TNO at Holst Centre develops cuddle vest


A year onwards, COVID-19 is still among us, and hitting us hard. Restrictions to battle the disease are in place worldwide as we try to keep our healthcare systems up and running. As a result of this current pandemic, people are expected to keep a safe distance from each other. No more hugs from friends and family, no more slaps on the shoulder from colleagues. But when people are not allowed to get close physically, feelings of loneliness and insecurity can arise. With International Hugging Day on 21 January 2021, we need an alternative, and that is just what TNO at Holst Centre has made possible.

Lotte Willems, business development manager at TNO at Holst Centre: "Our connected cuddle vest with integrated haptic technology gives people the opportunity to experience a friends' touch, even in times of social distancing. Fourteen haptic motors positioned around the upper body and arms create vibrotactile patterns that feel like a caress or even a firm hug. The vest is controlled at a safe distance by a phone or tablet, creating a new form of intimacy."

The cuddle-vest is designed to showcase the possibilities of haptic feedback over a distance. Willems: "At the moment, the most attractive opportunity this vest creates is COVID-safe cuddling. This can be of great value in, for example, elderly homes where visits are now limited and even staff has to restrict proximity. However, this technology can also be applied in many other fields, such as supporting physical therapy, enhancing the gaming experience, helping people with autism to deal with an overload of stimuli; the possibilities are endless."

The hybrid printed electronics technology of TNO at Holst Centre invisibly integrates electronics into clothing, enabling every-day use. The printing process is cost-effective, paving the way for parties to bring textile products with integrated haptic technology on the market. As a knowledge institute, TNO at Holst Centre supports commercial parties with research & development of smart clothing.

Caption: Lotte Willems demonstrating the cuddle vest at Editie NL, a Dutch news show (photo: Holst Centre)

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