Rachel Riley talks gadgets, maths and the Astellas Innovation Challenge

Countdown queen and gadget fan Rachel Riley is launching the Astellas Innovation Challenge, a UK-based competition that asks the next generation of would-be entrepreneurs and innovators to design a mobile app geared towards healthy living.

Speaking to How It Works, Rachel revealed her own favourite apps and where her love of numbers came from, even though maths wasn’t actually her favourite subject at school. The ex-Gadget Show presenter also told us about the gadgets she loves and what she really thinks about wearable technology.

Here is a sneak peak at what Rachel had to say…


You must have been very focussed at school. Were parents’ evenings always a breeze?

Yeah! I was lucky that I didn’t have to try too hard to get good grades. I was always good at maths but it wasn’t my favourite subject growing up. I liked art and PE and then as I got older, the more I studied, the more interesting physics and maths became because I liked to be challenged. The harder it got, the more of a kick I got out of it.

What made you want to study maths at university?

I always loved numbers and puzzles and using my brain. I liked the idea that you had the rules and you could do what you want with them. Physics was the thing I really loved, the applied maths side of things. The rate of change of what people are discovering – the new inventions and technologies – is amazing and I wanted to learn more. If they ever invent a quantum computer, it would change the world!

Was it your love of technology that drew you to presenting The Gadget Show?

Definitely. There’s an author I love called Michio Kaku and I read a book of his years ago called Physics Of The Future. It was talking about technologies that would be possible in the next ten, a hundred or even a thousand years and some of the things I read about are now in existence.

There are mind-controlled gadgets. I’ve seen a skateboard that can go up to 50 kilometres an hour (13 metres per second) just by measuring your brain waves if you’re concentrating in the right way. A century ago, the chairman of IBM thought there would be a worldwide need for five computers and look at where we are now. It’s fascinating to thing where we might be in a few years.

Were there any gadgets you bought as a result of doing the show?

I bought things like noise-cancelling, wireless headphones – I love my Parrot Ziks – and I enjoyed playing with different smartphones and tablets. You can use your phone for almost anything now. It’s a heart monitor, a tape measure, it can get you from A to B, there are very few things it can’t do.

To read the full interview with Rachel Riley, pick up a copy of Issue 66 of How It Works magazine in print, or download it onto your digital device.