Kissengers: remote devices allow kiss teleport

A new remote kissing device may allow people in long distance relationships to remain physically connected, although the technology also has interesting implications in potential adultery.

Affective touch, such as kisses, hugs and intimate physical proximity, plays a highly important role in romantic relationships. Overall relationship satisfaction has been linked to high levels of interpersonal touch, while tactile physical contact between partners causes higher levels of oxytocin, lower blood pressure and a reduced cardiovascular response to stress. In a long distance relationship (LDR), a lack of affective experiences may be involved in feelings of distance and separation, with a potential impact on relationship health.

Recently, various ‘phatic technologies’ have emerged whose sole function is to perform a social task, rather than to communicate information. Examples include ‘Huggy Pajama’, a ‘Thermal Hug’ belt and ‘HotHands’. However, phatic devices have rarely been effective in mediating kissing.

In an attempt to teleport a kiss, Samami and others have developed the ‘Kissenger’ (an amalgamation of ‘kiss messenger. The paired Kissengers are small, egg-shaped devices with eyes and lips. Imprinting a kiss on the sensory lips of one Kissenger causes a kiss output by the second, imitating a shared kiss between the remote couple.

Kissenger

 

Force sensitive resistors in the lips sense varying levels of pressure from the kiss input, which is digitized and transmitted to the paired device via wireless communication. The kiss output is actuated by servomotors, which move to distend the lip surface to provide a motion similar to the kiss input. The process is mediated by an embedded circuit in each of the paired devices.

A trial with 10 LDR couples yielded some interesting feedback; while all participants said that the Kissenger became meaningful and part of their daily routine after three days, most felt odd using it in public and one commented that a softer lip material could make the kiss more expressive.

Possible legal complications in adultery were also suggested – would a kiss from a phatic device be considered an infidelity? Nevertheless, initial trials suggest that the Kissenger could allow couples to retain a level of physical intimacy through kissing, and the device is already available for pre-order.

 

Gallace, A. and Spence, C. (2010) The science of interpersonal touch: an overview. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 34 246–259

E. Saadatian et al. (2014) Mediating intimacy in long-distance relationships using kiss messaging. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 72 736–746

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Veronica Wignall

Veronica is a Biology graduate from the University of Bristol, she is currently an editorial assistant but hopes to move into science media comms! Follow Veronica on Twitter @vronwig

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