Sure, it's great when that hot avatar gives you a hug in Second Life, but wouldn't it be even better if you could actually feel the embrace? Researchers from Japan are demonstrating a motorized haptic device that lets you experience real-time virtual hugs by physically reproducing the pressure felt on the chest and back when someone gives you a squeeze.
Getting a hug that moves beyond the basic emoticon requires donning a kind of harness adorned with soft fabric hands that envelop the wearer in a warm faux embrace. But the HaptiHug is only one of the affective garments included in the I_FeelIM ("I feel therefore I am") system, which uses software to extract emotional meaning from written text and pass it on to one of a number of haptic devices that react accordingly.
The speaker-enabled HaptiHeart, for example, emits palpable heartbeat-like patterns to evoke sadness, anger, and fear. The vibrating HaptiButterfly and HaptiTickler, worn around the abdomen, are supposed to create feelings akin to nervous, joyous belly flutters. And the HaptiShiver and HaptiTemper are aimed at boosting fear emotions by, respectively, sending shivers up and down the wearer's spine by way of vibrating motors and producing spine chills via a fan blowing cool air. … Read more