You could email someone a hug, if they wear this vest

Have you ever had a friend you were too far away to comfort, but you wanted to? Well, with a vest such as the HaptiHeart, you'd be able to give them a hug even from afar through the power of the Internet.

"We are steeped in computer-mediated communication--SMS, e-mail, Twitter, instant messaging, 3D virtual worlds--but many people don't connect emotionally," creator Dzmitry Tsetserukou, an assistant professor at Toyohashi University of Technology, told the French press. "I am looking to create a deep immersive experience, not just a vibration in your shirt triggered by an SMS. Emotion is what gives communication life."

Tsetserukou showed off the HaptiHeart as part of his I_FEELIM system with his wife and colleague, Alena Neviarouskayam, at the First Augmented Human International Conference in the French Alps. The goal is to add a new layer of feedback to online interaction, making them more real and engaging. It'd be coupled with software that could analyze a variety of electronic communication like the ones Tsetserukou listed, and would be able translate the "positive text" it identifies to send you a nice squeeze through the HaptiHeart. More overt interactions, such as two avatars hugging in Second Life, would get the same response.

You can check out a video simulation of what the HaptiHeart would enable here. It's decidedly quite a bit more endearing than the interaction would be while wearing, say, one of those gaming vests that beats you up while you play.

Tachi Lab, via CNET