A few days ago I came across this project in The Guardian:
MIT students have developed a wearable extension to your social media existence that translates every virtual Facebook "like" into an actual hug. They have turned that meagre pixelated thumbs-up into a full-body squeeze.
The vest, which looks like a slinky black bodywarmer, is designed to inflate like a lifejacket when friends "like" a photo, video, or status update on the wearer's Facebook wall, "thereby allowing us to feel the warmth, encouragement, support, or love that we feel when we receive hugs," says Chow.
Here's the demo video:
There's something about this that I find unsatisfying. It's not that the emotional exchange is overstated: there are very relaxed acting standards in tech demo videos, and overacting is the norm. Nor do I think I'm just a misanthrope, though I can't completely rule that out.
One issue is its always-on quality: you're literally feeling the weight of social media around your neck whenever you wear it, and the video imagines you wearing it all the time.
To me, it's also a gestural equivalent of the Uncanny Valley, an action is similar to the real thing but creepily different? When you get a hug, you have to get out your smartphone to see who it's from. Then, to return a hug (or perhaps "hug"), you squeeze this object as if it were a person. I suppose you pretend the person is right there, a suspension of reality that might not be too hard with people who've grown up with cellphones, but which I suspect is kinda problematic even for Millennials.
Still, maybe one day we'll all be wearing them.