The Hug Shirt
The Hug Shirt from CuteCircuit certainly "does what it says on the tin". It's a shirt with sensors and actuators that, when activated remotely, can give the wearer the sensation of a hug. This can be initiated by the sender also wearing a similar shirt and hugging themselves. The sensors on the shirt detect the location, strength and timing of the pressure points, the skin warmth and heart rate and transmit this information over a mobile phone network to the receiving shirt where the same feeling of touch, warmth and emotion are replicated. Alternatively, the hug parameters can be pre-programmed and simply activated remotely.
The shirt is ideal for lovers and anyone wanting to share their emotions over a distance.
The shirt is effectively a Bluetooth accessory for a java enabled mobile phone. Using a Java application, the sender indicates the recipient's mobile phone number and then initiates the hug. The sender's shirt sends the hug descriptors via Bluetooth to the sender's phone which transmits them to the recipient's phone where they're in turn transferred via Bluetooth to the recipient's Hug Shirt. The recipient can identify the sender by checking their mobile phone. The makers claim it's as easy as sending an SMS and can be done on the move and works wherever both parties have a mobile phone signal - be they in Paris, Rome or New York. Should the sender not be wearing a Hug Shirt, they can still create one using the HugMe software.
Sensors and actuators are contained in coloured pads - shown in red in the picture - which can be removed for washing or for placing on a different garment as required. CuteCircuit, the makers, say they're "Plug & Play" meaning that you don't need to be an expert in siting the pads and making it work. Power comes from rechargeable batteries.
The Hug Shirt is not meant to replace human contact, but to make you feel loved if away on business or other reason and you miss your friends and loved ones! It also has applications in the medical field for the elderly and children and it's fun to use and apparently very soft. The shirt is especially pertinant as everyone's mobility across the world increases - whether lovers separated by business trips, people located remotely from their parents or whatever. Humans have a basic need for physical contact.
While there are no signs (yet) of its commercial availability, the hug shirt is creating quite a stir, even being nominated as one of the best inventions in 2006 for Time magazine.
For more information see: http://www.cutecircuit.com/