Tag Archives: sense

Deepfake Maps Could Really Mess With Your Sense of the World

Satellite images showing the expansion of large detention camps in Xinjiang, China, between 2016 and 2018 provided some of the strongest evidence of a government crackdown on more than a million Muslims, triggering international condemnation and sanctions.

Other aerial images—of nuclear installations in Iran and missile sites in North Korea, for example—have had a similar impact on world events. Now, image-manipulation tools made possible by artificial intelligence may make it harder to accept such images at face value.

In a paper published online last month, University of Washington professor Bo Zhao employed AI techniques similar to those used to create so-called deepfakes to alter satellite images of several cities. Zhao and colleagues swapped features between images of Seattle and Beijing to show buildings where there are none in Seattle and to remove structures and replace them with greenery in Beijing.

Zhao used an algorithm called CycleGAN to manipulate satellite photos. The algorithm, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley, has been widely used for all sorts of image trickery. It trains an artificial neural network to recognize the key characteristics of certain images, such as a style of painting or the features on a particular type of map. Another algorithm then helps refine the performance of the first by trying to detect when an image has been manipulated.

A map (upper left) and satellite image (upper right) of Tacoma. The lower images have been altered to make Tacoma look more like Seattle (lower left) and Beijing (lower right). 
Courtesy of Zhao et al., 2021, Journal of Cartography and Geographic Information Science

As with deepfake video clips that purport to show people in compromising situations, such imagery could mislead governments or spread on social media, sowing misinformation or doubt about real visual information.

“I absolutely think this is a big problem that may not impact the average citizen tomorrow but will play a much larger role behind the scenes in the next decade,” says Grant McKenzie, an assistant professor of spatial data science at McGill University in Canada, who was not involved with the work.

“Imagine a world where a state government, or other actor, can realistically manipulate images to show either nothing there or a different layout,” McKenzie says. “I am not entirely sure what can be done to stop it at this point.”

A few crudely manipulated satellite images have already spread virally on social media, including a photograph purporting to show India lit up during the Hindu festival of Diwali that was apparently touched up by hand. It may be just a matter of time before far more sophisticated “deepfake” satellite images are used to, for instance, hide weapons installations or wrongly justify military action.

Gabrielle Lim, a researcher at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center who focuses on media manipulation, says maps can be used to mislead without AI. She points to images circulated online suggesting that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was not where she claimed to be during the Capitol insurrection on January 6, as well as Chinese passports showing a disputed region of the South China Sea as part of China. “No fancy technology, but it can achieve similar objectives,” Lim says.

Author: Will Knight
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

Sixth sense! Study claims humans could develop 'bat-like' echolocation sensing abilities

A study, which appeared in Plos One earlier this month, claims humans have a very basic form of echolocation, a trait seen in other species such as bats and dolphins, that helps identify the shape and movement of objects through sound. Speaking to Pop Mech, Miwa Sumiya, Ph.D, a researcher affiliated with the Center for Information and Neural Networks and one of the study’s authors, said the finding may lead to greater understanding of the human brain.
Mr Miwa said: “Examining how humans can acquire new sensing abilities to recognize environments using sounds [i.e., echolocation] may lead to the understanding of the flexibility of human brains.

“We may also be able to gain insights into sensing strategies of other species [like bats] by comparing with knowledge gained in studies on human echolocation.”

Humans actually possess more than the five basic senses of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell.

In fact, humans have a variety of additional minor senses such as spatial orientation, proprioception (body position) and pain reception while other animals have even more advanced senses such as being able to detect electrical and magnetic signals.

In a complex experiment, 15 participants used a device to generate an echolocation signal that bounced off two oddly shaped cylinders which were either rotating or stationary and then listened back to the echoed sound through headphones.

The echoed sound was rendered binaurally to create a surround sound experience similar to that of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).

Mr Sumiya added: “The synthetic echolocation signal used in this study included high-frequency signals up to 41 kHz that humans cannot listen to.”

Participants in the study were able to identify the existence of the rotating cylinders using only the echoed sound through timbre and pitch of the echo even though they could not directly see the objects.

