Factor’s Gift Guide: 10 present ideas for fitness fans

Struggling to find a suitable gift for the fitness enthusiast in your life? Never fear, Factor has you covered. Here’s ten gift ideas that are perfect for the gym bunny, thrill seeker or fitness fanatic in your life.

Misfit Ray

£79.99 from Misfit

A collaboration between Misfit and Speedo, the Ray is sure to keep fitness fans happy. The lightweight band automatically tracks steps, distance, calories and sleep. You can connect it to your phone to receive notifications and alarms or even control connected household devices. Swim-proof and with batteries lasting up to 6 months, the Misfit Ray is perfect for those wanting to keep an eye on their health at all times.

YI 4K Action Camera

£237.99 from Amazon

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Billed as the best action camera ever, the YI provides professional-quality video at 4K/30fps at 60mbps, four times the quality of 1080p. Using seven layers of all-glass lenses and a new generation chip, the camera can shoot for two hours with a single charge. The YI is the perfect camera for those wishing to capture their adventures in perfect detail, whatever those may be.

FlipBelt

£25 from Flipbelt

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A comfortable belt alternative to the running armbands that can’t carry all your things or the bulky pouches slapping against your hip as you move, the FlipBelt is specifically designed to sit flat and securely on your hips, without bouncing or riding up. The ideal gift for the enthusiastic runner, the belt lets you easily and comfortably carry your essential items with you as you exercise.

Urbanista Boston Wireless earphones

£39.99 from Carphone Warehouse 

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Lightweight, wireless and compatible with all Bluetooth devices, the Urbanista Boston earphones allow you to comfortably listen to music and talk on the move without any risk of tangled cables. Over-ear and noise cancelling, the Boston earphones make it easy to listen to your music no matter what you’re doing. Whether on the run or walking to work, these are a great choice of wireless earphones.

Under Armour HealthBox

£349 from HTC

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Under Armour’s HealthBox is a connected fitness system comprised of four products that are designed to work in unison to measure, monitor and manage the various factors determining how you feel. The box contains the Band, a smart band measuring sleep and activity, Scale, a chest strap that tracks heart rate, and Record, the data collection app that helps you manage progress. The HealthBox is the ultimate package for fitness obsessives.

Bushnell 2016 Neo Ion Golf GPS Watch

£129.99 from Golf Bidder

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Pre-loaded with 35,000+ courses in more than 30 countries, the Bushnell Neo Ion is the watch for the avid golfer in your life. Auto-course recognition, battery life for three full rounds and a shot distance calculator, this watch has it all. Thankfully, it comes with charging cable included and no membership or download fees. If your nearest as dearest fancies themselves a Rory McIlroy, this is definitely the timepiece for them.

Eider Shaper ski jacket

£400 from Eider

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It may be niche, but if you have a beardy skier in need of a gift, this jacket is ideal. The Shaper’s Fix-A-Shape ergonomic zip is the first of its kind and, thanks to the shape of the teeth, is able to fit the jacket’s collar to the line of your face with no friction. Aside from the zip, the jacket is also made with a bi-density weave for maximum performance.

Gocycle G3

£3,299 from Gocycle

Conventional knowledge may suggest we’ve pretty much hit peak bicycle, but Gocycle begs to differ. Founded and designed by a former member of the Mclaren Cars design team, Gocycle’s G3 is innovative new electric bike that takes full advantage of automotive knowledge to deliver a ride that is ergonomic, elegant, lightweight, ingenious and fun. Unfortunately, however, it has a price tag to match.

TRX HOME Suspension Training Kit

£149 from TRX

Including the TRX Home Suspension Trainer, two anchoring solutions and six digital workouts, this suspension training kit is sure to make short work of getting your loved ones in shape. The kit can be set up anywhere in less than a minute, allowing fitness fans to never miss a workout. At home, in the park or on the beach, TRX’s kit is there to help build cores and sculpt that dream physique.

NW-WS410: Waterproof and Dustproof Walkman

£80 from Sony

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Waterproof to a depth of 2m, sealed against sand, dust and grit and able to handle temperatures ranging from -5°C to 45°C, the NW-WS410 is the ultimate training partner. Designed to withstand the elements, the Sports Walkman is able to keep up with you no matter what. With up to 12 hours of battery life and an ergonomic shape that keeps the Walkman stable, it’s a great option for sporty music fans.

Elon Musk isn't so keen on flying cars

"Obviously, I like flying things, but it’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek. “If somebody doesn’t maintain their flying car, it could drop a hubcap and guillotine you.”

