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Just for the tech of it: Bionic Olympics, eternal data storage, and ASMR

This week on Just For The Tech Of It, our bearded host dives headlong into ASMR: a strange but fascinating topic that makes some people’s skin crawl … in a good way. For those of you who don’t know, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It’s a euphoric experience that’s characterized by this pleasurable, static-like tingling feeling that you can get from listening to certain sounds.

It’s hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it yourself, but if you’ve ever gotten chills from a piece of music, ASMR is basically like that, but stronger. And you can’t just listen to music. You need to listen to certain things in order to get these so-called “triggers” that set off the static tingly feeling. These triggers are typically sounds that don’t really have a predictable pattern that your brain can perceive — like somebody sloppily eating a plate full of chicken wings, for example.

Next up, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology announced a new competition called the Cybathlon earlier this week. It’s basically an Olympics-style event designed specifically for assistive technologies like powered wheelchairs, bionic limbs, and robotic exoskeletons. They’re planning to hold the event later this year, and teams from all over the world have already signed up to participate. The idea is that by putting these assistive devices to the test in a head-to-head competition, we’ll begin to drive these technologies forward — sort of like how NASCAR and Formula 1 races have led to advances in automotive tech.

And finally, researchers from the University of Southampton have announced that they’ve perfected a new data storage technique that can retain information for billions of years. This kind of data archiving ability means records keeping organizations can store all of the information that humanity has ever made, and keep it safe until the universe collapses in on itself. That might sound like a good thing at first, but there might also be a few downsides.