Factor’s Gift Guide: 10 Gifts for Tech-Loving Children

If you’re not sure what to buy for a science, tech or gadget-loving kid, do not fear. We have a host of options that are sure to bring delight well beyond December 25th.

Jr. Astronaut Helmet

£45 from the Science Museum Shop

jr-astronaut-helmet

For all the space cadets out there, this helmet is the perfect gift to help them blast off. With details such as an oxygen vent, pressure indicator and a button to automatically open the visor, this is a must-have for any budding astronauts. Press one of the buttons to activate a countdown with realistic blast off sounds, and enjoy the wonders of space through fresh eyes.

FUZE T2-A Workstation with Raspberry Pi

£149.99 from Fuze

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Any kid out there with an interest in programming is sure to appreciate this. Combining the simplicity of the Raspberry Pi Version 3 with a whole host of other gear from FUZE, this is a great kit to get kids into computing at an earlier age.  Pre-loaded with FUZE BASIC, and coming with the FUZE BASIC Programmer’s Reference Guide, this is perfect for any young Turings out there.

Y Flyer Red

£129.99 from Yvolution

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The all-new release from Yvolution, the Y Flyer Red features a fun and unique forward propelling motion with a sort of bike-scooter combination. Super grip foot plates provide ultimate control, while a quick-response handbrake ensures fast stopping. With a folding frame for easy storage and transport, the Y Flyer Red is a brand new way for your kids to get out and get moving.

ReimaGo Activity Sensor

£39 from Snow and Rock

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A fun new way to motivate kids to move and play outdoors, the ReimaGo is an activity sensor based on Suunto’s Movesense technology, which measures a kid’s physical activity during the day. Using an app that offers parents the ability to set rewards, and kids the chance to transform their activity scores into energy for a virtual character, the ReimaGo is sure to get little ones exercising.

Cubetto Programmable Robot

£159 from Primo

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Montessori approved, and LOGO Turtle inspired, the Cubetto is a friendly wooden robot that offers young children easily accessible programming. Powered by a playful programming language that the kids can actually touch, Cubetto offers simple access to the foundation of computing. Coming with a world map and story book, this is a toy that allows your kids to go on an adventure and also get a head start on programming.

Kurio Watch

£79.99 from F Hinds

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The ultimate watch for kids, the Kurio is preloaded with 20 apps for motion gaming, education and social communication. Able to take pictures, edit photos with effects, record videos, text and play music and videos, the Kurio brings everything but the kitchen sink. With a rechargeable battery and even more features than already mentioned, it’s sure to keep kids entertained and active.

Cardventures: Stowaway 52

£9.99 from Amazon

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Stowaway 52 is a Cardventure, an interactive story that puts players in control of the outcome as they try to score the maximum points. Set aboard an alien ship, it’s up to the players to stop the extra-terrestrial attack on Earth. A game that reinforces language and vocabulary development skills, if you’re having any trouble getting your kids reading, this is the perfect way to get them involved.

DIY Electro Dough Kit

£20 from Technology Will Save Us

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If Playdough is no longer hitting the spot, here’s a gift to take it to the next level. After creating scenes and sculptures with the dough, this kit helps your kids learn how electricity works and gives them a chance to play with lights, buzzers and switches.  With hours’ worth of online resources available, you’re sure to have a host of creations to bring to life with light and sound.

4D National Geographic: Imperial China

£21.99 from Amazon

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The world’s first multi-layer jigsaw puzzle to teach history at the same time, this 4D puzzle combines physical puzzling with an app to make history interactive. Consisting of 613 puzzle pieces that make up a historical map and 26 model replica monuments and buildings, the learning truly begins once assembly is finished.  Kids can learn key facts through the app, view beautiful images of the monuments or even test themselves with trivia.

3Doodler 2.0 Set

£9.99 from the Science Museum Shop

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The world’s first 3D printing pen fully redesigned, the 3Doodler 2.0 is even smaller and lighter than the original. Extruding a thin, flexible filament of heated plastic that quickly hardens, the pen allows the user to draw three dimensional shapes in real time. With just a little practice and parental supervision, kids can soon be creating 3D masterpieces, working just as if they were drawing with a pen. The only limit is imagination.

60% of primate species threatened with extinction

A new study has called for urgent action to protect the world’s rapidly dwindling primate populations after figures revealed that 60% of the world’s primate species are threatened with extinction. There are over 500 currently recognised primate species, with the percentage considered at risk having increased by 20% since 1996.

