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"Kissenger" delivers cyber-smooch for long-distance lovers

posted 20 Aug 2012, 07:36 by Mpelembe   [ updated 20 Aug 2012, 07:37 ]

A robotics researcher in Singapore has developed a machine with synthetic lips that transmits kisses through the internet. Called "Kissenger", the device is designed to connect loved ones who are apart, with a cyber-smooch.

SINGAPORE (AUGUST 3, 2012) (REUTERS) - 'Kissenger' is a device featuring synthetic lips that allows users to physically send their smooches through the internet to their loved ones.

The lips, made out of a special silicon, are connected to sensors embedded behind them. A kiss on the lips creates pressure points that the sensors detect and transmit wirelessly over the internet to a receiving 'Kissenger' - short for Kiss Messenger. Actuators, also behind the lips, reproduce the received kiss, creating a mutual, long-distance kissing experience.

Researcher Hooman Samani, from the robotics department jointly set up by the National University of Singapore and Keio University of Japan, says he wanted to develop a way to send kisses through cyberspace, so lovers separated by long distance could remain romantically linked.

"We started studying kissing from a biological point of view, and also from a psychological point of view, so we've worked with teams with that background. To understand kissing in human beings, the roots of that and the structure of that, after investigating that for almost two years, we have started to make our initial high fidelity design, and later we did some user studies in order to make the minimal design to see what are the important parameters in kissing, which can be applied to a robotic device," he said.

Couples just have to connect the devices via USB cables, link up online and start kissing the silicon material to trigger sensors that move the gadget on the other side.

Thirty-two-year-old IT professional Lei Lei from China and his girlfriend, Luo Weiwei, were two of the volunteers who tested 'Kissenger' when they were apart.

Lei says although he uses it mostly in the privacy of his home, he would like to have the option of using a smaller, more discreet version in public

"Most of the time, I may not want to use it in public. But some other time, I may want to show off to my friends - I can kiss my girlfriend, can you? She's not here, but I can kiss her, I can feel her kiss, it's an interesting experience, so it's something they can work on if they have an iPhone version, I may be using it quite a lot. It's something exciting, something new, something others don't have, very interesting," he said.

When developing the product, Samani says those he surveyed preferred a toy-like design, rather than a realistic one, which most agreed was too intimidating.

"You know that some Japanese companies have made those human-like machines -- really human-like, everything, movement, gestures, face movement... and suddenly it feels... a bit strange. Am I touching a real human, or am I touching a robot?" said 27-year-old Luo.

Samani calls his field of study "lovotics" - research into the relationship between robots and humans.

'Kissenger' isn't yet market-ready as Samani says he has to make improvements. But he's confident his machine will one day become a must-have accessory for long-distance lovers all over the world.