No Need for the Human Touch: Scientists Develop “Cyberhug”

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Humans have been chatting in cyberspace with loved ones for over a decade. Now, two Japanese scientists claim they’ve developed the human touch that has been missing from online communications: the cyberhug.

The married duo of scientists, Dzmitry Tsetserukou and Alena Neviarouskaya unveiled a network of connected straps resembling a harness, which they believe will add a human-like level of sensation to online conversations. Their prototype’s called “iFeel_IM!,” meaning “I feel therefore I am.”

“I am looking to create a deep immersive experience, not just a vibration in your shirt triggered by an SMS,” Tsetserukou said. “Emotion is what gives communication life.”

When the machine is attached to a computer, a series of sensors can mimic several types of heartbeats, tingling down the spine, and the sensation of having butterflies in one’s stomach.

Scientists have been working on developing a cyberhug for a while. Adrian Cheok of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University developed a system for separated parents and children, involving a teddy bear, which parents would embrace, and a Hug-Shirt, which children would wear. His device never took off, although it won awards in 2005.

“For a while technology has been driving people apart, locking them in front of computer screens,” Cheok said. “Now we hope to use it to bring them together.”

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