Skip To Content

    Paired Objects For Paired Relationships

    The internet helps us communicate. The Internet of Things can do more.

    This post is based on a talk about responsible internet connected design. For more information, contact the author.

    We communicate constantly, both IRL and online, through organic and artificial interfaces.

    The internet helps us reach our loved ones even when they are far away.

    The Internet of Things lets us communicate with novel interfaces, sending touch, sound, and light.

    Christian Sallustro / Via, Toymail / Via, Kwamecorp / Via

    Send light with the Aura, voice with the Toymail plushie, and touch with the Bond Touch.

    And yet we still miss each other...

    Modern times.

    ...just like we used to before these communication tools existed.

    Cave times.

    Because whether we communicate with text, sound, light, or video, sending information is not the same as feeling a loved one's presence.

    Presence is simple, comforting, and ineffable. Recreating that feeling is difficult, so it's no wonder that the internet centers around communication rather than presence.

    But communication without presence can strain relationships, provoking anxiety and "score-keeping" between couples.

    This strain exists whether you are sending a text, a touch, a sound, or a video.

    If we could, we'd transmit the unquantifiable comfort of human presence instead of blinks, blips, and images. It's hard to imagine what that would look like online.

    We recreate comforting human presence all the time with non-electronic objects that remind us of loved ones.

    Oog sprung for the princess cut.

    Many of these objects activate emotional memories to help us recreate a loved one's presence in our minds.

    A few well-placed, comforting, emotional outlines go a long way in recreating a loved one's presence.

    We think "dog" as easily from this outline as we do from a photograph of a dog, or a real dog.

    With the Internet of Things, technologists can add interactivity to give new objects this same emotional weight.

    These tech-powered objects recreate presence through a traditional emotive framework.

    Good paired objects recreate a sense of presence with no extra input required. They invoke comforting memories through subtle outputs.

    You can actually purchase some of these products, like this heartbeat-relaying pillow.

    Little Riot / Via

    Pillow Talk relays your heartbeat to your sleeping loved one.

    While even the most technological advances of today can't fully recreate presence...

    Oh, Mr. Bell.

    ...It's nice that so many companies are trying.

    The Touch / Via, Little Riot / Via, Fabrica / Via

    Stay tuned for more IoT thoughts as Christine wraps up her fellowship, or check out a more technical overview of paired object design.

    The Open Lab for Journalism, Technology, and the Arts is a workshop in BuzzFeed’s San Francisco bureau. We offer fellowships to artists and programmers and storytellers to spend a year making new work in a collaborative environment. Read more about the lab, read more from Christine, or check out Christine’s website.

    BuzzFeed Daily

    Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form