Making Workshop. Artefact Blogs Collection

Artificial Hug

Ana Inês Rodrigues (Heriot Watt University in Galashiels, Scotland), Elena Syurina (Mental health and Global Health, VU Amsterdam)


We are connected by technology, but also increasingly alienated and physically disconnected. This is linked to mental health, which is a complex thing. One of the most occurring problems is anxiety (closely linked to stress). This can be detected with heart-rate sensors and EDA sensors. But detecting stress alone is not enough, we need a solution. That is why we came up with the concept of ‘artificial hug’. This is a comforting soft sensor artefact that serves several purposes: it detects anxious states of an individual; provides neurofeedback; and, offers a way to reduce anxiety, by engaging a “hug” mechanism.

But, what is a human hug? What makes it good? Is it the same for everyone? Will artefacts be able to substitute hugs? and if so, what kind of effects on humans and social relationships could this have?

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