Good news for Internet buffs! You will now be able to reach out and hug one another, as Japanese scientists have created a new wearable robot which they claim creates the sensation of physical contact.
The 'iFeel-IM' robotic device simulates sensations such as heart beats, hugging, stomach butterflies and spine tingles among those wearing it, according to the scientists.
Lead scientist Prof Dzmitry Tsetserukou of Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan, said the iFeel-IM robotic device was designed to add a human touch to the ethereal world of cyberspace.
"We are steeped in computer-mediated communication -- SMS, e-mail, Twitter, Instant Messaging, 3-D virtual worlds -- but many people don't connect emotionally.
"I am looking to create a deep immersive experience, not just a vibration in your shirt triggered by SMS. Emotion's what give communication life,"
The Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying. The result of five years of research, the new device -- whose name stands for I Feel Therefore I Am -- consists of a collection of sensors, motors, vibrators and speakers woven into a series of straps.
Software created by Alena Neviarouskaya, a researcher at University of Tokyo, decodes emotional messages embedded in written text, triggering the appropriate touch response within the robot, say the scientists.
The device is capable of distinguishing nine emotions including joy, fear, interest, guilt and anger with 90 per cent accuracy resulting in corresponding physical sensations such as squeezes and increased warmth in the user, they say.
The robotic creation was among a string of futuristic interactive devices showcased at the first two-day Augmented Human International Conference held in the French ski resort Megeve.