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Microsoft Patent Allows Long-Distance Hugs, Handshakes

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (above) and his company have been awarded a patent that allows people to feel hugs through the internet.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (above) and his company have been awarded a patent that allows people to feel hugs through the internet.

SEATTLE (CBS SEATTLE) – A new Microsoft patent can allow people to hug, grab documents or even shake hands through long-distance technology.

The technology in the awarded patent uses battery-powered pillows to simulate a hug – among other actions — and will be owned by Microsoft. The patent utilizes “Force-feedback within telepresence” technology, which is the concept of using interactive devices to create physical interactions across long distances, GeekWire reports.

Interactions such as “Hugs, hand-shakes, grabbing documents and writing on a whiteboard” are the possibilities described in the patent.

Such technology is currently available in items such as video game controllers, and extending it to long-distance communications is not new. In 2003, Carnegie Mellon presented a paper entitled “The Hug: An Exploration of Robotic Form For Intimate Communication,” which describes a girl and her grandmother sharing a “Hug” between Chicago and Pittsburgh.

The physical pillow that both hold – the “Hug” – increases in warmth as the two mutually embrace and stroke the cushion hundreds of miles apart.

However, Microsoft’s current patent doesn’t quite use such cuddly language.

One example describes the technological simulation of a handshake: When one of the people on the line shakes the device forcefully, the receiver physically feels the increase in force on their end.

Unlike the effect used in many video game controllers, the technology extends beyond just a simple vibration. Microsoft is looking to include feelings of, “friction, haptic, tactile, electric feedback, electrical stimulation, three-dimensional feedback, vibration, shaking, physical resistance, temperature change, motion, noise, and any/or other suitable feedback communicated via a device,” reads the patent.

Originally submitted for consideration in 2009, the patent was approved by the USPTO on December 11.

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