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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:Eeeh... (Score:5, Funny)

      by neurostar ( 578917 ) <neurostar @ p r i v o n .com> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:47AM (#16407471)

      Sometimes you gotta take the love you can get I guess.

    • Re:Eeeh... (Score:5, Funny)

      by dptalia ( 804960 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:50AM (#16407497) Homepage Journal
      it is my opinion that a hug is about being close to someone and feeling their warmth

      So you're saying they need to add heating elements to their vest? One moment while I fill out a patent....

    • no kidding.

      if it were this easy, couldnt they just wrap a belt around themselves are start pulling? somehow, i doubt that will make anyone feel better.
      • i doubt that will make anyone feel better

        but it will feel so good when they stop ...
      • Re:Eeeh... (Score:4, Informative)

        by mooingyak ( 720677 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:45AM (#16408313)
        Actually, that's not too far from one of the existing approaches:

        Hug Box [autism.org]
        • by dpilot ( 134227 )
          A year or two back they interviewed Temple Grandin on NPR, and she talked about this machine. Oddly related to the linked article, she was being consulted by the beef industry to lessen the trauma of slaughter, and helped institute the squeeze chute there, too.
          • Re:Eeeh... (Score:4, Informative)

            by AEther141 ( 585834 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @12:37PM (#16410037)
            Other way round. Temple Grandin [grandin.com] is one of the foremost experts in slaughterhouse design, the first to design a slaughterhouse from a cow's perspective. The hug box is a spin-off from the meat industry where similar devices have been used for years as an aid to cattle handling. Temple noticed the calming effect of enveloping pressure on cattle and tried it for herself. She believes that autistic people can tell us a lot about animal behaviour and vice versa - her success in the field would suggest that she's right.
        • by magetoo ( 875982 )

          Actually, that's not too far from one of the existing approaches:

          Yikes, those pictures make it look like some insane torture ... apparatus. I remember reading about it and found it interesting, but now I'm not so sure.

          It's mentioned in the article too (4th paragraph):

          Weighted blankets and vests have been used for several years, offshoots of the original ``hug machine" designed by Temple Grandin, who wrote the book, ``Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports from My Life with Autism."

          Now where did I

      • by Amouth ( 879122 )
        that is why the use a vest.. if it was as simle as a belt some of the slower kids might get it around their neck.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 )

      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 ind

    • Re:Eeeh... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother@oEINSTE ... minus physicist> 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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        And I can verify this first hand as I suffer from a mild form of autism. Very often I get sensory overload from all the input feeding into my brain. This is literally enough to drive you insane and can lead to major anxiety disorders as it did in my case. This thing would be great because when you are squeezed it blocks off all the inconsistant sensory input and has a very real calming effect. If I had that plus eye covers and noise cancelling headphones then I'm in heaven.
      • I had many a client who required some kind of tactile stimulus, either as constant input (self-stimulatory behavior) or for behavioral control (comfort).

        People with mental issues bob their head because that physical motion causes the release of endorphins.

        It's a self soothing behavior they use when they're agitated.

        As for why a hugging vest would work, it might have something to do with why swaddling (tightly wrapping) babies limits their crying. Something about that tight pressure just works.

      • To be sure, an autistic may or may not be responsive to personal closeness (a hug) - if I recall correctly, autism's primary impact is on the ability to relate to and communicate with others?

        This vest can't really give a "hug" - there is no emotional dynamic there. However, I believe people suffering from autism often hug or rock themselves: the term is "autostimulation". If this vest can provide that stimulation, it may well give some autism sufferers the help they need to cope with their disorder.

        I am

    • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
      A lot of people on the autistic spectrum do better with pressure on the chest. For this reason, they sell weighted blankets to help them sleep. So, for AS people, it is not about being close and warmth, but just plain old mechanical pressure.
      • As an autistic person, I can verify that the pressure of the lead-lined vest used during dental x-rays is quite soothing. If those were available at a reasonable price, I'd give serious thought to buying one.
    • The Squeeze Machine (Score:3, Informative)

