Humans need hugs. Little humans, otherwise known as children, even more so.
This is scientific fact, supported by countless hugs…er…studies, and the need for human contact is evident at every stage of development.
Unfortunately, our busy lives don’t always support regular contact with our loved ones. We work, travel and often leave our children behind.
Parihug’s Pari, first spotted at CES 2017, wants to bridge that gap with digital hugs you can actually feel. The Kickstarter campaign for the loveable, smart toy launched on Monday.
Developed by 20-year-old electrical engineer Xyla Foxlin, Pari is a soft, gray huggable stuffed animal that sort of hugs you back.
Foxlin, who brought a pair of the plush, stuffed animals to my office, demonstrated how she could hug one Pari, which has a built-in pressure sensor, while the other gently vibrated to, essentially, telegraph the hug.
“It’s more powerful than a call home that says, ‘I love you.’,” said Foxlin.
Pari could be the Internet-connected device that helps working parents stay connected to children in a more physical way. Foxlin also sees it as a device couples can use (long-distance relationship-solver), a tool to help connect with autistic children and a potential eldercare device.
Each Pari, which Foxlin told me she “started as a hackathon project for funsies,” can connect directly to a smartphone app via Bluetooth, where users can register multiple Pari hug recipients —imagine grandma giving a group hug to four grandchildren, each with their own Pari hug animal.
Those Pari plush toys connect to their home Wi-Fi, allowing the hugs to be delivered directly. The hugs or, more accurately, vibrations, come by way of a large haptic motor inside Pari’s tech module.
The module will eventually deliver pulse-like heartbeats as well, derived directly from the hugger’s wearable devices, including the Apple Watch and Fitbit. If you don’t have one, Foxlin says they’ll still deliver heartbeats based on age, gender and activity.
Pari’s look is not only adorable, it’s functional. The ergonomic design becomes clear as soon as you hug Pari. The little legs hang just below your arm, which cradles Pari’s soft butt. One of its little floppy arms rests casually on your arm and the elongated head sits perfectly between your head and shoulder. Even without the built-in vibration, there’s the sense that Pari is hugging you back. I watched as Foxlin appeared to lose herself in a Pari hug.
Even though Pari looks like an Aardvark, Foxlin said they avoided assigning a specific species. “Animals that always existed seemed very polarizing,” she said. By leaving it open to interpretation, children can assign whatever story they want to Pari (when pressed, Foxlin jokingly uses “Paribus Huggus” as the species).
Even when you’re not hugging Pari to deliver hugs, the Pari app notifies you when your loved ones are playing with Pari.
Parents can unzip the bottom of Pari, pull out that square, palm-sized module and throw the over-hugged stuffed animal into the wash (but not the dryer).
There’s also a pint-sized Pari that’s basically a prop parents can take with them on the road. When they Facetime with their child, they can show how they’re hugging the tiny Pari, while triggering a hug on their child’s full-sized Pari through the app.
Pari is battery operated and will deliver vibrating hugs for months on a pair of AA batteries (mileage will vary depending on, obviously, hugs).
When Pari ships this fall, each gray stuffed animal will cost $75. Making a blue Pari is, Foxlin told me, a stretch goal.
Now, who needs a hug?