Virtual World: Get Ready for Physical InteractionDo you remember the time when children came home from school and could not wait to go outside and play? Do you remember overnights where kids played board games or watched movies together? What about those times when adults planned times to socialize since they had not visited for a while?

Well, it appears that not only our children but we, too, are finding ourselves drawn into the web of social networking. While not bad in itself, it does appear that it has created a void where person-to-person contact that was once important is now thought of as unnecessary. Even email, once thought to be the epitome of communication, has ceased to have the same measure of importance as people are tending to lean more towards skyping, tweeting, or facebooking their friends. However, as new technology avenues open up to us, we find that many people are admitting that they have become obsessed with sharing their minute-to-minute routines with their friends. That brings up the question of what these people will do when another element is added to our vast array of chatting choices.

One such choice, as proposed by Tachi Lab, is purported to add a surreal opportunity for physical interaction. If our world does get caught up in this new media option, I can’t help but wonder if it will result in our spending even more time online and what the consequences of this will be in regards to our social contacts and / or our family connections.

As one looks at virtual reality technology, it is obvious that it has the ability to make our real world activities take second place. Thankfully, however, physical human interaction online is currently in its infant stage, but the fear is that not only can it make the user feel awkward at times, but that it may also lead the naive to venture into a possibly dangerous, online, vicarious social life.

If perchance this technology unfolds as quickly as it could, the human species may find itself in a quagmire of emotional need since human beings are dependent on interaction with other human beings. This is seen in babies who suffer from failure to bond due to lack of one-on-one eye contact with the person responsible for nurturing them. However, it is not only children that require this contact, since all of us need those hugs, squeezes, and signs of affection to supplement our other basic needs of food, shelter, and water.

I am not saying that social networking sites, such as Facebook, are bad. In fact, in some ways they have proven helpful by providing us with a means to locate and re-establish former relationships. However, Facebook cannot duplicate the human touch that is essential to our survival.

It does seem that, despite these reservations, physical contact online is about to become a reality rather than just a theory, which brings up the question of how much more time will we be spending online. If one thinks back a decade ago, the amount of time we spent on the Internet was minimal and our contact with others was basically limited to our interactions on forums or from emails we sent and received.

Today, we are in constant contact with others from our computers, tablets, and cellphones, which means that we are already consumed by the Internet. What touch and feel will add is a way to make emotional contact with a person. For parents who have to travel on business or are separated from a child due to divorce, this may actually be a blessing since one can even imagine how a slap on the back, a hug, an embrace, or just old-fashioned horseplay could make the child feel more secure. In fact, I can even see romantic encounters taking shape as the lonely seek affection from online strangers.

However, remember that this new touch and feel technology could be dangerous if it were to trap a lonely person into becoming the victim of a predator. Sadly, it seems that we are reminded daily that such evil exists as pedophiles and other predators stalk our existing social networks, forums, and other online sites.

Thankfully, however, the technology being proposed by Tachi Lab does not include any activities of a sexual nature. In fact, the company plans to limit the experience that users share to those that one would encounter in their day-to-day activities.

The program works as a typical virtual reality game setting. First, a vest is fitted over the user’s chest. Then the sender can send a hug through their vest to the receiver’s vest. On the negative side, what emotional impact would it have on someone wearing the vest who did not receive a hug all day? How about not receiving a hug all week or possibly never? This could take a lonely person and chip away at their already low self-esteem, causing even more emotional problems.

Then, too, one must wonder how effective the hug will be. Will it produce the emotional stimuli that the wearer needs, or will it be the equivalent of getting a pat on the back? Since this technology is so new, we cannot yet know if the vest will produce a hug like one would receive from grandma or one reminiscent of an excited lover. With this being said, this problem could be solved, I guess, if the final product were to incorporate the use of an excitement button that would control the strength of the hug.

So what do you think? Can you see yourself wearing a hugging type vest and seeking hugs online?

Comments welcome.

Source: Tachi Lab

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by sherifer22