READ MORE: BAT to the future: Bats’ echolocation can predict prey’s position

Speaking to the Smithsonian Magazine in 2017, he said: “You could fill libraries with what we know about the human visual system, but what we know about human echolocation could barely fill a bookshelf.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Weird Feed

Sharks have a sixth sense for navigating the seas

The Earth’s magnetic field covers the entire planet like an invisible three-dimensional film. This all-encompassing force doesn’t drive human behavior (at least, as far as we know), but it’s an important factor in some animals’ ability to navigate—and that group has just expanded to include sharks, according to a new study in the journal Current Biology. The new research suggests that bonnethead sharks, just like certain species of migratory birds, sea turtles, eels, and others, use the Earth’s magnetic field to help them find their way. 

“We know that sharks, rays, and skates”—a group of fish known as ‘elasmobranchs’—“are sensitive to the electromagnetic field,” says lead author Bryan Keller, a PhD student in oceanography at Florida State University. But researchers hadn’t yet managed to demonstrate whether  they use that sensory ability for navigational purposes. 

“What we were specifically interested in testing, was if that ability allows them to infer map-like information from the Earth’s magnetic field,” says Keller.  

The team of researchers, funded in part by the Save Our Seas Foundation, a nonprofit that supports marine conservation research, looked at bonnethead sharks, a relatively small (and therefore lab-friendly) coastal species that had been shown to travel back to specific locations on a seasonal basis. The researchers captured 20 young bonnetheads in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida and brought them back to a lab, where they were placed in a tank inside a magnetic coil system that exposed the sharks to magnetic fields that resembled different geographic locations. They used software to track the sharks’ responses, observing which direction in the tank they were trying to swim towards. 

[Read more: Baby mantis shrimp punch their prey with superior strength]

“The main test we were interested in is exposing the shark to a magnetic field that represents the location far south of their preferred habitats where they spend their summers, up in the northern Gulf,” says Keller. For this test, they oriented the sharks about 600 kilometers (373 miles) south of where they were captured. Instead of swimming randomly or in circles around the edge of the tank, as they did in a control test that mimicked the magnetic field where they were captured, in this case the sharks swam in a kind of half-moon formation, moving leftwards and then rightwards in an apparent attempt to push north. 

In a test that looked at the opposite—whether they would try to move south if placed farther north than expected—the sharks did not demonstrate such a trend. The authors speculate that this could be because the sharks had no experience with this more northern magnetic field, suggesting that their “magnetic map” was something they learned to access through experience, rather than an innate ability they were born with. “But really, in order for us to make that claim, we need to do some more research,” says Keller. 

This study is “a big step forward in our general understanding of the navigation capabilities of these animals,” says Yannis Papastamatiou, an assistant professor of biology at Florida International University who was not involved in the research. “It’s not an experiment in the field,” he says, “but it’s still pretty convincing evidence.” Papastamatiou notes that researchers have used similar experimental techniques to show that turtles can navigate using magnetic fields.

The evidence here would have been even stronger if a second change resulted in a different direction, wrote Catherine Lohmann, a biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in an email to Popular Science. “I would have liked to see the responses to a western location, for example.” 

The magnetic field might be especially useful for marine animals because they don’t have as much access to landmarks, stars or other guides, wrote Lohmann, who was not involved in the research. Overall, the research “adds to the larger idea that magnetic maps may actually be common in marine migrants.” 

And if they’re widespread in the sea, she suggested, “then they also may be widespread among animals in other kinds of habitats.”

Author: Claire Maldarelli
This post originally appeared on Science – Popular Science

Sharon Stone opens up on life after death 'I had sense of seeing those who'd gone before'

“I think you are discussing… I had a near death experience and people discuss these in many ways,” Sharon told hosts Good Morning Britain hosts Susanna Reid and Adil Ray.

“They discuss them from a scientific perspective then discuss them also from a spiritual perspective.

“I believe that they are both.

“In my case, when this happened to me, I had all of these things that most people talk about, where you see this kind of… light, that you leave your body, you have this felling of being pulled outward and upward and a sense of seeing people that had gone before me,” she explained.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Celebrity News Feed

The European Super League was unfathomable to anyone with common sense – could it be the ultimate exercise in calling our bluffs?

Celebrations are in full flight after the swift demise of the doomed European Super League. Can the fact that no one is any better off as a result of its failure tell us anything about the real motivations behind this fever dream?

Even by the ruthless standards of football and business, 48 hours has to go down as a rapid turnaround for a masterplan to be discarded. Fans are now celebrating after Manchester City confirmed that they would be the first club to withdraw from the European Super League (ESL), with Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all following suit and Atletico Madrid set to join them.

