhons’s 3G model is now know as 1,2.

This certainly goes a long way to argue that the new iPod Touch will carry more features. What features these might be remain guarded, but with the recent launch of the new iPhone ant iPod Touch developments are bound not to overshadow that.

Some are expecting the addition of GPS with potentially a 64GB memory.

Pioneer Develop 400GB Optical Disc

Technology 2 Comments »

Electronics firm Pioneer have developed a new 16 layer read only optical disc that has the capacity to store 400 gigabytes of data.

Each layer of the disc is capable of individually storing 25 gigabytes which is the same as that of a Blu-ray disc. The multilayer recording technology will also be applicable to recordable discs, boosting confidence that optical disc storage will remain a viable option in the future as increased storage capacities are required.

By using optical disc production technology that the firm has already has in place in the DVD field, pioneer has overcome problems of crosstalk from adjacent layers by using a new disc structure. This results in a 16 layer optical disc capable of playing back high-quality signals from every layer.

Pioneer achieved stability in the playback of recorded signals by employing a wide-range spherical aberration compensator and light-receiving element that can read out weak signals at a high signal-to-noise ratio in the optical pick-up mechanism.

Since the optical specifications of the objective lens, such as NA (Numerical Aperture), are the same as those for the existing BD discs, it is possible to maintain compatibility between the new 16-layer optical disc and the BD discs.

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