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.

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.