Get hug while wearing the sweatshirt, and a series of LEDs light up, and then deplete after a few minutes signaling that it’s time for another hug. It’s a physical manifestation of a life-meter (as in Zelda or other video games) tied to our human need for physical connection.
The hugshirt is a meditation on the lack of friendly physical connection between people in the broader American culture. It’s meant to open a conversation around how technology can augment our visceral needs, not by trying to serve them directly, but by helping us connect with other humans in a playful way.
It serves as an example of a different direction we can take rather than VR and screen-centric futures with technology. It’s a step away from apps and attention harvesting market places that serve dopamine through imagined social structures, and aims to bring joy through evolutionary time tested systems.
Practically speaking, the shirt makes for excellent outing! The pressure of the hug needed to activate the lights can be collaborated by the first touch, and the amount of time per depletion can be set based on individual needs.
The Hug Shirt was my final project for my creative computing class at Harvard.
The shirt is built around an arduino lilypad microprocessor. The challenge of designing on fabric is you can’t cross wires over each other so you have to arrange the chip and sensor with care.
The shirt utilizes a custom pressure sensor which I learned how to make from a friend at the MIT media lab.
A snag point was to adjust the shirt for different types of hugs. I added a calibration feature to the software for this. When you first turn the arduino on, it waits for you to do the first hug to sense the initial pressure. From there on it only recognizes hugs with that same pressure.
Wiring the shirt with the electromagnetic thread was also a big pain and I ended up hiring someone on taskrabbit to finish off the sewing.