Wearable tech just got weirder: introducing the virtual hug shirt

28 August 2017 - 12:40
The Hug Shirt by London-based CuteCircuit is a high-tech garment that simulates the experience of being embraced by a loved one.
The Hug Shirt by London-based CuteCircuit is a high-tech garment that simulates the experience of being embraced by a loved one.
Image: CuteCircuit

Not long ago I came across an item of clothing called the ''hug shirt". The idea, at the forefront of wearable technology, was that somebody could send a message to the shirt and it would replicate the sensation of being hugged.

''Ah cute man!" you might be tempted to say. How nice for family and lovers. Every time they think about their distant loved one they can send a testament to that fleeting feeling in the form of a little squeeze.

How not so nice, I imagine, for the docile and innocent loved one wondering about their daily business in the hug shirt.

How the hug shirt works

When someone sends you a virtual hug, your cellphone notifies the shirt wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The shirt then recreates that person’s distinctive cuddle replicating their warmth, pressure, duration and at times, heartbeat. — Century Inventions

There you are mid sentence with your manager, or raising a cappuccino to your lips, perhaps dipping your fingers in a pool, when the hug comes over you like a wave, disrupting your thoughts, invading your space, forcing you to spit out your coffee and quite possibly electrocuting you - but only gently - like a minor lobotomy.

You can buy the hug shirt online but I can tell you who's not going to be buying it. Me. No sir, it's wearable tech that's like a bad episode of the invasion of the body snatchers.

In fact I'm sure this is the underlying reason behind the flagging fortunes of companies like Fitbit. At least half the people who acquire a fitbit or a similar piece of wearable technology give up wearing it after three months.

Most people have an aversion to being monitored. Have you met a single soul who appreciated micromanagement? This wearable tech stuff and the future of wearable tech, even if it comes in high-end luxury packaging, is really just like handing your life over to the giant cloud in the sky and hoping for the best.

The future of wearable tech is the equivalent of being stalked by a Cyborg Sting - so when he sings those lines ''every step you take, every move you make - I'll be watching you", he really means it.

He'll make a little algorithm of your life and pass it on to your insurer who will monitor you 24/7 and triple your premium because, well, you know you shouldn't have done that. But don't worry; they'll send you a compensatory hug shirt to make up for it. 

 • This article was originally published in The Times.