Sooner or Later, We'll Do All Our Hugging Over the Internet

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Here at the Wire, we're committed to bringing you the latest breaking news about hugs. Earlier this week, we reported that you should embrace someone for no longer than three seconds if you want to keep things from getting awkward. Today we'd like to alert you that a major wave of "cyberhugging" could be headed your way.

At the U.K.-based Telegraph--which informed us earlier this week that four hugs a day might keep marriage problems away (at three seconds each, that's a 12-second strategy for marital bliss)--Nick Collins highlights the technological advances that could soon make virtual embraces a staple of everyday life.

Any discussion of cyberhugs, of course, must begin with the Hug Shirt, which transmits a hug's essential ingredients--touch, skin warmth, heartbeat--from one person to another via sensor-studded shirts, cell phones, and Bluetooth technology. (The Hug Shirt website's imagery also suggests that Hug-Shirt wearers leap high into the air, perhaps startled by the fact that their clothing is hugging them.)

Building on the Hug Shirt concept, a professor in Singapore has enabled parents to transmit a hug, by way of teddy bear, to children wearing jackets with heated copper wires. The product hasn't yet achieved "global success," Collins observes.

And then there's "iFeel_IM!," a harness-like device developed by Japanese scientists that you strap on and connect to your computer when you're chatting with somebody online and emoticons just aren't getting your feelings across. The contraption recognizes emotional phrases in the text of your conversation and conveys the corresponding physical sensations--be it the warmth of a hug or the sensation of butterflies in your stomach.

Until the inevitable day when we all own an iFeel_IM!, we'll settle for sending you, our dear readers, a warm embrace via lifeless text.

Here's a glimpse of what life with cyberhugs might look like:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.