Reach Out and Cyber-Touch Someone


[quote]Technology is the knack of so arranging the world so that we don’t have to experience it. – Max Frisch


When you hear the words “technology” and “connection,” you may instantly think “social media” - but in this third installation of our 3-part series on the “Techno-body,” Sociology of Style looks at some of the other ways that innovations in technology are making and strengthening human-to-human bonds.

Pillow Talk aims to connect those in long-distance relationships when physical presence is not an option. Using a ring sensor to detect a heartbeat and a panel inside the pillow, the pillows light up and beat in sync with their real-time heartbeats.

Similarly, Cute Circuit’s “Hug Shirt” sends and receives the “warmth and emotion of the hug to the shirt of a distant loved one” through sensors in the shirt that can pick up the strength of touch, skin warmth, and the heartbeat rate of the sender. These products mean that long distance love never felt so good.  But how long can we sustain relationships without the body?  Can technology evolve to a point where the physical body has no importance at all?

This type of interactive “teletactility,” or “the sensual experience of closeness and intimacy through touch,” as Claudia Benthien describes it, transcends distance – but is it enough? Benthien reminds us that it is a difference between communication vs. the gratification of lust.  Are we using technology to avoid direct experience, as Max Frisch suggests, and does that mean we’re moving toward post-body sex?

But technology isn’t just about warm, fuzzy exchanges.  The Haptic Vest takes gaming to a new level.  The Tactile Gaming Vest (or TGV) lets you feel the blow from virtual knives and guns.  (Some early prototypes even included a warming sensation to simulate the flow of blood from the “wound.”) Want some connection-making products you can actually purchase? Check these out :

  • Hallmark’s Text Bands take fist-bumping to a whole new level.  Kids (or youthful adults) can program a 10-character message, then bump fists or high-five and exchange messages.
  • With the iXP3 Internet Message Clock, messages received online are projected onto LED lights, so you can wake up to a personalized good morning from someone far away.
  • Hold hands with your sweetie while you walk with Smittens, a mitten made for two hands.  Yes, seriously.