Folks in long-distance relationships have it easy these days. There are numerous apps and devices that allow them to assuage the pain of separation.
For example, Bluetooth sex toys such as KIIROO allow partners to stimulate each other over the web; then there is the Kissenger, which allow partners to feel each other’s kisses via pressure sensors and actuators.
Now, Xyla Foxlin, a 20 year-old robotics engineer, has more, shall we say, wholesome intentions. Hugs are one of the most affirming gestures anyone can give to a loved one, and she wants to let families and couples experience that over long distances via a smart stuffed toy called Parihug.
“I first built Parihug as a hackathon project not thinking much of it, but it immediately got a lot of attention from other hackers and an SF-based VC firm who gave us US$1000 grant to turn it into a startup,” said Foxlin.
When she brought Parihug to her university’s alumni event where students were exhibiting projects, she was approached by grandparents and adults who had difficulties in staying in touch with loved ones living far away. And that spurred her to develop this concept further.
Inside the guts of the Parihug are sensors that detect the pressure of a hug. It then transmits that sensation to another Parihug, which is paired via the app (multiple Parihugs can be connected for group hugs). Gentle haptic motors will then produce a gentle vibrating “purr” on the receiving Parihug.
So the idea is not to replicate the arm movements of a hug but rather, “trigger the same hormonal response you receive from a hug”.
In addition, Parihug can also transmit heartbeats. It takes these information from the user’s Fitbit or Apple Watch data. In the absence of such data, Foxlin says it will use guesswork, but did not specify how.
Parihug uses double AA batteries and can last for several months. The sensor box is removable so the toy can be washed.
The toy has already received considerable attention on its Kickstarter campaign page. Within a week, Parihug exceeded its funding goal of US$30,000 with 25 days left on the calendar.
Foxlin says that there are no microphones or recording devices embedded inside Parihug so privacy invasion isn’t a problem. But what if she included a feature that would allow users to record their hugs so loved ones could always experience them…even when they (the givers) have left this world? Macabre I know, but it is an opportunity.
Image Credit: Parihug