DOES technology always have to be cold? We've heard the argument a thousand times. Thanks to the wonders of email, text and social media, we're now more connected to each other than ever.
But can technology provide us with a way to reach out to each other that’s a little warmer, a little more human?
In a nutshell, that’s the thinking behind Pillow Talk. Joanna Montgomery originally came up with the concept as a university project, but was encouraged to develop it commercially after a wave of interest worldwide, particularly from the USA. It’s now past the prototyping stage, and is pencilled in for release in the summer.
Pillow Talk allows two people to communicate when they’re miles apart, but in a slightly different way. Each person wears a sensor ring, which measures heartbeat by gauging the density of the finger as blood pumps through it. This is transmitted wirelessly to a flat fabric panel that can be inserted in the pillowcase.
When one person goes to bed, the other’s pillow glows to indicate that they’re there. Using a smartphone app, Pillow Talk also sends the heartbeat information to the other pillow, meaning the pair can hear each other’s heartbeats as they drift off to sleep.
“It’s about feeling a connection with another person without actively engaging with them”, says Montgomery. “There’s something cold and crude about sending an email. I wanted to make something more intimate.”
The idea of being able to communicate with a loved one far away appealed to Montgomery, whose own boyfriend spends a lot of time away working on oil tankers. However, the idea also sprang out of a sense of frustration about the limitations of modern-day interaction.
“Somewhere along the line, interaction become quite unexciting. It’s all 2D and everything involves a screen. To communicate with another person, it always seems you have to use some sort of screen. I wanted to come up with a way to communicate with someone that was more subtle, that gave you an awareness of the person without calling or sending an email.”