Coming soon: Online hugs

Email and messaging over the internet may be great ways to communicate, but Singapore scientists are seeking a way to transmit hugs in cyberspace.

    Hugs will be simulated by pressure changes in a suit

    Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have devised a prototype that allows "touch" to be transmitted over the internet by way of a vibrating jacket, a report in The Straits Times said.

    A wireless jacket for chickens or other pets can be controlled with a computer and gives the animal the feeling of being touched by its owner, researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) told Monday's edition of The Straits Times.

    Researcher James Teh, 24, calls t

    he prototype "poultry internet". It is only for chickens at the moment, but he envisions it being used for pets and children.

    He says it is to help people communicate with children and pets wherever they might be.

    How it works

    A pet fowl, wearing a wireless, sensor-rigged jacket, is captured on camera moving inside its coop. This image is transmitted over the internet to the owner in a different location, who gets to see a model of the chicken moving.

    "These days, parents go on a lot of business trips, but with children, hugging and touching are very important parts of communication"

    Adrian David Cheok, NTU Interaction and Entertainment Research Centre director

    When the owner touches the model, the signals are transmitted and reproduced as a series of vibrations on the chicken's jacket.

    The equipment does not even need a high speed connection, taking up only four bytes a second, according to the Straits Times report.

    "I wanted to come up with something novel, and this is important because people tend to focus heavily on human-to-human interaction," the paper quoted Teh as saying.

    The next step would be to use the same concept to transmit hugs over the internet.

    Importance of hugging

    Adrian David Cheok, NTU Interaction and Entertainment Research Centre director, explained the motivation for the project. "These days, parents go on a lot of business trips, but with children, hugging and touching are very important parts of communication," he said. 

    The team is thinking of a wireless pyjama suit for children, which would use the internet to adjust pressure and temperature to simulate the feeling of being hugged.

    Parents wearing a similar suit could be "hugged" back by their children, the newspaper said. 

    Teh and Cheok, along with Lee Shang Ping, the centre manager, have been working on the project for two years.

    There are no indications yet of how much the system would cost.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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