As a surreal two days comes to a close, it is hard to tell how an idea cartoonish in its supervillainy will be seen in the future, accelerating as it now is towards merely becoming a memory of how the most depressingly unpalatable version of the game as product was drawn up without being realized.

What are we left with? Some resignations of rich businessmen, supposed severed ties and damaged club reputations among fans they scarcely seem to care about. There is a sense of relief among those fans, perhaps akin to feeling grateful that the door of your house was kicked in rather than the roof burning down.
Also on rt.com Roman Abramovich ‘pulling Chelsea out of European Super League’ as protests stun viewers ahead of Premier League match (VIDEO)
The transformation of the Champions League, which was overshadowed by this shameful fiasco, remains. Amid the constant theatre of Monday – practically an age ago, now – the ‘Swiss system’ was confirmed, expanding the tournament to 36 teams with each playing 10 matches in the group stage.

The clubs who had jumped in to the Super League will newly see themselves as being in an emboldened position to negotiate further changes, having taken their fingers off the nuclear button of abandoning the competition entirely.

When multi-billion dollar tournaments are announced and torn up in two days, the three years until those changes come into effect might as well be three centuries away. That the Super League announcement was timed so close to those alterations to Europe’s flagship club competition is, at best, curious.
Also on rt.com ‘We saved football’: Chelsea go from villains to heroes as Abramovich set to pull team out of Super League (VIDEO)
Any business plan starts with its key stakeholders. The likes of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel fit that parlance perfectly here, yet they say they were never consulted, discovering the developments, which were supposedly long in the making, hours before being expected to hold forth on them during duly flustered appearance in front of the media.

That made it all seem like it was never thought through and never a serious proposition, yet the much more feasible subplot appears to be that this was invented as a Sword of Damacles that could be held up at any point. That offers a window into the scheming of those involed.

Now that we are in the realms of clubs converging on secret Zoom calls away from the pesky restraints that governing bodies attempt to impose, who is to say that they have not used that tactic to plot a much subtler version of the stratospheric imbalance they have just suggested?
Also on rt.com Five remaining Premier League sides join Chelsea in withdrawing from European Super League as Man United supremo Woodward resigns
Some are warning of the need for vigilance to ensure that a similar scandal does not resurface. Whenever new deals are on the horizon, that threat will need to be remembered.

The net result among viewers is likely to be a greater idealization of the game in its current form, as if the European leagues are not almost entirely ordered by who has the most money, with rapidly descending resources given to clubs who need them most.

It should go the opposite way: worry less about making competitions more accessible to the wealthiest on and off the pitch and more about supporting the entirety of football, with purer meritocracies season by season and fans put center stage rather than treated as consumers.
Also on rt.com ‘I hope others follow their lead’: UK PM Johnson commends Chelsea and Man City as clubs set to pull out of Super League
Amid the fallcy of the ESL, the reality is that none of this needed to happen. The mega-rich can start from a granite bargaining position without risking armageddon, standing to make vast amounts of money while being sensibly run, remaining a beacon for communities and supporting the divisions below them, if only for the distinct possibility of their future talent being nurtured on pitches that are closer to cabbage patches than carpets.

Top-level football appears to have narrowly avoided the abyss, even if there is a suspicion that the edge never existed.

This whirlwind crisis is as much a moment of brief redemption as it is an exaggerated preview of what could lie ahead.
Also on rt.com Bayern chief says Klopp ‘spoke heavily against’ Liverpool joining Super League and admits German giants could pounce for Reds boss


This article originally appeared on RT Sport News

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Trying to make sense of how Texas ranks on coronavirus vaccinations? Here’s a look behind the numbers.

As Texas lumbers toward its goal of vaccinating most of its 22 million residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the state continues to show up in the lower half of some national rankings measuring states’ progress toward reaching herd immunity against the coronavirus.

Texas ranks 45th nationally[1] in terms of the overall percentage of its population fully vaccinated, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, a business publication whose rankings are widely circulated. On Friday it ranked 36th[2] in terms of how fast allocated doses are going into arms.

Looking only at the adult population, the state has fully vaccinated 23% of residents 18 and older, compared to 25% for the nation as a whole.

Meanwhile, Texas beats the national percentage[3] of senior citizens who have been fully vaccinated.

