Computers can now imagine narration and dialogue based on video

A video segment inspires this computer program to create a sentence of narration based on what happens.
A video segment inspires this computer program to create a sentence of narration based on what happens.

Korean research team announced on Feb. 3 that they have successfully developed an imaginative computer program that can acquire information contained in videos and make up words or dialogue suitable for each scene shown on the screen. A research team headed by Jang Byung-tak, professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Seoul National University, entered the 1,232 minute long Korean animation Pororo into the computer program. They found that the program was able to teach itself to recognize scenes, lines, stories, and characters using associative memory that resembles a human brain’s neural network.

After entering specific scenes, the program can create dialogues appropriate for each character. The dialogues may differ from the original ones. It is also possible to see different versions created depending on whether 100 minutes or 10,000 minutes of the cartoon are entered into the program. The phenomenon is attributable to the possibility that the nature of characters may change as time goes by.

For full article, see Business Korea.


New plant compounds become pest control

Pictured (left) is the ovarium of a normal mosquito. Pictured (center, right) are abnormally developed ovaria due to changes in the JHAs.

A team of researchers has identified plant compounds that can kill targeted pests, leaving the rest of the plant unharmed. Comprised of Dr. Oh Hyun-woo of the Korea Research Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) and Professors Sim Sang-wun and Je Yun-ho of Seoul National University, the research team identified plant compounds that can serve as a Juvenile Hormone Antagonists (JHA). They succeeded in isolating such substances from plants and this is expected to lead to the development of insecticides that are safe for both humans and the environment.

The juvenile hormone controls an insects’ metamorphosis, the process of emerging from an egg and shedding its skin on a regular basis. It also controls reproduction in female adults. Controlling the JHAs interrupt hormone activation and prevent insects from going through a normal metamorphosis and reproducing normally. Previously, this type of research was done by observing abnormal developments and deaths in targeted cells and insects. This time, however, the new technology used a “yeast/ two-hybrid” system to transform the mosquito’s junior hormone receptor. This made it easier to see whether or not the JHAs can affect the receptor. Also, using this process allowed the scientists to save both time and money.

For full article, see

Graphene smartphone to arrive soon

2014_02_graphene smart phoneSamsung Techwin and researchers from the Seoul National University co-developed touch screen smartphone with a promising new material ‘graphene’ layer. They developed smartphones based on technology for mass production of graphene, paving the way for the commercial production of graphene, analysts said.

Samsung Techwin’s Research & Development (R&D) Center and the chemistry department professor Hong Byung-hee and his researchers from Seoul National University noted Monday that they succeeded in applying touch screen made out of large-scale graphene film to Samsung’s smartphone ‘Galaxy.’ The research outcome was announced in the international academic journal in the nano field ‘ACS Nano.’

The latest research demonstrated the possibility of mass producing mobile phones using graphene, opening the way for graphene to be utilized in diverse areas including bendable displays and semiconductors.

The researchers adopted ‘Rapid Thermal CVD’ technology to produce graphene film. This technology saves time for mass production of graphene from 300 to 40 minutes, allowing for production of quality graphene with the size of 400×300㎟ at low temperatures.

For full article, see Maeil Business.

Water expert calls for more collection of rainfall

2013_04_watercollectionIn the early 2000s, a stifling heat blanketed many parts of Korea for months, triggering severe water shortages especially in rural areas and islands. The prolonged drought had put top water expert Han Moo-young at bay by “depriving him of the stuff to treat,” as he put it. But it was also a watershed moment in his career as it brought home to the engineering professor at Seoul National University the worth of a very basic component of nature: rain.

“Then it finally rained for such a long time, but people didn’t like it because it makes you wet and causes inconvenience,” he said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald. “In contrast, I thought I would do some work with rainfall possibly to reuse it later. But it turned out there was nothing much to treat because the water quality was really good.”

Then he began delving into a technology called rainwater harvesting, where rain is collected from relatively clean surfaces such as rooftops, rocks or the ground and stored for later use. In 2001, Han set up the Rainwater Research Center, a first of its kind here, at SNU where he teaches civil and environmental engineering. He has since then been advising central and local governments in Korea and proving free consultations for agencies and institutions in water-scarce developing countries to help them adopt the method.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Korean universities rank high among Asia’s top 100 institutions

Korean universities have taken three of the top 10 places in a recent ranking of Asia’s best institutions.

In the first edition of Asia University Rankings released on Wednesday, Korea had 14 of the top 100 institutions and more in the top 10 than any other country, according to Times Higher Education. Pohang University of Science and Technology ranked fifth on the list, followed by Seoul National University in eighth. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology was ranked 10th.

