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‘ASMR toys’ at big box stores may just be fidget toys in disguise

Launched in October, just in time for the holiday shopping season, was a line of multicolored, brightly packaged toys that promised to be “oddly satisfying,” and give you tingles. 

Two out of six of the products came in blind bag packaging, which has become a children’s toy industry trend in and of itself, with price points ranging between three and 20 dollars. Each toy had tactile and auditory features such as plastic gears that make a clicking noise. 

ASMR had come to the shelves of Wal-Mart. 

Since its quiet emergence onto the internet in 2010, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) has become a cultural phenomenon and a viable interpersonal community. It has led to thousands of ASMR creators and 13 million videos on YouTube alone, including Cardi B’s W Magazine ASMR video which garnered well over 46 million views. While rigorous studies of the sensation are in short supply, there are self reported benefits of relaxation and improved sleep among people who experience it. 

This is not the first time that ASMR has bled into the world of marketing. In 2017, Ritz Crackers ran an ASMR-inspired campaign and noticed a 33% increase in sales relating to their launch. ASMR reached its advertising pinnacle, however, when Michelob Ultra’s Pure Gold commercial starring Zoe Kravitz aired during the Superbowl in 2019. Kravitz, seen tapping on a glass beer bottle and whispering into a microphone, gave mainstream audiences a glimpse into what advertisers believed was ASMR’s marketing potential. 

Now ASMR has made the inevitable transition from niche internet community to commodity. 

Strategic placement in the children’s toy aisle would lend consumers to believe that kids are the intended target of the company’s marketing. This fact remains unclear considering the age demographic of ASMR participation falls within the 18-24 range. Kids’ participation in ASMR is also a controversial subject. If this is the case, then are these toys simply a clever venture to recreate the success of toys we have already seen before?

The toys’ reception by the ASMR vanguard has been lukewarm. Karuna Satori, who runs a successful ASMR YouTube channel, reviewed the Sensory FX toys earlier this fall and came away less than impressed. She noted the overt similarities they shared with fidget toys.

“The Mega Cube is basically a re-edition of the fidget cube,” Satori said in her video.

The ASMR Bars and the ASMR Pods are meant to be collected, the former to be used alone or in conjunction with either of the largest toys in the line – The Mega Bar and The Mega Cube. The last two toys both have a rudimentary built in recording system, a feature that Satori found disappointing due to static during playback.  

“The microphone is really cheap,” said Satori, who nevertheless said the The Mega Cube was the best of the bunch. She said  “…you get the recorder, there’s more to do, and you don’t need to collect them all.”

This is not to say that all ASMR toys serve no purpose. 

Craig A.H. Richard, Ph.D., is a professor of Biopharmaceutical Sciences at Shenandoah University, and the founder of ASMR University. Richard suggests that the manufacturer may not have considered the fact that the ASMR experience is contingent on demonstrative elements

“ASMR is usually stimulated when you are in the presence of a kind or caring person who may be speaking gently, moving gently, or making gentle sounds with something they are holding or demonstrating,” said Richard. “These toys can be used to stimulate ASMR, but not in the user of the toys.”

Dr. Richard explains the possible reason for this in his hypothesis written in 2014, regarding the origin theory of ASMR. He suggests that relying on a demonstrating individual for tingles may harken to something biological – ASMR and bonding behaviors share similar triggers and consequently stimulate the release of the same feel good chemicals in the brain. 

“Triggers that stimulate ASMR in individuals may actually be activating the biological pathways of interpersonal bonding and affiliative behaviors…These bonding behaviors and molecules [endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin]  may provide a good explanation for most of the triggers and responses associated with ASMR,” Richard said. 

This would render The Mega Cube and The Mega Bar as the only toys within the Sensory FX lineup that might ostensibly create ASMR sans a demonstrator. 

The best way to predicate ASMR toys’ effectiveness would be to analyze them through the familiar lens of the fidget toy, popularized among children in 2017.   

Dr. Richard purports that fidget toys can mitigate the effects of anxiety, ADHD, and sensory processing disorders among individuals. 

“Any curious toy that strongly engages the interest of a child will decrease the global activity across the brain to result in more specific active areas of the brain,” says Richard.  “In short, a focused child is a focused brain, and a focused brain may help to calm a child.”

Like fidget toys, Sensory FX’s smaller toy offerings, such as the ASMR Bars and the ASMR Pods, are portable, making them readily available. There’s even a small carrying case for the Pods that resembles a keychain. Though they can be valuable for some students, many popular fidget toys were banned outright by schools

According to Richard, while fidget toys can be any small and engaging item that encourages the user to manipulate it, they may move too fast or be too loud to be good at stimulating ASMR in an observer. 

This would suggest that Sensory FX has attempted to rebrand fidget toys as ASMR toys, perhaps in order to capitalize on a growing trend and the buying power of millennial money.

