The internet allows us to communicate more easily than ever, but however many Facebook friends you have, there’s no substitute for a real hug – or at least there wasn’t until recently. Like-A-Hug is a concept social media vest which reacts to Facebook "likes" and posts on your wall, inflating to give you a “hug” on every such interaction. Wearers of the vest can embrace themselves in order to cause another person sporting a Like-A-Hug vest to get a hug, too.
Created by Melissa Kit Chow, in collaboration with Andy Payne and Phil Seaton at MIT’s Media Lab research laboratory, the Like-A-Hug project came about following a conversation between the trio concerning long distance relationships and the limitations of video chat interfaces like Skype, which do not offer any touch feedback during conversations.
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Chow and her team aren’t the first to pick up on this issue, but unlike the decidedly NSFW Teledildonics system, the designers kept things platonic, and Like-A-Hug exists happily alongside similar products, such as the HaptiHug and, to a lesser extent, the Squeeze Vest.
The finer details of exactly how Like-A-Hug would work aren’t offered, and presumably there would need to be some kind of safeguard built-in to prevent social butterflies from being squeezed into unconsciousness, but such issues could surely be worked out in development.
While it’s easy to scoff at Like-A-Hug and similar products, they do appear to hint at an emerging trend toward bringing an element of touch into long-distance communications, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if we saw some similar implementation of this technology become more widespread in the future.
The promo video below envisions a brave new world in which Like-A-Hug devotees are everywhere, and two people interact using the device.