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Weird But Genius: Feel Me App Turns Texting Into Touching

We all need human contact, but can we bridge that gap with our touch-screen phones?

Weird But Genius: Feel Me App Turns Texting Into Touching

It’s never been easier to contact someone. Technology hasn’t only enabled us to reach anyone on the globe instantly, but to reach them casually. A text is the ultimate in casual conversation–read it now or later, whatever. The same can be said for tweets and photos. In 2012, we don’t have flying cars just yet, but sharing media any time, any place, has been figured out.

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“It is easy to transmit words and content, while there is limited space for the nuances that characterize daily face-to-face interactions. In particular, technology provides many ways to communicate … but often neglects the need for people to connect nonverbally,” designer Marco Triverio tells Co.Design. “The widespread use of smileys shows that there is a desperate need for a more expressive and more personal digital world.”

So to bridge these words and images into a more intrinsic level of communication, Triverio built a messaging app prototype called Feel Me. The interface is simple. When a friend is typing, you can see where they’re touching on your own screen. And when your fingers match up, from halfway across the world, haptic feedback can allow you to serendipitously touch. In a text-me-later culture, Feel Me enables communication that’s transient and visceral. It’s an idea so compelling that it helped land Triverio a job at IDEO, and we’ve already seen the premise (borrowed?) in an app called Pair.

Is Feel Me a gimmick? Sure, but it’s a brilliant one. In this precise iteration, Feel Me’s interaction model is more a nice sentiment than a watershed technology that will make cross-continental romances viable, but the basic concept–one that doesn’t rely on miming emoticons to convey feeling–could always scale as technology improves.

Imagine an iPhone that you could kiss, and the screen would be warm and supple, matching the texture and temperature of a lover’s lips. On second thought, that’s gross.

Imagine putting your hand in your pocket, and the lining is flesh, a friend’s hand to hold during a crisis. On second thought, that’s necrotically creepy. (And on that note, I’m going to have to carry my wallet around from now on. I’ve grown frightened of what’s lurking inside my own pockets.)

Alright, so maybe forget the idea of scaling the concept for a moment, and just appreciate the idea for what it is: a means to communicate the tacit through current technology, to literally “reach out and touch someone.”

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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