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A Vest to Hug You 83

Roland Piquepaille writes "In "New vest offers wearer a portable hug," the Boston Globe reports that engineers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have designed a vest to help people suffering from autism or high anxiety. This inflatable vest has pockets that hold air bladders and is powered by 10 AA batteries. When you push a button, the vest squeezes — or hugs — you. Now the engineers also want to know if their vest is effective — apparently a premiere. So they're testing it with both students and psychatric patients. So far, it's just a prototype, but read more for additional details and a picture of this hugging vest."
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A Vest to Hug You

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  • Eeeh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Olix ( 812847 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:44AM (#16407423)
    Being a nerd, I will admit to being somewhat inexperienced on this subject, but it is my opinion that a hug is about being close to someone and feeling their warmth, not being sqeezed by an air compressor...
  • Re:Hugging (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nyago ( 784496 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:58AM (#16407625) Homepage
    Probably, but it's better than nothing. I suffer from severe OCD [wikipedia.org], often making real hugs more stressful than simply avoiding human contact. This vest sounds like a reasonable stand-in for those times that I need a hug but can't bring myself to actually go through with one.
  • Re:Eeeh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <[tms] [at] [infamous.net]> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:09AM (#16407765) Homepage
    but it is my opinion that a hug is about being close to someone and feeling their warmth, not being sqeezed by an air compressor

    Certainly the social aspects are a big part of it, but it's possible that light squeezing pressure on the chest may have a physiological effect. I would speculate that it might, for example, stimulate more complete exhalation, which would in turn trigger a relaxation response.

    It would be interesting to compare a vest like this with the use of calming acupressure points [nih.gov] to induce relaxation responses.

  • Re:Eeeh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother@nOSPaM.optonline.net> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:12AM (#16407807) Journal

    However, for an autistic individual, sometimes the simple pressure on the skin provides a calming effect, or is a stimulus they require to maintain control. I worked with the autistic and developmentally disabled for 8 years; I had many a client who required some kind of tactile stimulus, either as constant input (self-stimulatory behavior) or for behavioral control (comfort). This is ideal, as it would be a lot less obtrusive than some of the ways we came up with to provide such stimulation.

  • by TayKettle ( 983976 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:08AM (#16408663)
    The article probably frustrated the researchers - and certainly misled most of the slashdotters - by fixating on the idea of a hug. I'm not sure how it would work for people suffering from anxiety, but for people with autism, what they want is specifically a calming pressure without the stressful-for-them element of human emotions. Definitely not a hug. I'd like to know what Dr. Grandin thinks of the vest. By the way, she is a consultant on slaughterhouse design because she knows how to build them so that they are less stressful for the cattle than conventional ones. Think empathy, not sadism or callousness.
  • Re:Hugging (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) * on Thursday October 12, 2006 @12:17PM (#16409729)
    Thank you Doctor. I didn't realize there was a scientific link between OCD and a lack of hugging.

    Seriously, this sounds like the typical US tendency to find someone to blame for every medical condition.

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