Rankings are done by a variety of news organizations and health research groups and are usually based on statistics tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state’s vaccination effort has been plagued by geographical, demographic and data challenges, many of which are unique to Texas, including a higher-than-average number of people who are too young to get the vaccine and a sluggish data collection system that can take days to publicly report doses administered.

An average of 265,910[4] administered doses[5] were reported in Texas each day in the last week, but state officials say potentially tens of thousands more may not be reported on a timely basis due to lag times and some providers still unable to report daily numbers.

Health organizations and statisticians say Texas’ own fractured distribution system can’t be let entirely off the hook for what appears to be, by many measures, a slower-than-average rollout.

But the various national rankings — which vary widely depending on which metric is used and where the data is coming from — can change quickly and are also subject to delays in reporting, state officials said. The February winter storm also created a domino effect, with providers unable to administer what officials said at the time could have been 1 million doses that week, which would have moved the state higher in the rankings.

For those reasons, officials say, rankings can tell an incomplete story about where Texas falls in comparison to the rest of the country.

CDC officials have said state data can lag and are not uniformly updated across every state, and federal vaccination programs may also report their administered doses on a separate timeline, which can lead to further undercounts or lags.

Texas’ vaccination effort has been successful in terms of lowering COVID-19 transmission rates, deaths and hospitalizations, even as some other states are seeing increases, which “shows how far we’ve come,” no matter what the rankings say, said Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The state continues to streamline the process and reach more marginalized communities, he said, most recently through the creation of a centralized statewide registration site and hotline for health departments and community clinics.

“Vaccine providers across the state have done an excellent job getting shots into arms and are further picking up the pace,” he said.

Critics of Texas’ vaccine rollout say that rankings — however they are interpreted — are still useful when evaluating how Texas has managed its program and can identify weaknesses as the state participates in the largest vaccination program in U.S. history, said Gizem Nemutlu, assistant professor of data analytics at Brandeis International Business School.

“The total number of vaccines administered as a count is not terrible, but the coverage [of its overall population] is really low compared to other states,” she said. “So I think they [Texas] should look into the reasons why Texas is not operating well to serve its community and residents in a better way. I think it is an operational problem.”

But because Texas has so many residents who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated, it’s more fair — if less headline-grabbing — to measure progress based on the percentage of eligible residents fully vaccinated as opposed to the percentage of the total population vaccinated, Van Deusen said.

By that measure, Texas is a bit higher in the overall rankings, on par[6] with populous states like California and Florida and just under the national totals.

Texas also ranks higher than the national rate in terms of fully vaccinated people over 65, with 61% of that age group fully inoculated in the state, compared with 58% nationwide.[7] Texas is ahead of more than 30 states[8] on that metric.

Another key measure of a state’s vaccination program is the percentage of doses received by the state that have actually been given to people.

Texas has administered 91% of the 14.5 million doses[9] that have been received by providers, according to DSHS.

But popular rankings[10], which show Texas at 73% as of Friday and ranked 36th, measure doses going into arms against the number of doses allocated to the state. That measure uses the nearly 20 million doses that have been allocated to Texas, but not all of them have arrived in the state yet, and a large portion of those doses are administered by federal programs that don’t regularly report their vaccination rates to the state.

Texas has moved up in various national rankings from its early position near the bottom last month, in spite of challenges that complicated the state’s vaccine rollout, Van Deusen said.

He said Texas’ population has grown faster than many other states since 2018, and because vaccine allotments rely on 2018 population numbers,[11] Texas isn’t getting as many vaccine doses as it would if the federal government used current population numbers, he said.

Texas is also an enormous state with roughly 10 million people living in largely rural areas west of the state’s largest cities. Getting doses to these remote areas slowed the rollout in some areas, state officials have said.

And unlike states like Florida and California that have more centralized public health systems — and therefore can compile statewide data and control distribution more easily — Texas’ decentralized public health system has spread the responsibility for vaccinations and data collection among thousands of individual providers, Van Deusen acknowledged.

“It all kind of adds up,” Van Deusen said.

An underfunded public health system, combined with a state immunization registry that was not set up to easily handle the massive reporting required during the pandemic, may be the largest reason Texas doesn’t rank higher, said Allison Winnike, president and CEO of The Immunization Partnership, based in Houston.

“If Texas, in every legislative session, would have put in the money for our public health infrastructure or modernized our immunization registry years ago, as it should have been, we would be miles ahead of where we are today,” Winnike said.


