touch from afar
Touch From Afar is a product concept that explores alternative ways of keeping up emotional intimacy with loved ones when they are physically away. By utilizing modern technology, non-verbal ways of communication and affection could be transmitted real-time between people from a distance.
Tung Lin, Mariana González, and NYC Reimagine Week
Under the impact of globalization, many families are split up as members move to other cities and countries to seek better educational and economic opportunities. This separation situation has put enormous pressure on countries which heavily rely on the younger generation to take on the primary role of taking care of aging parents. Many digital products and services have emerged to meet this growing need for long-distance eldercare. However, when the mechanic aspect can be taken care of through existing services and technologies, what about the emotional bond that ties the family together?
In collaboration with NYC Reimagine Week—a week-long event that explores big questions about life and death, we worked with workshop participants to learn challenges people are facing in the long-distance care and to reimagine how might we be present for our loved ones from distance.
When relationship is challenged by the impact of globalization and urbanization, how might we keep up the emotional intimacy with loved ones when physically separated?
How it works
Through workshops, we discovered that most of the long-distance communication is done through verbal and informative ways, which are mostly through phone calls, chatting apps, and video chats. Whereas non-verbal communication, such as physical interaction and contact, are currently not emphasized and provided through existing channels, humans exchange information and communicate through different senses. Small non-verbal gestures, such as holding one’s hand and giving him/her a hug as needed, could be powerful and create special moments of intimacy.
The design team proposed three experimental objects that use real-time sensory signals as a way of expressing affection. For every object in one place, there will be a pair in another place. Users will be able to interact, send, receive real-time signals through these objects.
Warmth: we imagined signals can be produced by two people holding the object at the same time, it will produce warmth based on their hand temperatures.
Scents: people can use hands to trigger the scent feature of the object on the other side of the world. The scent will be automatically released to gently remind the other person “I am thinking of you”.
Light: simply interact with the object to trigger the light signal of another person’s paired object. It is a gentle way of expressing states or thoughts as ‘I’m available’’, ‘’I’m here if you need me”.
Even if there is a distance between us, I feel you there
Design in the memory of my grandmother