The study draws attention to the incredible impact that humans have placed on primate environments. Agriculture, logging, construction, resource extraction and other human activities have all placed escalating and unsustainable pressure on the animals’ habitats, and are predicted to only worsen over the next 50 years.

Unless immediate action is taken, the scientists predict numerous extinctions.

“In 1996 around 40% of the then recognised primate taxa were threatened. The increase to 60% at present is extremely worrying and indicates that more conservation efforts are needed to halt this increase,” says Serge Wich, professor by special appointment of Conservation of the Great Apes at the University of Amsterdam.

Interestingly, one of the main suggestions for helping the primates is first helping humans. Most primates live in regions characterised by high levels of poverty and inequality, a fact that the study authors believe leads to greater hunting and habitat loss.

They suggest that immediate actions should be taken to improve health and access to education, develop sustainable land-use initiatives, and preserve traditional livelihoods that can contribute to food security and environmental conservation.

While it may be tragic to some, it could be easy to see the loss of these primates as unimportant to humans. However, it is important to note that the non-human primates’ biological relation to humans offers unique insights into human evolution, biology, behaviour and the threat of emerging diseases.

Additionally, these species serve as key components of tropical biodiversity and contribute to forest regeneration and ecosystem health. If they are struck by mass extinction, it is hard to predict the impact it could have on their ecosystems.

“‘If we are unable to reduce the impact of our activities on primates, it is difficult to foresee how we will maintain this fantastic diversity of our closest relatives in the near future,” added Wich. “That will not only be a great loss from a scientific point of view, but will also have a negative influence on the ecosystems that we all rely so much upon. It is therefore important to drastically change from the business as usual scenarios to more sustainable ones.”

The threat posed to delicate ecosystems by human expansion is nothing new, but it is perhaps shocking to have such a blunt figure out there as to the damage being caused.

More than half of these species – species that are far closer to us than we may be comfortable discussing – could die unless current policy is reversed.

The study’s authors have called on authorities across the world to take action and raise awareness of the issues raised.

The article itself is published in the latest edition of the journal Science Advances.

Mark Zuckerberg: VR goal is still 5-10 years away

Mark Zuzkerberg has said that the true goal of virtual reality could still be a decade away, in a testimony during a high-profile court case against his company.

Facebook, as owner of Oculus, is currently in the middle of being sued by ZeniMax Media for allegedly stealing technology for the virtual reality device. If proved guilty, they will be pursued for the amount of $2bn by ZeniMax.  However, perhaps more pertinent to the actual future of virtual reality are comments arising from Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony.

As it currently stands, virtual reality is still a far cry from being integrated into everyday life on a wide scale. Oculus, HTC Vive and Playstation VR are still largely targeting gamers and the idea of entertainment experiences. While they have found varying levels of success, all three platforms are being held back by the youth of the technology and, in the case of Vive and Oculus, the limited by the need for a high performing computer to plug into.

Image and featured image courtesy of Oculus

“I don’t think that good virtual reality is fully there yet,” said Zuckerberg. “It’s going to take five or 10 more years of development before we get to where we all want to go.”

The revelation isn’t a particularly shocking one; even the most ardent believer in virtual reality has to admit that we’re a fair way off the goal. Indeed, we can be seen as being in the first wave of mainstream virtual reality, with the main players in the tech using gaming as a way to introduce the technology to a group that are most likely to be interested from the off.

Zuckerberg has far grander plans than simply expanding the user base however, as seen with projects such as Facebook Social VR. If games are the entry, the idea is to expand virtual reality to become a whole new computing platform used for a bevy of experiences and containing a whole load of tools. The ambition is high, the reality slightly lagging behind.

Mark Zuckerberg with Priscilla Chan in 2016

When asked about the realisation of VR as this new computing platform, Zuckerberg replied: “These things end up being more complex than you think up front. If anything, we may have to invest even more money to get to the goals we had than we had thought up front.”

He then went on to add that the probable investment for Facebook to reach that goal is likely to top the $3bn mark over the next ten years. Considering the social media giant spent $2bn just to acquire Oculus, this represents a truly colossal investment in something that seemed to be initially set to hit a lot sooner. Admittedly the goal is rather grand: providing hundreds of millions of people with a good virtual reality experience transcending gaming alone.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s very important that you know that Mark Zuckerberg did in fact wear a suit to trial. Whether Palmer Luckey, making his first public appearance since his Gamergate/Trump support scandal last year, will manage to ditch the flip flops when he testifies is yet to be seen.