Factor Reviews: Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch

Among all the fitness gadgets I’ve tried for Factor so far, Fitbit’s Blaze smartwatch is the first that has thoroughly impressed me, both in the gym and for everyday use. For the past three weeks I’ve tested in on everything from MMA to yoga and from running to weights, and I already don’t remember how I ever got through my daily fitness routine without it.

Slim and stylish, the Blaze is comfortable enough to wear around the clock – even at night. It comes with a range of accessories, including the standard elastomer band, a softer nylon version, and some very smart-looking (if somewhat expensive) leather and metal options that will go nicely with any business suit.

Image courtesy of Fitbit

Its high-resolution colour touchscreen, supported by three buttons, allows for easy and intuitive access to all features and offers a range of styles for the clock face. As a nifty extra, you can make the screen wake up and go to sleep with a simple flick of the wrist.

The Blaze tracks daily essentials (steps, distance, calories, heart rate) as well as most major sport modes, with the option to customise shortcuts for your preferred activities through the paired app. It also features sleep tracking, connected GPS, smartphone notifications and controls, silent alarms and a small selection of on-screen workouts.

In exercise mode, you can flick through comprehensive tracking information on screen – and here comes my only point of criticism: The screen can be a bit tricky to use when on the move, especially with sweaty hands, and sometimes requires repeated tapping to respond.

Image courtesy of Fitbit

Images courtesy of Fitbit

For more in-depth analysis of all the stats collected, the Blaze syncs (via Bluetooth) with Fitbit’s superb smartphone app, which completes the full fitness picture with sleep analysis, food and weight logs, a calories in vs out tracker that adapts to your activity level throughout the day, and a range of goals and challenges to keep you motivated.

Battery life is very decent; it charges in two hours and lasts around four days when in constant use.

Prices start at £159.99 for the basic frame and band and special editions are available at £179.99, but a stainless steel band will set you back a further £89.99.

Overall, the Blaze is a brilliant smart watch for all your fitness tracking needs that’s also stylish and comfortable enough to convince as an all-day accessory, offering a whole lot of useful features at a reasonable price. I’m not taking it off anytime soon.

Factor’s verdict:

factor-rating-5

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag