Hugvie, the huggable robotic pillow-phone invented by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, of Osaka University, has a heartbeat and internal vibrators meant to make it seem more human-like as you put your arm around it imagining it’s the person hundreds of miles away.
The concept of enhancing long-distance phone conversations between loved ones isn’t new. Kissinger, the long distance kiss messenger, and the kiss transmission device invented by other Japanese researchers have also tried to make long-distance conversations more personal by making the protagonists feel closer to each other. Hugvie is basically a robotic pillow with a human shape that acts as a port for your mobile phone. It’s got its own heartbeat and internal vibrators that react faster and stronger, depending on the tone of the conversation. It sounds like an interesting device, but a lot of people find it just a little bit creepy.
Right now, the Hugvie isn’t the most advanced robot to come out of Japan, but professor Ishiguro, who has made a name for himself by creating human-like androids, believes he can take his Telenoid technology further, by turning Hugvie into a robot with an internal frame and lots more sensors and vibrators. This would make the pillow-phone much more realistic and also end the hugs long distance; when you hug the pillow, the Hugvie on the other end would move accordingly. But even in the current state, the robot pillow is believed to become a hit with families, lovers and elderly people taking to far-away relatives.
I do understand the idea behind Hugvie, but I wouldn’t put my hands around this creepy-looking pillow if you paid me. It looks too much like something out of a Japanese horror movie for me to even go near it, so for now I’ll just stick to Skype video calls, thank you very much.