Ever wonder what the point of Facebook "likes" are? A provocative art project is turning those "likes" into something more tangible: hugs.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student Melissa Chow designed the "Like-a-Hug" jacket, a social-media vest that inflates whenever a friend "likes" a photo, video or status update online.
Hugs can be returned by squeezing the vest and deflating it. See the conceptual jacket in action below.
The project, which Chow developed in collaborating with two friends at MIT Media Lab's "tangible media" group was completed last year. While an inflatable prototype was built, it cannot yet sync up with Facebook, she tells Boston Magazine. She emphasizes that her team focused on recreating the pressure of a hug, and were less concerned with any fashionable aspects of the jacket.
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Chow says her design is "an exercise and exploration in shape display" and "allows us to feel the warmth, encouragement, support, or love that we feel when we receive hugs."
"We came up with the concept over a casual conversation about long-distance relationships and the limitations of video chat interfaces like Skype," she writes on her site. "The concept of telepresence arose, and we toyed with the idea of receiving hugs via wireless technology."
Since Facebook began, more than 1.13 trillion items have been "liked" on the social-media site.
Is a concept such as the Like-a-Hug jacket a bridge between the online world and the real one? Or does it simply highlight how social media has made us feel social disconnected?