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The iPhone has become a popular multi-touch device because it is the first time we’ve been actually able to touch data since the punch card (which often gave us papercuts, instead of awesome news feeds).

At Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg, a huggable pillow has been developed that uses “sensing and wireless phone technology to provide a physical touch” (article source) been developed. It is a device that, once hugged, stores that hug for future playback.  This is a step forward in replaying parts of the senses. Audio was the first to be digitized, saved, transmitted, and replayed. It was also one of the first transportation devices. When we speak on a mobile device, our voices are disembodied from our mouths, digitized and transported across vast distances.

In the case of the huggable computer, it is the haptic, or tactile sensation of the hug that is stored and replayed across great distances and times.

“To send a hug, the grandchild would squeeze the left paw of her device and speak her grandfather's name into a microphone in the top of the torso. Voice recognition software in the processor in the device identifies the name and matches it to a preset phone number corresponding to the other Hug. The girl's Hug calls the grandfather's, which lights up and plays sounds. To accept the hug, he squeezes the left paw and says hello, opening a direct voice link between the two.

Once the connection is established, the girl squeezes or pats the device. Sensors convert those motions into a data stream that is sent to the other Hug and converted on that end into vibrations through small motors embedded in the device. Thermal fibers around the Hug's belly radiate heat that increases with time. The hug is ended by pressing the right paw and saying goodbye.”

“If someone is not home to receive a hug, the other person can leave a message that includes voice and vibration patterns. The Hug can store up to four messages”.

The ability to store an audio signal part of everyday life, and the ability to save and store a text message even more common. But this device gives the user the ability to feel across distances, and leave messages composed of feeling. If one’s grandmother were to use the device to store her own hug, and then two months later were to die, her family members could replay it after she is gone.

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