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CES 2016: Fitbit unlikely to Blaze a trail

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At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Fitbit unveiled the Blaze smart fitness tracker. However, the device was met with disappointment as it looks like it is now competing with smartwatch makers like Apple and Samsung.

Fitbit has unveiled the Fitbit Blaze smart fitness watch, which it describes as its “smartest, most stylish, most motivating fitness tracker yet”.

However, the announcement and unveiling of the Blaze at CES in Las Vegas this week was met with massive disappointment that Fitbit now appeared to be competing with smartwatch makers like Apple and Samsung. Worse, the watch has been widely derided as clunky and ugly, with only Fitbit’s own executives praising its design.

The result? Fitbit’s share price plummeted by more than 18% in the hours following the announcement. The company CEO was not deterred, however.

“One of the first things we learned in this industry is that fitness is personal – and if something isn’t your style, you won’t wear it,” said James Park, CEO and Co-Founder of Fitbit. “With Fitbit Blaze, we pushed the boundaries of what’s possible to create a beautiful, versatile device that can be customised to fit your personal style – while packing a powerful fitness punch to help you reach your goals.

“Fitbit Blaze delivers a combination of innovative features that were carefully selected with intention and purpose, designed to motivate and offer a fitness experience that is more effortless and more useful with advanced guidance and coaching.”

Fitbit Blaze will be available in South Africa in March 2016.

Fitbit provided the following description and overview of features:

It has a versatile design to fit your personal style, and the smart notifications that matter most – all in one sleek timepiece that fits seamlessly into your life:

  • Enhanced fitness features like FitStar by Fitbit on-screen workouts, Connected GPS, PurePulse heart rate tracking, and SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition help motivate and push your fitness further
  • Focus on style featuring a slim design, easily interchangeable bands and frames, and a beautiful, colour touchscreen with a variety of clock faces to fit your personal style
  • Curated to fit your life and focused on the features that make tracking your health and fitness easier, Fitbit Blaze includes the smart notifications that matter most, like call, text and calendar alerts, so you can stay connected to what’s important, and a long battery life of up to 5 days allows you to keep up with your life, day and night.

Enhanced Fitness Experience

In addition to tracking all of the best all-day activity stats you have come to expect from Fitbit, Fitbit Blaze was built with next-generation features to help you take your workouts to the next level:

  • FitStar Personal Trainer on-screen workouts deliver guided instructions and animated images to three of the most popular personal trainer workouts from FitStar: Warm It Up (8 minutes), 7 Minute Workout, and 10 Minute Abs. Each workout is free and can be accessed at any time with no app or smartphone required, offering a fast, effective workout you can do anywhere.
  • Connected GPS helps you train smarter by delivering real-time exercise stats like distance, pace and minute-mile split times when connected to a smartphone’s GPS. After each workout, stats sync wirelessly to the Fitbit dashboard to let you review your route, speed and elevation in more detail.
  • PurePulse continuous, wrist-based heart rate tracking helps maximise any training routine with simplified heart rate zones to help you maintain workout intensity and better track calories burned during each workout. PurePulse also provides all-day insights into overall health, including resting heart rate and heart rate trends over time, all without an uncomfortable chest strap.
  • Multi-sport mode lets you record specific activities like biking, cardio, running, weights, yoga and more while providing relevant, real-time performance stats to help you get the most out of each workout. PurePulse is enhanced while in Multi-sport mode for even better heart rate tracking, especially during high intensity workouts.
  • SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition automatically recognises and records continuous movement activities like biking, hiking and running, with general categories for aerobic workouts (i.e., Zumba®, cardio-kickboxing and other dance classes) and sports (i.e., tennis, basketball and soccer). It gives you more ways to stay motivated and get credit for your workouts by effortlessly recording them in the Fitbit app and automatically adding them towards weekly exercise goals.

Get Fit in Style – Focus on Fashion and Personalisation

Fitbit Blaze is a sleek, versatile timepiece that fits your personal style with:

  • Premium interchangeable bands made from genuine leather, stainless steel and high-performance elastomer to let you design a look that’s extremely personal and a perfect fit – whether at the gym, in the office or out on the town.
  • A unique modular design that allows you to easily remove and insert your tracker into a new frame, so you can wear Fitbit Blaze with style at work and then swap it instantly into a new frame with a workout-friendly wristband. Use the quick release spring bars to switch your bands and change the look of your device in seconds.
  • Fitbit’s first vibrant, high-resolution, color touchscreen and multiple clock faces make the device uniquely yours and distinguishable from others.

 

Curated Features that Fit Your Life

From the inside out, Fitbit Blaze is a carefully curated experience designed to help you take action without distraction. Each feature was selected with intention and purpose to help you stay connected, maximize your entire day and night, and fit effortlessly into your life:

  • Stay connected with smart notifications you need. Fitbit Blaze features the smartphone notifications you need most instead of being overwhelmed with unnecessary information.
    • Bluetooth® Smart connectivity delivers call, text and calendar notifications through on-screen messages and a vibrating alert, so you can see what matters most at a glance
    • Accept and reject calls directly from Fitbit Blaze when connected to a compatible smartphone
    • Adding motivation to any workout is easy with on-screen controls for playlists and volume when playing music from your connected smartphone
  • Track your night with automatic sleep tracking to know how long and well you sleep, plus set a silent alarm that gently vibrates to wake you.
  • Long battery life of up to 5 days on a single charge lets you live your life and track your exercise, sleep and heart rate day and night, with the confidence you won’t lose a step or miss a beat.
  • Compatible with more than 200 Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices so you can access stats and motivational interactive tools, which help to motivate millions to achieve their goals within the community of Fitbit users they choose.

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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