Ever wished your phone was a little more... intimate? Fabian Hemmert, a design researcher at the Berlin University of the Arts, Germany, certainly does. "Mobile phones use so little of our sensory abilities," he says. "They are great for information exchange - text, video, and speech - but they provide no feeling of nearness." That's why Hemmert has developed a series of phone prototypes that can transmit grasping, breathing or even kissing, which he presented last week at the Mobile HCI conference in Stockholm, Sweden.
The grasping prototype includes force sensors on the phone's sides and a strap which the user places over their hand, so that when one person grips their phone it sends a signal to a motor in the other phone that pulls the strap tighter. The breathing prototype similarly transmits air movement, with a pressure sensor on one side and a jet on the other.
Perhaps the most extreme prototype is the kissing phone, which consists of a moisture sensor on the sender's phone and a motorised wet sponge that pushes against a semi-permeable membrane on the receiver's phone. The extent to which the sponge moves depends on the wetness of the sender's kiss, letting you distinguish between a peck on the cheek and a full-on slobber.
Will we see these prototypes incorporated into real phones any time soon? Probably not, as Hemmert's colleagues called the new means of communication "creepy", "awkward", "disturbing" and "disgusting" when he asked them to test the phones out. Hemmert is not worried though, as he says this is a good result. "It starts the discussion about how we actually want to communicate in the future."