Writing about running gadgets – not quite the same as actually running!

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Today I’ve mostly been writing about running and feeling guilty. Guilty because it’s ages since I’ve been running and I just can’t seem to get myself motivated. Five a side football yes, but there’s something about the solitary pursuit of running that just seems like too much of a commitment at the moment, especially on a cold winter’s day and especially with dodgy knees.

That said, it’s a virtually perfect day for a leisurely jog around the park or even a more demanding run around the wood. It’s dry, not too cold and not very windy. I’ve also got most of the gear, including a lovely Nike running jacket and a pair of Nike Flyknit running shoes I was given on a launch a couple of years back so I’ve really got no excuses.

The only thing I could possibly do with is one of these nice TomTom cardio  watches (pictured above) which measures the distance you’ve travelled, your speed and your heart rate as you run.

However, knowing me I’d probably spend most of my time looking at the screen convincing myself I was having a heart attack every time my heart rate went up over about 120 beats per minute and end up killing myself running into a tree instead!

You can read my Top 10 running accessories piece on Tech Digest here.

In the eyes of an animal: experiencing VR like never before (and looking stupid in the process)

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Oh how ridiculous do I look with this giant piece of foliage on my head?

Talking of animals (see post here about Buster the Boxer of John Lewis fame), on Wednesday night I experienced what it must be like to be one of four different animals: a mosquito, dragon fly, frog and and an owl.

It was one of many cool exhibits at the Wired Audi Awards at Victoria House in London’s Bloomsbury Square. So cool in fact that it actually won best Innovation in Experience Design at the awards.

Now of course I’ve put a headset on and experienced VR in the past, but trust me this isn’t like any other VR I’ve ever experienced.

Developed by Marshmallow Laser Feast for a festival in Cumbria’s Grizedale Forest (they must be cool, check out their website), it’s like being on a bad trip or something out of a Cronenberg movie.

Called In The Eyes of an Animal and filmed in 360 degrees using drones of course, the footage takes you on a journey from – what the developer’s imagine, based on scientific understanding – each animal’s point of view.

To make things a tad more realistic than watching the YouTube video below you have to wear a large rounded piece of foliage on your head and strap a backpack to you in order to simulate, say, the buzzing of a dragon fly as it flies around the forest.

At the end of each ‘chapter’ the animal is eaten (think ‘there was an old lady who swallowed a fly’) and it’s on to the next animal until you end up with one of nature’s finest predators, the owl.

I really have no idea how realistic it is but it looks and feels amazing and if I’d watched it in a field in Grizedale Forest during a festival I’d probably think I’d just eaten some rather exotic looking mushrooms.

Wired Audi Innovation Awards – it’s Child’s Play

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Last night I went to the Wired Audi Innovation Awards at Victoria House in London’s Bloomsbury Square. It was a great night with some amazingly interesting technology showcased. I particularly liked some of the educational uses of technology, particularly Kaspar the robot (pictured below).

Although he may look a bit like Chucky from the terrifying Child’s Play films, his look is deliberate. Developed at the University of Hertfordshire, Kaspar was found to be the ideal design for children with autism who are learning to interact with people.

Before developers created the robot, they even recruited a mime artist from London’s Covent Garden to model various guises to see how the children reacted. Apparently they found that a ‘simplified’ human look was the most appealing to children with autism.

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Meet Kaspar, the simplified human robot who is helping children with autism

Another interesting technology project for children came from Little Inventors. Simply put, it’s a project that turns the amazingly creative ideas of children into reality. At the Wired Audi Innovation Awards last night there were several ideas from Sunderland school children as young as 6.

I particularly liked the high five machine (see the original drawing below)  which at the press of a button gives you a High Five. It’s been designed using a mould of the child’s actual hand (Oliver, aged 6) and is for times when there isn’t anyone around to give you a high five if you achieve something really good. Isn’t that sweet?

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Another idea from one of the children was the War Avoider which lifts your house up into the air on big metal stilts in the event of a war or possibly even a flood! It also comes with a big invisibility blanket so your house can’t be seen by people wanting to do you harm.

You can see my interview with Little Inventors’ Chief Educator Katherine Mengardon in the YouTube video below (apologies for the sound, it was very noisy).