      by tigre ( 178245 )
      This is a variation on the Squeeze Machine that Temple Grandin developed for herself. Some types of autistics need/crave tactile stimulation. It can help them organize themselves, and even can be a form of pleasure. I know one fellow with Asperger's who said he loved it when people punched him in the gut.
    • I have a family member with an autistic spectrum disorder. Occasionally, she will become overly anxious, needing some sort of sensory input. One way to calm her is to have her lay on a bean bag chair, put another on top of her, and gently sit on the top bean bag. The pressure gives her sensory input, and calms her down tremendously. I didn't believe this would work, but luckily, professional therapists were aware of this and educated me.
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @09:46AM (#16407443) Homepage Journal
    Surely, this gadget will provide a ray of hope for cold, unfeeling, wireframe mothers everywhere. [wikipedia.org]
  • Wouldn't using this vest be like giving yourself a hug?
    Wouldn't that be like trying to tickle yourself? (Note you can't; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tickling [wikipedia.org])
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nyago ( 784496 )
      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.
      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        It's ironic that you might not suffer from such a severe case of OCD if you had just been hugged more as a child.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          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.
          • by jandrese ( 485 )
            Obviously I can't make any real medical advice since I don't know you beyond what you posted, but it has been shown several times over that human to human contact as a child is essental in the proper formation of brain structures. Children that are denied human contact are much more likely to develop problems like sociopathy, OCD, autism, retarded development and the like. Infants that are denied contact show developmental delays as early as 6 months and irreversable damage at 2 to 3 years.
            • There's a big difference between "Children that are denied human contact" and "not being hugged enough".

              In any case, I would have to see some real scientific evidence before I'd believe that these problems were primarily caused by parents behavior toward their children. There are many loving parents who have children with these problems and it's an insult to suggest they are at fault for those conditions.

              I think your attitude illustrates exactly what I was talking about.
              • by jandrese ( 485 )
                Correlation is not causation. Just because a child has those symptoms doesn't mean the parents were neglectful, but if the parents were neglectful then it's far more likely that the child will have those symptoms. Don't take my first post so personally, I was just pointing out the irony of the situation.

                As for medical papers, there is a lot of work being done with Eastern European orphans [google.com] in this field.
                • "Don't take my first post so personally, I was just pointing out the irony of the situation"

                  But it's only ironic if it's true. Perhaps you were trying to be funny rather than ironic.
                  • by Nyago ( 784496 )
                    But it's only ironic if it's true.

                    Indeed. Actually, I had plenty of parental affection and hugs as a child. Anxiety disorders run in my family (though my parents are fine), so I'm guessing this is more "nature" than "nurture". :)

                    Couldn't decide which post to reply to, so I'm replying at the bottom of the thread.
    • I can tickle myself. I'm not kidding. I've tested by trying to not burst out into laughter when tickling my feet. It doesn't take long before I start laughing in spite of my efforts not to, and soon I can hardly bring myself to keep up the tickling. I should edit that wiki... Oh, wait. It already says 'most', not 'all' people can't tickle themselves.

      Anyway, since tickling is far better than hugging we should all talk about tickling instead.
    • by tooba ( 710518 )
      "Wouldn't that be like trying to tickle yourself? (Note you can't ..." Oh yeah? Try rubbing the roof of your mouth with your finger.
  • This is a great invention for pirates!

    Not only does it hug you to sleep on those long pacific ocean crossings, but it'll also serve as a life vest should the unthinkable happen and your land-lubber-hearties force you to walk the plank!

    Roger the cabin boy must be so relieved by this idea...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Clazzy ( 958719 )
      But "A vest ye, me hearties!" just doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
    • Roger the cabin boy must be so relieved by this idea...

      I think you've misunderstood something along the way.

      It's not "Roger, the cabin boy". It's "roger the cabin boy". Roger is a verb in this context. But, at least he can get hugged and rogered at the same time, cause lord knows the pirates aint gonna give him a hug and a cuddle. ;-)


  • But it will be a top seller among the ravers
  • For me at least... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The meaning of a hug to me is comparative to a handshake, i.e. it is the thought behind the action that counts, not just an imitation of it. Now it is possible that a psychiatric patient might benefit from something like this, as I know some of them are extraordinarily desperate for any kind of perceived warmth and kindness, even if it is simulated.
    • by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
      "i.e. it is the thought behind the action that counts,"

      Contact that is incidental for one person can be very profound for another.

      "not just an imitation of it."

      Never had the urge to wrap yourself up in a warm blanket even when you weren't cold?
  • by Ranger ( 1783 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:08AM (#16407755) Homepage
    If they are going to design biomechanical clothing, they might as well design a pair of shorts to massage your lower torso. They would be very popular with slashdotters who still live with their parents:

    Bobby: Calls through closed bathroom door "I need to get another pair of massage shorts this pair is almost worn out."

