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

Atari tells fans its new Ataribox console will arrive in late 2018

Atari has revealed more details about its Ataribox videogame console today, with the company disclosing that the console will ship in late 2018 for somewhere between $249 and $299.

Atari says that it will launch the Ataribox on Indiegogo this autumn.

The company said it chose to launch the console in this way because it wants fans to be part of the launch, be able to gain access to early and special editions, as well as to make the Atari community “active partners” in the rollout of Ataribox.

“I was blown away when a 12-year-old knew every single game Atari had published. That’s brand magic. We’re coming in like a startup with a legacy,” said Ataribox creator and general manager Feargal Mac in an interview with VentureBeat.

“We’ve attracted a lot of interest, and AMD showed a lot of interest in supporting us and working with us. With Indiegogo, we also have a strong partnership.”

Images courtesy of Atari

Atari also revealed that its new console will come loaded with “tons of classic Atari retro games”, and the company is also working on developing current titles with a range of studios.

The Ataribox will be powered by an AMD customised processor, with Radeon Graphics technology, and will run Linux, with a customised, easy-to-use user interface.

The company believes this approach will mean that, as well as being a gaming device, the Ataribox will also be able to service as a complete entertainment unit that delivers a full PC experience for the TV, bringing users streaming, applications, social, browsing and music.

“People are used to the flexibility of a PC, but most connected TV devices have closed systems and content stores,” Mac said. “We wanted to create a killer TV product where people can game, stream and browse with as much freedom as possible, including accessing pre-owned games from other content providers.”

In previous releases, Atari has said that it would make two editions of its new console available: a wood edition and a black and red version.

After being asked by many fans, the company has revealed that the wood edition will be made from real wood.

Atari has asked that fans let it know what they think of the new console via its social channels

Scientists, software developers and artists have begun using VR to visualise genes and predict disease

A group of scientists, software developers and artists have taken to using virtual reality (VR) technology to visualise complex interactions between genes and their regulatory elements.

The team, which comprises of members from Oxford University, Universita’ di Napoli and Goldsmiths, University of London, have been using VR to visualise simulations of a composite of data from genome sequencing, data on the interactions of DNA and microscopy data.

When all this data is combined the team are provided with an interactive, 3D image that shows where different regions of the genome sit relative to others, and how they interact with each other.

“Being able to visualise such data is important because the human brain is very good at pattern recognition – we tend to think visually,” said Stephen Taylor, head of the Computational Biology Research Group at Oxford’s MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM).

“It began at a conference back in 2014 when we saw a demonstration by researchers from Goldsmiths who had used software called CSynth to model proteins in three dimensions. We began working with them, feeding in seemingly incomprehensible information derived from our studies of the human alpha globin gene cluster and we were amazed that what we saw on the screen was an instantly recognisable model.”

The team believe that being able to visualise the interactions between genes and their regulatory elements will allow them to understand the basis of human genetic diseases, and are currently applying their techniques to study genetic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

“Our ultimate aim in this area is to correct the faulty gene or its regulatory elements and be able to re-introduce the corrected cells into a patient’s bone marrow: to perfect this we have to fully understand how genes and their regulatory elements interact with one another” said Professor Doug Higgs, a principal researcher at the WIMM.

“Having virtual reality tools like this will enable researchers to efficiently combine their data to gain a much broader understanding of how the organisation of the genome affects gene expression, and how mutations and variants affect such interactions.”

There are around 37 trillion cells in the average adult human body, and each cell contains two meters of DNA tightly packed into its nucleus.

While the technology to sequence genomes is well established, it has been shown that the manner in which DNA is folded within each cell affects how genes are expressed.

“There are more than three billion base pairs in the human genome, and a change in just one of these can cause a problem. As a model we’ve been looking at the human alpha globin gene cluster to understand how variants in genes and their regulatory elements may cause human genetic disease,” said Prof Jim Hughes, associate professor of Genome Biology at Oxford University.