  1. ^ 45th nationally (www.beckershospitalreview.com)
  2. ^ 36th (www.beckershospitalreview.com)
  3. ^ beats the national percentage (covid.cdc.gov)
  4. ^ 265,910 (apps.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ doses (apps.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ on par (covid.cdc.gov)
  7. ^ nationwide. (www.cnbc.com)
  8. ^ 30 states (www.npr.org)
  9. ^ 91% of the 14.5 million doses (tabexternal.dshs.texas.gov)
  10. ^ popular rankings (www.beckershospitalreview.com)
  11. ^ 2018 population numbers, (www.expressnews.com)

Karen Brooks Harper

Why a Kojima Xbox deal makes sense, even to a lifelong PlayStation fan

Ever since I first laid eyes on Tekken 1 being played on a PS1 soon after Sony’s game-changing console first launched, I’ve been hooked on PlayStation games. Some of my fondest gaming memories are forever associated with Sony and PlayStation – from ground breaking early 3D games like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and Final Fantasy 7 to more modern classics like Persona 5. Sony systems have defined my gaming experience for decades.
And creators such as Hideo Kojima have provided me with moments that’ll be etched into my memory forever.

Kojima and Sony have enjoyed a long working relationship, ever since MGS1 debuted on the PS1 and propelled the Snatcher and Policenauts maker into worldwide stardom.

Since Solid Snake’s Shadow Moses mission was first released, MGS games and Sony PlayStation consoles have gone hand-in-hand.

Metal Gear Solid 2 was one of the PS2’s first killer apps, a blockbuster release the likes of which gaming hadn’t seen before.

It ended up arriving a year later on Xbox via MGS 2 Substance, but Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (regarded by many as Metal Gear’s finest hour) remained a PS2 exclusive till the following generation, with MGS3 included on the HD collection for PS3 and Xbox 360.

Sony and Kojima’s close working relationship continued with the PSP exclusive Metal Gear games and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, with the latter remaining a PS3 exclusive to this day.

And in the aftermath of Kojima and Konami splitting in 2015, it was Sony’s PS4 platform that the MGS creator chose to release his next game – Death Stranding – on exclusively.

So the news that has emerged this week, that Kojima’s next game may be heading to Xbox instead of PS5 as expected, may leave PlayStation fans stunned, confused and disappointed.

But there is one reason why this deal makes sense, and could lead to great things for whatever Kojima has up his sleeve.

Kojima has long been a game director who is never willing to compromise the in pursuit of his work.

And with games getting more and more advanced since Kojima first entered the scene, pursuing his vision has come at a cost.

Metal Gear Solid V reportedly had a budget of over $ 80million, while Death Stranding allegedly had a budget of $ 100million.

We’ve seen that Microsoft aren’t afraid to splash the cash in their pursuit of making Game Pass an all conquering service, shown clearly by the $ 7.5billion acquisition of Bethesda.

While it is also seen in the budget of Halo Infinite, which allegedly is $ 500million.

If Kojima does end up teaming up with Microsoft, he could have a partner that is willing to write him a blank cheque, and grant him a bigger budget than he’s ever had before, to fulfil whatever vision he has for his next project.

And that can only be good news for the scope of whatever Kojima is planning next, and for his fans.

For Microsoft, securing the services of a gaming icon such as Kojima – and giving him free rein to do what he pleases – will undoubtedly help on a number of fronts.

Whatever you think of Kojima, he is one of – if not the – most famous game directors around, capable of brining big name stars such as Kiefer Sutherland, Norman Reedus, Lindsay Wagner, Lea Seydoux, Mads Mikkelsen and more onboard to work with him.

His projects generate a huge level of hype, and having the next Kojima game head to Game Pass would likely generate a massive amount of buzz for the Xbox Series X and S as well as XGP.

It could end up being the thing that finally twists the arm for many Sony fans to take the plunge and get an Xbox as well.

A Kojima deal could also help Microsoft finally crack the Japanese market, which the Xbox has consistently struggled to do, and it could also help the Xbox team move one step closer to a long held goal.

A fascinating documentary by CNBC which explored why Xbox has failed to make a dent in Japan featured an interview with Xbox creator Seamus Blackley.

Blackley explained the driving force behind the original Xbox, and why Bill Gates wanted to get into console gaming in the first place.

Blackley said Gates’s motivation with the original Xbox was maintaining “Microsoft’s dominance and position in the ecosystem of software”.

