I’ve written before about the convergence of our digital existence with our physical existence. It’s the idea that the metaphorical virtual things that happen in our digital online lives will become substantiated in reality, and vice versa, so that there is little distinction between the two in our consciousness.
One of the critical points of this convergence is of course the human central nervous system. On one side of the equation, we are connecting the impulses of the brain to systems that manipulate the physical world, such as this example. On the other side, the increasing efforts to hack the CNS mean digital events can be made fully sensorial at a fundamental level (through the familiar grammar of pain, pleasure, pressure, touch, sound, imagery, smell, etc.), and thus our digital lives can be experienced in the same way our physical lives have been experienced for tens of thousands of years.
In this vein, here’s a very simple and brilliant illustration. It’s the Like-A-Hug vest from Melissa Kit Chow, Andy Payne and Phil Seaton.
Here’s a video Chow posted on her blog:
The basic concept is that it’s a social media vest that inflates to “hug” you when someone clicks “Like” on one of your social media posts, thus giving you the physical sensation of an embrace (and thus the emotional validation) that is implicit in the virtual social media act of “liking” or similar. You can also send the hug back, apparently, by embracing yourself and deflating the vest.
I love it, and I am delighted by the image in my head: imagine looking out on a city street full of people wearing these vests, all of whom are immersed in their own mobile digital headspace. And in that sea, you’d see these vests puff up and deflate at intervals, as people hug each other at a distance, responding cryptically through the medium of the vest to a vast construct of data just beyond the ancient limitations of our five physical senses.
Eventually, however, we should be able to fire the proper neurons to deliver the sensation and do away with the vest. That’s the path we’re laying out here, right?