    Mother: "Why Bobby, that's your third pair of massage shorts this month you've worn out."

    Son: *silence*

    Mother: "Bobby, what are you doing in there." knocks on door "Open this door this instance."

    Bobby: "Go away. I'm brushing my teeth. Yeah, that's it, brushing my teeth."
  • Reminds me of that Douglass Coupland book. There's a hug machine for comforting mildly autistic nerds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JPod [wikipedia.org]
  • Dr. Evil: Well, don't look at me like I'm friggin' Frankenstein! Come here and give your father a hug.
    Scott Evil: Get away from me, you lazy-eyed psycho!

    Of course, it would have to be an EVIL hugging vest. Now where are the (oblig) sharks with frickin' lasers.
  • Hugging machines (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:20AM (#16407931)
    Here's the original hug machine the story refers to, if you're interested.
    http://grandin.com/inc/intro-squeeze.html [grandin.com]
    Of course, Dr. Grandin also designs slaughterhouses.
    • by bezenek ( 958723 )
      Read Dr. Temple Grandin's book _Thinking In Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life with Autism_ for more information about the uses of hugging to comfort humans with Autism and animals undergoing veterinary care.
  • by Apocalypse111 ( 597674 ) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:25AM (#16408015) Journal
    I want a vest like the one worn by Michael J. Fox during Back to the Future Part II. You know, the one that automatically dried itself out after he fell into the fountain? Your clothes are now dry!
  • Scientist have come out with a smaller, more portable version of the hug vest. It is a collar that slips over your arm and just gives your bicept a little hug. It has the added benefit of telling you your blood pressure afterwords. Perfect for the high anxiety market. Groundbreaking inventions here!
  • So they're testing it with both students and psych[i]atric patients.

    How do they tell the difference?
    • Not at all. If they could, it would no longer be a double blind experiment, would it?
    • That's the actual experiment ! It's not about hugging vests, it's about the difference between the two groups. It compares mildly to the Stanford prison experiment [wikipedia.org] in that way.
    • Easy.

      One sleeps at wierd hours, dances to music no one can hear, and mutters statements under their breath.
      The other sleeps at wierd hours, dances to music no one can hear, and mutters statements under their breath.

      The former may also be locked in a small room with a single light and 'work' for several hours when the rest of the world is sleeping.
      The latter may be locked in a small room, tapping away uncontrollably and at odd hours, when the rest of the world is still sleeping.
  • It makes me kind of sad to think that there's so few people around to hug those who need it that we need an artificial replacement.
    Where's the love, man?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TayKettle ( 983976 )
      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
    • by trongey ( 21550 )
      It makes me kind of sad to think that there's so few people around to hug those who need it that we need an artificial replacement.
      Where's the love, man?

      The artificial replacement is needed because if one human hugs another it's sexual assault and he goes to jail, or maybe just fired if the hug happens at work.
  • for less money you can get a hug too, and at the expense of no batteries, just blow until it's full. Sex shops already sell them... :P
  • There has to be a joke in here about 10 AA batteries, a vest of comfort, and vibrators...

    I can't find the joke, but I know it is here somewhere.
  • Remember, everybody: if you see a link saying "additional details and a picture", it's another slashvertisement by Roland Piquepaille linking to his blog.

    There are tools [slashdot.org] to filter out his shameless plugs.

    - RG>
  • I'm gonna be gassy for a week!!!
  • Like that fingeriffic neck massager, I give an ETA of four and a half minutes before someone strips down and wears the vest the wrong way.
  • In Soviet Russia, vest hugs you!!


    ... damnit!
  • You wanna hug? Just don the vest that's under your airline seat and yank on both blue handles.
  • Anyone else not at all surprised that Roland is interested in artificial hugs? God knows it's the only kind he's going to get around here.

    BTW, any information on just how much pressure those things can generate? It would be an awful shame if they were to pop somebody. Awful shame...

  •   This thing needs modules.

      Like a C-Cup simulator.

      The "reach around and squeeze my buttocks during the hug" simulator should be a big seller too.
  • My son is Autistic and I think that many people seeing this think of hugs as being interpersonal or emotional or warm, etc. only. However, Autistics kids and adults need certain types of sensory stinuli to counter other stimuli and this is where the non-emotional, non-interperosnal hug machine comes in. They literally just need the pressure, which results in specific internal hypersensory responses which, in turn, help them manage other hypersensory overloads. There are many responses like this in our own w

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."