12.0609 all you need is love, or The Bed

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sun, 2 May 1999 21:33:40 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 609.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sun, 02 May 1999 21:32:29 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: all you need is love, or The Bed

Spring in England has been depressingly chilly this year. I looked forward
all winter to my newly planted forsythia, right by the gate in the front
garden, bursting into bright yellow bloom and so lifting my spirits, which
I can assure you have needed lifting. Alas, after a brief flowering my
chilled forsythia seems to have concluded, in the way plants come to their
conclusions, that blooms were not in order and so dropped them. It's been
too cold to enjoy the bright red leaves of my pieris, which have already
gone to yellow-green. And then, just minutes ago, I heard from my daughter
that snow is falling outside her window in Fairbanks, Alaska.

How good it is, then, to have stumbled across a real spirit-lifting piece
of research from the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab, described
in the online paper, "The Bed: A Medium for Intimate Communication",
<http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi97/proceedings/short-talk/cd.htm>. This paper
presents "an environment providing a new form of abstracted presence for
intimate, non-verbal inter-personal communication. This secure and familiar
environment is explored for its ability to become a shared virtual space
for bridging the distance between two remotely located individuals through
aural, visual, and tactile manifestations of subtle emotional qualities."
At last a solution to a whole range of problems, including but by no means
limited to physical separation.

The Bed consists of two actual beds. "Within each bed environment, there
are two pillows and one curtain. Each pillow has a unique role in the
environment, one is for the head and the other is a "graspable" pillow that
can be pressed up against the body.... The body pillow is used as an
output-only device in order to serve as a physical avatar of the remote
individual. Inside the body pillow are an electric heating blanket and a
large sub-woofer speaker that is capable of producing a strong physical
vibration.... When both participants climb into their beds and hold their
body pillows, the participants' presence is initially represented through
both the warming up and the appearance of a slow, steady physical pulsing
in the other's body pillow. This bridges the physical distance between the
two individuals through this intermediate tangible medium: one can feel the
heartbeat and the body warmth of the other. If one person begins to get
restless, i.e. he/she moves about in the bed, the movement is communicated
through an increase of the rate and intensity of the heartbeat in the
other's body pillow....."

Perhaps this supplies an answer to why humanists need Internet II?


Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>