A Change Made By the FCC Could Reduce the Amount of Robocalls You Receive

iStock/Oleksii Spesyvtsev
iStock/Oleksii Spesyvtsev

Robocalls, once an occasional annoyance, have grown into an overwhelming problem for phone owners. Between January 2016 and June 2018, the number of robocalls Americans received doubled from 2 billion to 4 billion. Reports related to spam calls are the most common complaints filed to the FCC. Now, Popular Science reports that the government agency is finally taking action to reduce unwanted spam calls.

On Thursday, June 6, the FCC unanimously voted to give phone carriers more freedom to block robocalls. Previously, laws allowed companies like Verizon and AT&T to block certain calls—like automated calls, for example—but only after the customers who would be affected opted in. Under the new rule, carriers can block all robocalls without letting subscribers know or asking for their permission first.

For anyone who dreams of being able to answer a call from an unknown number without the fear of being scammed, the change may sound like a good thing. But there is a drawback: Legitimate calls that use automated dialing—like appointment reminders from doctors' offices, for example—may be an unintended casualty of the robocall purge. The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management is asking the FCC to add a provision to the rule that ensures medical calls won't be affected.

Exactly how many phone users will be impacted by the change is unclear. Phone carriers can now block more robocalls easily, but they're not obligated to by law. And if providers do want to take advantage of the rule, they may take their time developing new call-blocking features.

Instead of waiting for your phone company to fix the issue, you can take steps to reduce the flow of robocalls you receive today. Several apps, including Nomorobo and RoboKiller, automatically ignores calls that match numbers in its scam caller database. You can also see if your carrier offers robocall-reducing apps for free or for a few extra dollars a month.

[h/t Popular Science]

These ASMR-Ready Headphones Promise to Lull You to Sleep

AcousticSheep
AcousticSheep

What do hushed whispers, gently tapping fingernails, and Bob Ross’s voice have in common? They’re all examples of triggers that may cause what’s known as an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), or, as Dictionary.com succinctly explains it, a “calming, pleasurable feeling often accompanied by a tingling sensation” that can be triggered by soothing stimuli. ASMR has recently been recognized as an effective relaxation technique for those looking to calm their nerves; now, ASMR enthusiasts and novices alike can experience it in the form of a sleep-ready headband.

Upon first glance, SleepPhones: ASMR Edition may look like just a fabric headband, but the device actually features flat speakers tucked into soft, stretchy, eco-friendly material. Unlike regular headphones, SleepPhones can be worn comfortably to bed, even if you sleep on your side, and they come preloaded with content designed to help you relax. They feature eight hours of built-in ASMR content by 16 different ASMR artists (or ASMRtists), including but not limited to tracks with rhythmic tapping and "peaceful Italian whisperings."

A close-up of the SleepPhones speaker technology
AcousticSheep

The speaker components of SleepPhones
AcousticSheep

Using SleepPhones is designed to be a stress-free experience. The speakers have the ability to play for 20 ad-free hours with a mere three-hour charging time in between. There are also zero cords involved, meaning you won’t get all tangled up as you lie down or if you have a tendency to toss and turn at night. The small button located in the back of the headband allows you to start, pause, or skip tracks and control the volume.

For people looking for ways to relax beyond yoga and meditation, ASMR may be the way to go. One study observed that subjects watching ASMR videos not only reported feeling that aforementioned pleasant tingling, but were also found to have reduced heart rates.

You can get a pair of your own SleepPhones on Kickstarter with a pledge of $75 or more. They come in three different sizes with seven colors from which to choose.

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The UK Wants to Use 'Noise Cameras' to Crack Down on Loud Cars and Bikes

iStock/Ales-A
iStock/Ales-A

Snarled traffic creates more than air pollution. Thanks to modified engines, mufflers, and exhaust systems on cars and motorcycles, congested roadways can become symphonies of belching and rattling. Now, the UK government is looking to do something about it.

According to the BBC, the Department for Transport is currently testing “acoustic cameras” that will measure the decibel levels of vehicles on public roads. If a microphone detects a vehicle producing an excessive amount of noise, a camera will photograph the source and the owner will be fined.

What defines excessive? That remains to be seen. The UK enacted a law in 2016 limiting new cars to no more than 74 decibels. It's primarily older cars and modified motorbikes that create noise disturbances and prompt complaints from people living nearby.

The trial equipment will also need to prove it can identify one vehicle's noise emissions from another's and single out cars from other possible sources of sound. If the trial results are promising, it's likely the "acoustic cameras" will be policing UK roads in the near future.

[h/t Jalopnik]

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