Enjoy Virtual Hug Brought to You by Joint MIT-Harvard Course

(from cntv.cn)

If virtual shooting is too violent for you, how about a virtual hug? From London to Singapore, one science project is taking the world by storm. It’s the virtual “Like-a-Hug” class assignment, produced by a joint MIT-Harvard course last year.

MIT students have created a jacket that allows the wearer to be hugged remotely. It’s known as the “Like-a-Hug”. This is a newly refurbished working prototype of a class assignment they designed last year for a joint MIT-Harvard Tangible Interface course.

The idea was to link Facebook “likes” to the physical world via a mechanical hug.
Harvard graduate student Andrew Payne said, “We began to want to explore social media and how we begin to augment – or in some cases enhance – social interaction. By conveying the meaning of a ’like’. Facebook has already changed the meaning of a ’like’.”

The gadget, quite simply, is a fan-inflatable vest linked to a computer by a single controlled micro controller. But why all the hype over one simple school project?

Harvard graduate student Melissa Kit Chow said, “I think it’s the idea that it’s a hug – something that is supposed to be more of an intimate gesture between two people – and it’s starting to be explored over virtual space where it can be almost anyone.”

However on the streets of Boston the prevailing view is that a virtual hug can’t replace the real thing. And neuropsychologist Dr. Andrea Piatt of the Commonwealth Psychology Associates agrees.

Neuropsychologist Dr. Andrea Piatt said, “Actual human touch has the capacity to lower anxiety, lower stress, reduce blood pressure, lower people’s heart rates, so there is a lot of potential benefits.”
There’s only one way to find out if virtual hugs are as effective as the real thing – by taking the science out of the classroom and into the real world.