And with Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft are positioning themselves in an extremely strong position on the software front.

Having new Bethesda games as well as titles from the ever expanding Xbox Game Studios portfolio launch on XGP on Day One has arguably put Xbox in its strongest position since they first entered console gaming back in 2001.

And getting Kojima onboard could end up being the big catalyst Microsoft needs to help win over new fans, helping to drive Game Pass subscriptions even further to whole new heights.

'Fresh sense of worship': Central Texas churches welcome members back for in-person services Easter Sunday

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Voices belt, which is a holy sound of rejoicing this Easter Sunday. Hands reach for the skies with a fresh sense of worship.

This is the first big holiday — for those who celebrate — where all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in Texas.

Many churches welcomed back members with open arms Sunday, celebrating a day of rebirth in more ways than just one.

“Jesus is alive,” Associate Pastor for The Well Church in Austin, Adam Watson said. “And we believe because he rose again, that we also get to rise again.”

Again, The Well Church rises.

“I am so glad that each one of you is here,” Connections Coordinator, Juliana Quintero said on stage, to a crowd of church members. “I love seeing all of your faces.”

This rising feels different after being away from in-person services for months.

“We wanted to not only accommodate for people to feel safe, and be out doors — but we wanted all of our people to be able to gather,” Watson said.

Other church members agree.

“I just feel like we’re finally able to come out of our shells — ironically, on Easter,” Communications Director, Stephanie Thompson said.

Church members missed the fellowship. This is something many experienced for the first time, in a long time, on Sunday.

“There was a lot of joy and excitement,” Pastor Rusty Teeter of Berkeley United Methodist Church said. “But there was also a grief because we’ve also lost some members who have died this year and the fact that they won’t be with us is challenging.”

Teeter and his congregation find strength in their faith during the first service back together.

“Getting some restoration and redemption from the hurt and pain we’ve experienced, and also feeling the new life of reconnection,” Teeter said.

New life, brings new hope. This is felt at both The Well, and United Methodist Church.

Jala Washington

Fitbit Sense smartwatch review: Ambitious? Absolutely. Worth buying? Well, that depends…

Fitbit Sense Smartwatch Review

Fitbit Sense is available in a single size, although the straps are available in different lengths (Image: FITBIT • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

The Fitbit Sense is easily the most ambitious smartwatch the company has ever produced. However, that doesn’t automatically make it the most accomplished. Express.co.uk has been testing the dizzying number of modes and features for a few months now, here’s everything you need to know about the Fitbit Sense.

Fitbit Sense review: UK price and availability

Fitbit Sense launched in autumn last year worldwide. The smartwatch is available in a single configuration, with two colour options — Carbon or Lunar White. At launch, the Fitbit Sense cost £299, however, this has dropped in the months since launch. Fitbit now sells its Sense smartwatch for £269.99, with other retailers, like Currys, Argos, Amazon, John Lewis, and others all dropping to around the same price tag.

Fitbit Sense Smartwatch Review

The Sense is available in Carbon (Black) or Lunar White (pictured above) (Image: FITBIT)

Fitbit Sense review: design

Fitbit Sense is easily the best-looking smartwatch the company has ever produced. Initially known for its svelte and stylish wrist-worn step trackers, Fitbit really lost its way when it first introduced smartwatches to its line-up. The Fitbit Ionic, its first effort released back in 2017, was a clunky square that looked like a prop from Back To The Future II.

Thankfully, the Fitbit Sense is much more elegant. With its soft edges and chamfered case, it looks great on your wrist whether you’re out on a morning run, sitting at your desk, or dressing up for a special occasion. Fitness-focused wearables, like the Fitbit Sense, offer the most value and insight when worn constantly. However, to convince people to strap a gadget to their wrist at all times — companies need to make sure their products look good.

And Fitbit has absolutely nailed that aspect of the Sense.

Fitbit Sense Review Fitness Smartwatch

Fitbit Sense is designed to be worn all-day and all-night – not just when exercising (Image: FITBIT)

Fitbit Sense Review Fitness Smartwatch

Fitbit pushes you to hit 10,000 steps every day (Image: FITBIT)

It’s also worth noting that it’s a pretty unisex design, which is appreciated. There has been a bit of a trend of designing all smartwatches in the vein of either bulky blokey divers watches (yes, that criticism is aimed at you, Samsung) or chunky masculine straps (like the Fitbit Ionic) so it’s nice to see a design language that also works for half of the world’s population.

