Now, robotics researchers at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh have designed a soft, huggable 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 pillow, called the Hug, was developed after the researchers studied how robotics could improve products the elderly use every day. The research team, financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, came up with 53 different ideas for products. They decided to begin by designing what eventually became the Hug because their research found that what older people often needed most was emotional support, said Jodi Forlizzi, an assistant professor of design and human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon. “Intimate communication is important for maintaining mental and physical health,” she said.