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Hug Over a Distance:
An Intimate Interface for Remote Couples

You use email to request a meeting with a remote client and instant messengers to check availability of a colleague. But what do you use to express that you are thinking about your remote loved one?

Hug over a Distance!

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The Scenario

You are separated from your partner due to a work assignment in a city far away, and you miss your partner. You miss giving your partner a hug and holding hands. Therefore, you pick up your mobile phone, but hesitate, because you do not really have anything important to say and decide therefore not to call.

Instead, you decide to send a Hug Over a Distance. You take the koala and rub its belly, which in turn sends out a hug signal, visualized by a little animation (the koala is currently a placeholder for a corresponding vest). Your partner is wearing a stylish vest, which nobody can identify as a piece of wearable computing. However, the vest contains a wireless receiver, which receives the hug signal. Inside the vest are small air compartments which inflate quickly all around the body torso, giving a sensation similar to a real hug. The hug is discretely received, because others cannot "see" the hug. Your partner knows that you are thinking about her/him because a tactile emotional message is received from you, meaning "I am thinking about you." You both feel closer although you are still apart.

The Research

People in close relationships, who are separated by distance, often have difficulty expressing intimacy adequately. Based on the results of our ethnographic study with couples, we developed Hug Over a Distance to test the feasibility of technology for intimate couples. Hug Over a Distance is an air-inflatable vest that can be remotely triggered to create a sensation resembling a hug. Unfortunately, the couples did not consider the vest to be useful in their daily lives; however, the prototype provoked and stimulated design ideas from the couples during participative design workshops. We found an unexpected benefit: the prototype enhanced the couplesí understanding of our methods, so we believe that prototypes can serve as tools to make participatory design volunteers aware of their importance in our academic research.

This work was supported by the SmartInternet CRC and done together with Frank Vetere, Martin Gibbs, Jesper Kjeldskov, Sonja Pedell and Steve Howard. Hug Over a Distance was published in "mx magazine".

You need Adobe Acrobat Hug Over a Distance (late-breaking results paper, 2 MB)

You need Adobe Acrobat Hug Over a Distance (poster, 6 MB)

You need Adobe Acrobat Mediating Intimacy: Designing Technologies to Support
Strong-Tie Relationships
(paper, 600 KB)

 




 
     
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