A robotic pillow for grannies

For grandparents, no modern communication gizmo can replicate the physical interaction that comes with an occasional visit of their far-flung children and grandchildren.

Now, robotics researchers at Carnegie Mellon have designed a pillow that uses sensing and wireless phone technology to provide a physical touch, and thus better social and emotional support, for distant family members.


The Hug is shaped like a person about to give a hug, with two arms reaching up and out from a small torso.

To send a hug, the grandchild would squeeze the left paw and speak her grandfather’s name into a microphone in the top of the torso. Voice recognition software identifies the name and matches it to a phone number corresponding to the other Hug. The grandfather’s pillow lights up and plays sounds. To accept the hug, he squeezes the left paw and says hello.

When the girl squeezes or pats the device, sensors convert those motions into a data stream that is converted on the other Hug into vibrations. Thermal fibers around the Hug’s belly radiate heat that increases with time.

If someone is not home to receive a hug, the other person can leave a message that includes voice and vibration patterns.

No hope that the Hug will be mass produced in the near future. “It would need to go through product development, where people may want to change its appearance and make it more adaptable to different-sized people,” said Francine Gemperle, a researcher who worked on the project. “I certainly hope that someone picks it up and does something with it.”

Via The New York Times.

More pillows: Godfather Horse Head Pillow, Communication via pillows.