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October 9, 2012

Ugly Vest Hugs You For Taking A Picture

There’s a dark secret which many of us hold, a highly guarded and well-hid closet which contains many a disturbing skeleton which none of us want discovered. For many of us in the Internet community, we’ve found ourselves hopelessly alone in the so-called “Real World,” finding the only place where we feel a part is somewhere in the mix and tangle of tubes and wires known as the Web. Many a night have been given to ICQ chats and forum boards as we spoke to one another screen to screen, as it were, eschewing the need for real life contact, regardless of whether we were lucky enough to ever have the option.

For these people, the Like-A-Hug vest could be seen as either another reason to simply stay inside every night or a subtle mockery of loneliness.

Bottom line: If a simple Facebook like isn’t enough to tame your insatiable desire to be applauded and praised for watching the latest movie, thinking about cookies, or taking snapshots of cityscapes, then the Like-A-Hug is for you.

Except, just like the interactions one has on the Facebook, Like-A-Hug isn’t real.

Melissa Kit Chow from the MIT media lab (with help tom Andy Payne and Phil Seaton) developed this vest last year as an “exercise and exploration in shape display.” according to Kit Chow’s Web site. (The group ended their project last year, but posted a video explaining the vest 2 months ago)

Rather than a prototype of a gadget which would surely be underneath the tree of every family with a loner outcast, the inflatable vest is more of an exploration of the idea of the Graphical User Interface (GUI.)

Kit Chow’s expansion of the GUI involves the combination of a rather large and unappealing vest and Facebook.

The way this vest works is simple: Whenever a Facebook friend “likes” your excitement for pancakes or your latest bathroom mirror shot, the Like-A-Vest inflates all around you to awkwardly recreate the sensation of real human interaction, but weirder.

When the person doing the liking is also wearing a vest, you can give yourself a hug, deflating your vest which, in turn, inflates the other person’s vest.

America, right?

According to Boston Magazine, this vest is an extension of Kit Chow’s work with the MIT Media Lab’s exploration into “Tangible Media.”

The Tangible Media group has a few other wacky ideas up their sleeves, such as a doorbell that knows when an expected visitor has arrived before said visitor has a chance to press a button.

While the Like-A-Hug isn’t anything more than an exercise, the idea behind it is no doubt a little creepy. In fact, many product ideas, proofs of concept or similar “exercises” which include Facebook can’t help but be creepy, highlighting the more frightening side of Facebook as they reveal just how much this social site knows about you.

Take, for instance, Facedeals, an idea created by ad agency Red Pepper which places facial recognition cameras outside of store fronts to automatically check you into their location.

In return for taking your picture and using your Facebook page as a free billboard, Facedeals businesses will offer you some sort of special, such as a free drink or the like.

Ah Facebook and Real Life…No matter what we do, they’ll always be completely separate.

Image Credit: Melissa Kit Chow

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