The British weekly magazine published the list by using 13 separate performance indicators, including teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

LED effective in acne treatment

Acne vulgaris is a common disease, accounting for over 30 percent of visits to dermatology clinics. There is a range of treatments but some are accompanied by side effects such as a burning sensation and resistance to antibiotics. The search for alternative treatments thus continues, and light emitting diode (LED) has been recently touted.

A research team led by Prof. Suh Dae-hun at Seoul National University Hospital and Prof. Lee Jee-bum at Chonnam National University Hospital showed through clinical research that it is really effective. “Blue and red lights have been reported to have beneficial effects for acne through distinct mechanisms. However, there has been no double blind randomized study for a combination of blue and red light emitting diode phototherapy,” they noted in the research.

Irradiation from blue visible light has been known to combat acne through a process that leads to bacterial destruction, while red light has also been reported to have anti-inflammatory properties. However, this wasn’t backed up by clinical tests.

For full article, see Korea Times.

SNU professor finds new role of stem cell protein

Professor Kim V-narry of Seoul National University is once again in the headlines producing research results published in the online version of the leading biological journal Cell for the second time in less than two weeks. In her most recent research, Kim and her team proved that the protein Lin-28A is closely involved in suppressing protein expression in stem cells.

Until now, the Lin-28 protein’s only known function was suppression of specific microRNA molecules, which in turn regulate gene expression. In the previous research, the results of which were published in the online version of the Cell on Oct. 12, Kim and her team discovered a previously unknown step in the production of microRNA let-7.

In the latest research, Kim’s team used a technique known as crosslinking immunoprecipitation-sequencing to identify to which RNA molecules the Lin-28A protein binds to in living stem cells. Through the experiment the team discovered that Lin-28A binds not only to microRNA molecules, as previously thought, but also to a large number of RNA molecules involved in protein synthesis that takes place on the surface of the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Scientists aim to start stem cell therapy of Alzheimer’s by 2016

A team of Korean scientists are striving to develop a stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s disease by 2016 based on their latest discovery of how to grapple with the degenerative illness.  The team, led by professor Suh Yoo-hun at Seoul National University and RNL Stem Cell Research Institute head Ra Jeong-chan, said that their findings will open a new door to conquering Alzheimer’s disease.

“When we started experiments of injecting fat-derived human adult stem cells into mice with Alzheimer’s disease three years ago, we were skeptical. But we were surprised to learn that they substantially improved,’’ Suh said in a press conference. “As far as cognitive functions are concerned, the mice nearly recovered to normal. In addition, we discovered that the adult stem cells have preventive effects on potential sufferers of Alzheimer’s.’’

Encouraged by the positive results of the animal tests, Suh’s team applied for an approval on clinical tests on human patients.

For full article see Korea Times.

Hospitals and telecom firms develop ‘smart’ services

Smartphones and tablet computers have changed the way we live our daily lives, from how we access the news to how we purchase music. Telecommunication conglomerates in Korea are jumping on the latest smart- device gold mine: the medical market.

Leading companies including SK Telecom and KT are joining hands with major hospitals to develop new medical services based on information communication technology (ICT) and network operational know-how.

In January, Seoul National University Hospital established a joint health care company with SK Telecom called Health Connect, which emphasizes “smart mobile health,” connecting all stakeholders of medical services. The joint venture was established with 20 billion won ($17.64 million) in capital.

KT is preparing to launch a health care company next month specializing in the convergence of medical services and ICT with the Yonsei University health system, which runs Severance Hospital.

For full article see Joongang Daily.

Stem cell therapy drops cost of heart attack aid

A 62-year-old heart attack patient surnamed Kim, who was hovering between life and death, received a coronary angioplasty to open blocked arteries to his heart in April 2009.The surgery was performed at the Seoul National University Hospital. At that time, his doctor asked Kim if he was willing to participate in a stem cell clinical test that was being promoted by the hospital, and he agreed. The surgery involved a procedure of injecting stem cells taken from his blood supply into the damaged heart muscle.

The operation ended after 30 minutes. After six months and two years, the stem cell clinical trial team conducted a magnetic resonance imaging scan of Kim’s heart. It was found to be improved, and it stayed improved during the following checkup period.

A team of professors at Seoul National University Hospital’s cardiovascular center, led by Kim Hyo-soo and Kang Hyun-jae, said yesterday that they requested the Committee for New Health Technology Assessment under the Ministry of Health and Welfare to approve the clinical use of their stem cell therapy in November of last year.

For full article see Joongang Daily.