Interacting with the Fitbit Sense is handled predominantly by the 1.58-inch touchscreen. This works well enough and the screen is bright enough that checking your stats in direct sunlight shouldn’t be a problem.

Fitbit has also added a small touch-sensitive button on the left-hand side of the case that throws you into your most frequently used apps. A single-press will open one app (Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, by default) while a double-press displays four shortcuts to other apps. It’s a nifty trick, however, the fact you always have to resort to tapping or swiping on the screen means you’ll always have a watch covered with fingerprints.

We’d have preferred to see something like the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch or the rotating bezel found on the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, which both keep the screen smudge-free.

The Sense makes it easy to switch between straps thanks to its quick-release buttons (Fitbit has thankfully dropped the fiddly toggles found on earlier gadgets), which is great because the fitness firm has a pretty stylish line-up of leather, woven, knit bands. Third-party companies and Etsy sellers have also created some fun options to help personalise your shiny new smartwatch for any occasion.

The Fitbit Sense is water-resistant to 50-metres, so there’s no worry about submerging this smartwatch in a pool or in the sea. And even if you’re not a keen swimmer, it’s reassuring to know that getting caught in a monsoon or forgetting to take your Sense off before the shower isn’t going to do any damage to this £299 piece of kit.

Fitbit Sense Review Fitness Smartwatch

Overnight, Fitbit measures your blood oxygen saturation levels (Image: FITBIT )

Fitbit Sense review: features and smartphone app

When it comes to health-tracking features, Fitbit has really thrown everything at the Sense. Of course, there’s the usual step count, heart rate, calories, and sleep tracking… but there’s also an electrocardiogram (ECG) test, EDA scans to measure stress, skin temperature tracking, and breathing rate.

If you’re unsure whether you need all of those health checks in your daily routine — rest assured, you don’t.

While it’s undoubtedly impressive that Fitbit has managed to cram so much technology into such a compact gadget, that alone doesn’t quite justify including all of these features.

Some of the new additions, like the ECG, are genuinely useful. While not something you’ll use every day, it’s reassuring to be able to run the test at the drop of hat and share the results with your GP if you’re concerned about your heart health. Likewise, the notification about a worryingly low or high heart-rate is a great feature. If your heart is beating unusually — your Fitbit will warn you, so that you can seek help promptly.

Other features, like the electrodermal activity (EDA) scans are pretty useless. At times, we struggled to get a reading from the Sense. And when it did work, it wasn’t immediately obvious what we were supposed to do with this data.

Unlike metrics like resting heart-rate and calories burned, it seems pretty easy to keep track of your stress levels without the help of a gadget. When you are feeling stressed, Fitbit has included some mindfulness exercises within its companion app, but these require a subscription to Fitbit Premium (£7.99 a month).

After a few weeks of wearing the Fitbit Sense and testing out all the flashy new tricks, we soon found ourselves relying on the same handful of tracking features. The built-in GPS, which isn’t available in the more affordable Versa 2, is a brilliant addition as it means walks and runs are accurately tracked without the need to carry around your phone in your pocket.

Fitbit Sense Review Fitness Smartwatch

The Sense is the only gadget in Fitbit’s line-up that can perform an ECG wherever (Image: FITBIT )

Except that …you’ll probably end up lugging around your phone anyway. And that’s because Fitbit hasn’t included any built-in storage for music or podcasts in the Sense. While there is a helpful partnership with Spotify that makes listening to your playlists from your wrist easy, this works by piggybacking on the mobile internet connection from your phone. So, if you’re in a gym in the basement of a hotel with no Wi-Fi or want to leave your phone on the bedside table for your money run… you’ll have to make do with the sound of your own thoughts. Given that Apple and Samsung both let you track workouts, record GPS data, and listen to music from their wearables — so you only need to leave the house with Bluetooth headphones, your smartwatch and house key, it’s a pretty gutting omission from Fitbit.

Active Zone Minutes is a really helpful metric. By analysing your resting heart-rate and age, Fitbit will send out notifications during your workouts to let you know when you need to take action, like speeding up when you’ve slipped off the pace. If you’re looking to hit a specific goal, like shed a few kilos, you’ll want to make sure you’re racking up Active Zone Minutes (AZM). Fitbit Sense wearers earn 1 AZM when in the fat-burning zone, but you’ll clock-up 2 AZM when in the peak zone — so it’s well worth listening to its advice and pushing yourself.

