With hugs apparently becoming so popular that some schools see fit to ban them, it’s no surprise that someone has decided to innovate on good old-fashioned affection.
Meet the Like-A-Hug, an inflatable jacket invented by students taking an MIT media lab course. The garment inflates to "hug" you whenever someone "likes" one of your Facebook wall posts. You can send a hug back to the "liker" by squeezing the jacket and deflating it.
Melissa Chow, one of the creators, writes on her website that she was inspired by “long-distance relationships and the limitations of video chat interfaces like Skype.” That led to the idea of receiving hugs via wireless technology, with the inflatable vest meant to simulate the “warmth, encouragement, support, or love that we feel when we receive [real] hugs,” Chow also writes. Connecting it to Facebook, Chow says, was simply a way of exploring how social media might push past the traditional screen-based interface.
Despite the graceful display shots in the promotional video for the Like-A-Hug (seen above), still photos of the jacket make it look awkward, like a navy blue marshmallow strapped to the shoulders and waistline. Still, it's a cute concept, if one doesn't mind the jacket inflating without warning.
Like-A-Hug is the latest in a long line of hug technology that has emerged in recent years. In 2006, CuteCircuit, a venture by London-based designers Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz, released a Hug Shirt, which measures "strength, skin warmth and heartbeat" in order to send simulated hugs to similarly-clad friends around the world. TIME Magazine named it one of the best inventions of 2006.
Early this September, emerging menswear designer Si Chan released the Hug Me Jacket, a kelly green puffer coat with a row of clasped arms running down the front. This garment wasn't as well-received as the Hug Shirt. Sarah Weir of Yahoo!Shine sardonically called that coat "tree branches-turned-arms from a child's nightmare."
And hugs aren't the only emotive gesture inspiring tech-mined clothing designers. CuteCircuit, the makers of the original Hug Shirt, sell Twirkle dresses that light up when you walk (Katy Perry wore one of these glowing gown at the MET Gala in 2010) and programmable t-shirts that display media from your computer. Constrvt.com, a company launching in mid-October, lets buyers design their own "digital to physical fashion collection," turning photographs and sketches into custom-made (and apparently affordable) dresses and t-shirts. Continuum fashion, the company behind Constvct, has also created a line of 3D-printed high-end shoes, which they sell through their website at $900 a pair.
But are garments such as the Like-A-Hug really "bringing us closer despite physical distance," as inventor Chow claims? Tell us what you think below, or tweet to us @HuffPostTech. Would you wear any of these items?