Changing the Meaning of “Pillow Talk”

Imagine. A couple comes home after a long, hard Monday. All they want is to do is lie down beside each other. They want to feel the person they love’s warmth and heartbeat next to them. The familiar type of reassurance which can only come from that one person. They get into separate beds and pull the covers over top of them. Wait. Something is wrong with this picture. Shouldn’t they bed in the same bed, comforting one another? The dilemma is that they are a long distance couple.

Spending any extended period of time away from the person you love is tough. If you ask me, a big part of choosing to be with a person is because their presence comforts you. This includes not only couples, but other relationships as well. The father missing his children while he is overseas. The sisters who live across the country from one another. The best friends that moved away after college and haven’t had time to visit each other. The grandparents that aren’t able to travel to see their grandchildren. All these relationships face the same problem. Distance. So, how do you fix the problem of having to be apart from your loved one? How about a little Pillow Talk?

Little Riot created Pillow Talk to ease the burden of long-distance relationships. They believe that “emoticons and pixelated video calls just don’t really cut it” and that we should be able to actually feel connected to those we love (Little Riot).

So, how does it work? I’m glad you asked!

When you buy Pillow Talk, you will get two wristbands and two speakers. They come in red or blue. The device works through an app on either your iPhone or your Android in two different ways. When you want to listen to the other person’s heartbeat, you put on the wristband, put the speaker under your pillow, and connect to the app. Your partner will get a notification that you want to “pillow talk” with them. They put on their wristband and put their speaker under their pillow. Then you both can fall asleep to the sound of each other’s heartbeat playing in real time. If you want the sound of their heartbeat to be louder, just take off the soft material that is on top of the speaker.

Or you can plug headphones into your phone, connect to the app, and listen to their heartbeat that way at any time of the day. All you need to do is make sure that your loved one has on the wristband.

Pillow Talk is available to be purchased for $179. Which, for couples that spend a lot of time apart from each other, $179 may not seem like much. If it brings you closer together and makes the time apart more bearable, then that seems like a pretty good deal. If you do decide to pre-order one, Pillow Talk is set to be delivered in late 2016.

The designer of this unique item is Joanna Montgomery. What does she think Pillow Talk is really all about? She released a press statement that said, “

Pillow Talk is about feeling that connection with someone. Anyone who has spent time apart from someone they love knows that – while it’s great to talk to them on something like Skype – you don’t get that same closeness from a face on a screen. We designed Pillow Talk to give people the feeling that they’re somehow closer together, even when they’re many miles apart.”

Ultimately, Pillow Talk was designed to bring a familiar type of intimacy back into any long-distance relationship. So, if there someone in your life who means the world to you, but you have to be away from them, this invention could be just the gadget for you. Little Riot posted a quote from a user that said, “I love it. It feels so human…like I’m lying with my head on his chest.” It seems that Pillow Talk is redefining the phrase “pillow talk”.

 

*Picture Credit goes to Little Riot’s Pillow Talk

HapticWave: Touching Virtual Realities

Virtual realities used to be a thing only movies could depict. They are now something almost anyone can experience. All you need is a little help from companies like Oculus (or to walk into a Brookstone). Now, I don’t think researchers have yet found a way to create a virtual reality as intense as the one in the Matrix. (Not that we would we want them to.) But, virtual realities have finally stopped being just predictions of the future. They have become, well, a reality.

Oculus researchers have started taking virtual reality games one step further. They want users not only to experience sound and sight, but touch too. Insert HapticWave. This new research is a project backed by Oculus and, would you believe it, Facebook. “Similar” technology has not been able to give feedback that gives a sense of direction. (ex. the buzz your cellphone makes). As a result, the capabilities of that technology are limited.  These devices also usually necessitate the user wears gloves or holds the object. But HapticWave changes both of those features.

In design, HapticWave is “a circular metal plate set atop a ring of electromagnetic actuators” (MIT). How does it work? Well, the user places his or her hand on top of the plate. Then the electromagnetic actuators will send vibrations into that person’s hand. Ravish Mehra, a research scientist at Oculus, commented that a headset and audio features help enhance the illusion even more.

HapticWave has different reactions when low-frequency vibrations and high-frequency vibrations occur. Low frequency vibrations gear towards heavier objects. This means they make it seem like those heavier objects are hitting other items in virtual space. Whereas, it’s the opposite for high-frequency vibrations. They give off the perception that small objects are hitting other items in the same way. One of the main components that sets apart HapticWave is the directional aspect of the vibrations. It conveys to users where the objects are in relation to them. This makes the interactions feel more genuine.

The researchers at Oculus used their Rift VR headset to create a demo for HapticWave. They also added in the factor of spatial audio alongside the two other elements. In one of these demos, they had an animated ball bounce across a table. Then vibrations came from the plate so users could feel where the ball was coming from. And if they wanted to move the ball, they could use their keyboard. Ultimately, in this version of virtual reality, the user could see the ball, hear it, move it, and (as an added bonus) feel it.

The possibilities of where the research of this new technology could go are endless. HapticWave could improve at home video games, for sure. But, this technology might also enhance gamification in learning. If a student is learning about dinosaurs, he or she could actually feel the vibrations from the dinosaurs walking around (PM). You could even hypothesize this technology may allow for games (educational and home) to be developed for users who are blind or hearing impaired. Can you imagine how the aspect of touch would enhance their experience while playing a game they otherwise could not play?

Mehra said he couldn’t comment if HapticWave would appear in any Oculus gadgets. But, he did mention that researchers envision HapticWave used in tabletop style virtual reality games. It’s possible that could be sooner rather than later. The demos Oculus created were set to be shown at the Siggraph computer graphics and interaction conference this past week!

“Our hope around this project was [that we could] generate this extrasensory input so users can be more perceptive and more believable of virtual objects,” Mehra stated. It looks like as if virtual realities might become a big part of our society. They have possibilities of use in the home, a business, or even in education. And I think the greatest aspect of HapticWave is it’s not limited to sight and sound. It brings touch into the equation. There is hope for the development of games that don’t involve sight or maybe even sound at all. Thus, an even bigger population of humans could enjoy and benefit from its technology.

 

*Much of the information (and the photo added) in this post were found from an article on MIT’s Technology Review by Rachel Metz.