While the hardware of the Sense is solid, it’s worth highlighting that one of the reasons you should consider paying a premium for a Fitbit over the sea of copycat wearables on Amazon is the app. Yes, the Fitbit companion app on Android and iOS is solid. It presents everything in a beautiful interface and has some brilliant social features.

If you have friends or family with Fitbit devices on their wrists, the fun challenges can be a phenomenal way to motivate you to heave yourself off the sofa and to the gym or park. There are plenty of beautiful watch faces that you can add to your Fitbit Sense from the app too. The app is also where you’ll add contactless payment methods too.

Fitbit Sense Review Fitness Smartwatch

The straps are easy to unlock and there’s a strong line-up of Fitbit-designed and third-party options (Image: FITBIT )

Fitbit Sense review: final verdict

  • Pros: Gorgeous unisex design, huge number of strap options, built-in GPS, finds your phone with a touch of a button on the watch, Fitbit app is packed with challenges and social features
  • Cons: No offline music or podcasts, stress measurements aren’t particularly useful, pricey

Fitbit Sense is a stylish, beautifully crafted smartwatch that looks good on the wrist, regardless of whether you’re sweating profusely on a treadmill or during a job interview. The interchangeable bands are easy to use and Fitbit’s popularity means there are plenty of third-party options available if nothing from the official store takes your fancy.

The Fitbit companion app is the secret weapon for this wearable, with its easy-to-use interface, fun personal challenges, and selection of competitions to take on friends and family. Fitbit Premium adds some extra features, but there’s more than enough to get your teeth into without coughing up the £7.99 a month subscription fee.

There’s a lot to love about the Fitbit Sense. Built-in GPS, ECG, and proactive low and high heart-rate warnings are awesome tools that really help you keep track of your overall health. Likewise, the coaching around Active Zone Minutes is a handy virtual personal trainer that can really help you to push yourself, something that rudimentary pedometers can’t do.

However, some of the biggest new additions — like the EDA stress tracking and skin temperature sensing — are the most baffling. Cramming this technology into the Fitbit Sense undoubtedly contributed to the higher price tag (the EDA-less Fitbit Versa 3 has similar battery life, GPS, and water resistance but costs £100 less), and unfortunately, these features were the ones that we stopped using within a few weeks of wearing the watch.

If you’re looking for a stylish smartwatch that offers every bell and whistle that Fitbit can muster, there’s no doubt the Sense is a must-buy. Likewise, anyone who knows how to dig into Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) rates and really invest in tracking their mood and any correlation to the EDA data will be overjoyed with the Sense.

However, if you’re simply looking for an easy-to-use fitness tracker with great app support, social features, and enough insights to help you shed the lockdown beer belly …then it might be worth pocketing the extra £100 and looking at the Fitbit Versa 3.

‘It gives you sense of purpose to live’: Skating star Tuktamysheva says call-up for world championships left her ‘overwhelmed’

Russian figure-skating star Elizaveta Tuktamysheva has spoken of her joy at being selected for the national team on the grandest stage, revealing how it drives her on and provides extra motivation to grow as an elite athlete.

The 24-year-old, who will return to the major international figure skating event following a six-year break, said she was overwhelmed with joy and happiness after learning that she’d earned her place in one of the three sports on the national women’s team to take part in the world championship.

Tuktamysheva was officially included in the team after finishing fourth at the Cup of Russia final, right behind junior skaters who are not yet age-eligible to participate in senior competitions.

It was such a joy. I believed that it could be possible [to progress to the national team] if I delivered clean skating at the Cup of Russia final,” the skater said.

“But when this really happened, I was overwhelmed with emotions – even more than I had expected,” 

The worst thing that might happen to a professional athlete is a lack of motivation. But when you know that you have a big start lying ahead and you are getting ready for the world championship, you have sense of purpose to live because you are a professional athlete who has dedicated her entire life to sport.”

The 2015 World and European champion also expressed regret that the upcoming world championship in Stockholm will be held without spectators, explaining that an athlete has a serious adrenaline rush when performing in front of the crowd.

I think all athletes will be calmer while participating in the worlds because, when you skate in front of the huge audience, it raises pressure and adrenaline,” she said. “But when everything is quiet and calm, you’re not that nervous.”

This year’s championships will run in Stockholm from March 22-28.
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