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Hugs Digital

Photo Credit: Hugs from Nice, originally uploaded by Athanassia.

Someone once told me that a hug increases one’s white blood cell count. Presumably, the mechanism is that hugging another person puts pressure on their axial skeleton and squeezes out white cells from the bone marrow; thereby imparting an immune-enhancing property to a hug. Although this charming and animated theory is appealing, it has not been shown to be true.

However, there is definitely a health benefit from hugging. There are obvious psychological benefits of creating warmth, a sense of closeness, a means of communication, and security. Karen Grewen, from the University Of North Carolina Department Of Psychiatry, conducted a study looking at the benefits of a 20 second hug and hand-holding among 38 couples. The couples who shared a hug showed lower blood pressure and heart rate than the couples who did not have any physical contact. There is also some suggestion that cortisol (a stress hormone) levels decrease and oxytocin the “bonding hormone” increase after hugging.

All of this information is especially promising if you are in close proximity to your loved ones, but what if your beloved is far-removed on distant shores? If such is the case, the ingenious creation from Cutecircuit will be of great interest to you. Cutecircuit is an interaction design and wearable technology company founded in 2004 by Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz. Cutecircuit has designed a shirt that allows you to send and receive hugs digitally.

How does it work? There are Bluetooth sensors embedded in the shirt that feel the warmth, heartbeat, and strength of touch. The sensors are then able to transmit these sensations via mobile phones to the distant lover. The mobile phone receives the incoming signals and transmits them to the Bluetooth sensors on the recipient’s shirt. Of course, one must wear the hug shirt to receive and feel the hugs. All designs by Cutecircuit are safe for both the wearer and the environment, too boot!


The hug shirt may be especially helpful for the isolated, debilitated, or elderly population. When social interaction is a physical challenge, it may be a surrogate means of communication and physical exchange. The hug shirt was nominated by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of 2006.


  1. Grewen KM, Anderson BJ, Girdler SS, and Light KC (2003). Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular reactivity. Submitted to Behavioral Medicine, January 2003.


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