Come on, let’s have a hug.


Seriously? A vest that inflates to give you a “hug” when someone “likes” your Facebook posting? Conceived not by The Onion but at MIT’s Media Lab?

Come on – seriously??

The vest inflates lifejacket-style when a Facebook friend “likes” something on your Facebook wall, “thereby allowing us to feel the warmth, encouragement, support, or love that we feel when we receive hugs,” says the Like-a-Hug project’s co-developer, Melissa Kit Chow, with (as far as we know) no tongue in cheek.

The most logical explanation is that the entity that issued that statement isn’t a human at all, but a sophisticated marketing computer. And so it’s not surprising that, if the visuals on her website are any indication, Ms. Chow turns out to be not an MIT student but some sort of disembodied gauze-like being who describes herself as “an artist and designer whose work toys with perception and the human body.” Operative word “toys”; in what conceivable adult world could such an invention be construed as needed, or even desirable?

It makes sense only as an ironic variation on a Tino Seghal-type art project, but spread internet-wide and without the need for the physical presence of other humans. Perhaps if the MelissaKitChow algorithm emerges from behind its fuzzy web pages it can tell us what it really has in mind. Of course, by then it may be too late – we may all be strapped into our happy-jackets, hugged regularly by remote control.