Dr. Richard says that, “All items labeled as ‘ASMR toys’ would probably work well as fidget toys, but not all fidget toys would fit the criteria of an ideal ‘ASMR toy.’”

So if you want that tingly feeling, the aisles of Wal-Mart may not be the best place to get it. 

11 great chrome extensions for students

In a student’s tech toolbox, Chrome extensions can be an invaluable player — expanding the capabilities of their browser to do everything from check their grammar to keep distractions at bay. 

Here are some expert-recommended Chrome extensions for students.

RescueTime, also a great app for iOS and Android, tells students exactly how much time they’re spending in the active tab or window of Chrome or a ChromeOS device. It categorizes the sites they visit and rates them from very productive to very distracting. “It tracks what you’re doing, and it will block sites that you don’t want to access, so it won’t distract you,” said Christine Elgersma, a former teacher and senior editor of social media and learning resources at Common Sense Media, which has rated Chrome extensions for students.

If your child has a hard time staying off social media when they should be studying, Work Mode might be an answer. This one blocks all social media, Elgersma said. So, no more mindless scrolling on Instagram during their virtual English class.

DayBoard, a new tab and website blocker, lets students key in their priorities for the day and makes it more difficult to procrastinate. “You can create your own five item to-do list for the day,” Elgersma said. “Every time you open your tab, it will remind you … you’re opening Facebook, here are the things you wanted to do.” And then, hopefully, they’ll get back on track. 

Screencastify is popular with teachers, but it can be helpful for students too, Elgersma said. Older students, especially, who often are assigned presentations will find it handy. With it, students can record their screen, face and voice and do things like narrate slideshows, give a speech or dub a video

Just Read, a reader viewer, gets rid of ads, pop-ups and comments from web pages, so when a student has to do some research, they won’t get sidetracked by clickbait. “This will strip all that business out, so it will be less distracting to be online,” Elgersma said.

A powerhouse extension that’s useful for anybody who writes, Grammarly checks spelling and grammar so that essays and assignments are polished when they’re turned in. It also supports 25 other languages, including Spanish, French, German and Italian, some of the more popular foreign languages that U.S. students study.

Teachers often use InsertLearning to add questions or notes for students on a website. But it’s also a great extension for students, Elgersma said. “Kids can use it on web pages to make them more interactive,” she said. When they’re working on a project, for example, they can add annotations and digital sticky notes on web pages as they do their research. 

Save to Pocket bookmarks content and can be an essential tool for students who are working on a project and attempting to catalog research and content they’ve found online. With Pocket, they can store it all in one place, tag it based on the topic and read later.

“If a student is collecting information about a topic, he, she, they can easily just mark it in their Pocket and they also can share it easily out of the Pocket,” said Todd Cherner, director of the master of arts in educational innovation, technology and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and co-founder of App Ed Review, which reviews apps for educators.

Hypothesis lets users annotate and highlight information on web pages for their own private use, to share with a study group or post publicly. It’s popular with teachers, but students can use it too. “If I was limited to very few pieces of edtech, Hypothesis would make my short list,” Cherner said. “I’ve had great success with it on 98% of the websites that I’ve tried to use it with. It’s a nice tool.” 

StayFocusd is another productivity extension that blocks the websites that make it easy for students to waste time. “It’s really customizable,” said Ashley Morris, a former teacher and long-time math tutor. “You can pick a time it locks stuff down or have it lock down certain websites.” So, if Twitter is the problem, a student can tell StayFocusd to turn off the app while it’s time to study.

When students encounter a word they don’t understand online, with Google Dictionary, they can just double click the word and a pop-up bubble will appear with the definition. It saves students from opening another tab to get the definition (and the potential to go down a rabbit hole). It also supports languages beyond English, including French, German, Italian and Spanish. 

For kids who get distracted easily by noises, especially those around the house as they’re trying to do their virtual schoolwork, Noisli offers a solution. They can choose from a variety of background sounds that will help them stay focused.

Some apps offer similar capabilities, but Chrome extensions come with a big benefit — they don’t typically embed ads like some apps. Still, parents and students should pay attention to an extension’s privacy policies, especially the extensions that say they are tracking any tabs you open or requesting access to Gmail, Google Docs or other Google apps that you may want to keep private.

“See what they’re actually tracking and what they are storing,” Elgersma said. “If it’s down to keystrokes, then it’s probably not worth it. You don’t want to trade too much privacy for blocking tabs or something.” 

Netflix’s creepy ‘Red Dot’ trailer has a couple fleeing a hunter through the snow

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An isolated romantic retreat in the mountains, one very good dog, and some creepy comments from the bearded locals — it sounds like a recipe for disaster, and in Netflix’s Red Dot trailer that’s exactly what it becomes.