Source: Bloomberg

Is the woolly mammoth about to come back from extinction?

Scientists from Harvard University say they are just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant. The embryo would essentially grow to be an elephant with a number of mammoth traits.

Source: The Guardian

Congress is repeatedly warned NASA’s exploration plans aren’t sustainable

An expert panel has wanred that while NASA might have some of the right tools to launch and fly to destinations in deep space, it doesn't have the resources to land on the Moon, to build a base there or to fly humans to the surface of Mars.

Source: Ars Technica

IMAX unveils first virtual reality center

The IMAX VR center, which opened this week, houses 14 different pods, each containing different VR experiences that allow users to temporarily escape real life. One of the pods takes users to the desert planet of Tatooine, which will be familiar to Star Wars fans.

Source: Variety

Could Alexa be forced to testify in an Arkansas murder trial?

A trial is about to begin over the mysterious death of a former police officer at a home in Bentonville, Arkansas. The case is significant because it could help decide whether prosecutors should be allowed to subpoena a virtual assistant.

Source: VICE

Dwarf planet Ceres emerges as a place to look for life in the solar system

Pockets of carbon-based organic compounds have been found on the surface of Ceres. The identity of the tar-like minerals have't been precisely identified, but their mineral fingerprints match the make-up of kerite or asphaltite.

Source: New Scientist

Beyond biomimicry: Scientists find better-than-nature run style for six-legged robots

Researchers have found a running style for six-legged robots that significantly improves on the traditional nature-inspired method of movement.

The research, conducted by scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Lausanne (UNIL) in Switzerland, found that as long as the robots are not equipped with insect-like adhesive pads, it is faster for them to move with only two legs on the ground at any given time.

Robotics has in the past few years made heavy use of biomimicry – the practice of mimicking natural systems – resulting in six-legged robots being designed to move like insects. In nature, insects use what is known as a tripod gait, where they have three legs on the ground at a time, so it had been assumed that this was the most efficient way for similarly legged robots to move.

However, by undertaking a series of computer simulations, tests on robots and experiments on Drosophila melanogaster – better known as the common fruit fly – the scientists found that the two-legged approach, which they have dubbed the bipod gait, results in faster and more efficient movement.

The core goal of the research, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, was to confirm whether the long-held assumption that a tripod gait was best was indeed correct.

“We wanted to determine why insects use a tripod gait and identify whether it is, indeed, the fastest way for six-legged animals and robots to walk,” said Pavan Ramdya, study co-lead and corresponding author.

Initially, this involved the use of a simulated insect model based on the common fruit fly and an algorithm designed to mimic different evolutionary stages. This algorithm simulated different potential gaits to create a shortlist of those that it deemed to be the fastest.

This, however, shed light on why insects have a tripod gait – and why it may not be the best option for robots. The simulations showed that the traditional tripod gait works in combination with the adhesive pad found on the ends of insects’ legs to make climbing over vertical surfaces such as rocks easier and quicker.

Robots, however, are typically designed to walk along flat surfaces, and so the benefits of such a gait are lost.

“Our findings support the idea that insects use a tripod gait to most effectively walk on surfaces in three dimensions, and because their legs have adhesive properties. This confirms a long-standing biological hypothesis,” said Ramdya. “Ground robots should therefore break free from only using the tripod gait”.

Study co-lead authors Robin Thandiackal (left) and Pavan Ramdya with the six-legged robot used in the research. Images courtesy of EPFL/Alain Herzog

To for always corroborate the simulation’s findings, the researchers built a six-legged robot that could move either with a bipod or tripod gait, and which quickly confirmed the research by being faster when moving with just two legs on the ground at once.

However, they went further by confirming that the adhesive pads were in fact playing a role in the insect’s tripod movement.

They did this by equipping the fruit flies with tiny polymer boots that would cover the adhesive pads, and so remove their role in the way the insects moved. The flies’ responses confirms their theory: they began moving with a bipod-like gate rather than their conventional tripod-style movement.

“This result shows that, unlike most robots, animals can adapt to find new ways of walking under new circumstances,” said study co-lead author Robin Thandiackal.

As bizarre as the research sounds, it provides valuable new insights both for roboticists and biologists, and could lead to a new standard in the way that six legged robots are designed to move.

“There is a natural dialogue between robotics and biology: Many robot designers are inspired by nature and biologists can use robots to better understand the behavior of animal species,” added Thandiackal. “We believe that our work represents an important contribution to the study of animal and robotic locomotion.”