Alain Darborg’s Swedish thriller follows Nadja (Nanna Blondell) and David (Anastasios Soulis), a young couple whose hiking trip takes a grim turn after they discover a hunter’s rifle sight trained on their tent in the night.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: If the dog dies in this one we’re coming for you, Netflix.

Red Dot drops on Netflix Feb. 11.

Lisa Curry relives ‘heartbreaking’ night

The former Olympian posted a touching tribute to her late daughter as she shared heartbreaking details of the night before Jaimi’s death.

Four months after the loss of her daughter Jaimi, Lisa Curry has taken to Instagram to share details of the night her heart was “ripped out”.

The former Olympian shared a photo of hydrangeas from her garden, posting a touching tribute to her daughter who she said “fought and fought every single day”.

She said Jaimi, who died in September at the age of 33 after a lengthy battle with illness, “marvelled at every detail”.

“Four months ago, the doctor gave us the news we had dreaded for years, that Jaimi would not survive the night. It was like they just ripped our hearts out,” she wrote.

“Total disbelief … and even though we had prepared ourselves for the worst for weeks, months and even years and thought we were prepared … nothing … absolutely nothing prepares you for that moment or those words.

“Our beautiful girl couldn’t beat the enemy … but she fought and fought every single day.

“We miss her so much.”

The Saturday Telegraph reported in September that Jaimi had been left “heartbroken and traumatised” after the death of the love her life and fought a “lengthy and complex alcohol-related health battle”.

Prince Charles Says He Will Get COVID-19 Vaccine: ‘Vaccination Is Critical’

Days after Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Prince Charles said in a new interview Monday that he will “absolutely” also get vaccinated when given the chance. 

“I think vaccination is critical in order to ensure that we have a way out of this ― otherwise it is going to be very difficult,” the Prince of Wales, 72, said during an appearance on CNN’s “Quest Means Business.” 

Charles told host Richard Quest that he had the “greatest sympathy for anybody who does end up with this frightful virus and also nothing but the deepest possible sympathy for those who have lost loved ones in this horror that we’re facing.” 

The prince also praised AstraZeneca and Oxford University for making its vaccine available at cost to those who need it around the world. 

“I’ve been communicating over the last year with somebody called Pascal Soriot who is the chief executive [officer] of AstraZeneca,” Charles said.

“So I’ve been talking to him this year about the development of this vaccine they have been producing with Oxford University. And it is remarkable what AstraZeneca is doing, in making it available for so many people around the world at cost. And not making a profit of any kind.” 

Due to the royal’s age, he will likely be in the second round of vaccinations in the U.K. 

Prince Charles greets staff during a visit to The Ritz London in support of the hospitality sector on Dec. 10.



CHRIS JACKSON via Getty Images

Prince Charles greets staff during a visit to The Ritz London in support of the hospitality sector on Dec. 10.

Prince Charles himself tested positive for COVID-19 in March. At the time, a Clarence House spokesperson said the royal was self-isolating with mild symptoms and working from home.

Seven days later, the prince was out of quarantine and back to good health, according to a spokesperson. Prince William later revealed that he was initially “quite concerned” with his father’s positive diagnosis. 

“I was a little bit worried, but my father has had many chest infections, colds, things like that over the years,” he said in a rare BBC interview. “So I thought to myself, if anybody is going to beat this, it’s going to be him.” 

It was later revealed by The Sun in November that the Duke of Cambridge reportedly contracted COVID-19 around the same time that his father tested positive and was “hit pretty hard by the virus.” 

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Thai Rescue Worker Uses CPR To Save Baby Elephant Hit By Motorcycle

BANGKOK, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Thailand’s Mana Srivate has performed dozens of resuscitation attempts in his 26 years as a rescue worker, but never before on an elephant.

Mana was called into action while off duty on a road trip late on Sunday, successfully reviving a baby elephant struck by a motorcycle while crossing a road with a group of wild pachyderms in the eastern province of Chanthaburi.

In a video that went viral on social media in Thailand on Monday, Mana is seen giving two-handed compressions to a small elephant lying on its side as colleagues a few meters away treat a dazed and injured motorcycle rider on the floor.

Both the rider and elephant were recovering and neither had serious injuries.

“It’s my instinct to save lives, but I was worried the whole time because I can hear the mother and other elephants calling for the baby,” Mana told Reuters by phone.

“I assumed where an elephant heart would be located based on human theory and a video clip I saw online,” he said.

“When the baby elephant starting to move, I almost cried.”

The elephant stood up after about 10 minutes and was taken to another location for treatment, before being returned to the scene of the accident in the hope of being reunited with its mother.

The elephants soon returned when the mother heard her baby calling out, Mana said.

Despite having dealt with dozens of road traffic accidents involving humans, Mana said the elephant was the only victim he had managed to revive while performing Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

(Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan; Writing by Martin Petty, editing by Ed Osmond)

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