Hooman Samani, a researcher in "lovotics" — the science of special relationships between humans and machines — has introduced a couple of new robots designed to make long-distance relationships more manageable. First up is the Kissenger, a robot roughly the same size and shape as a softball with a pair of highly touch-sensitive lips. These hide an array of sensors and motors which both detect how you're kissing, and make the lips react according to the way your partner's kissing on a wirelessly-connected partner device. As well as adding an extra sense to your video chats, Samani also suggests that it could enable more intimate relationships with both robots and virtual characters. While the name's inspired, we're not entirely sure how Henry would feel about it.
His second (and frankly even weirder) invention is the Mini-Surrogate — a Cabbage Patch Kid-featured doll which gives you a physical presence over the internet. It uses a combination of Kinect-like motion tracking sensors, speakers and a microphone to map your speech and movements onto your surrogate model which is connected via the internet. Samani explains that having a physical presence can make long-distance relationships far smoother, and that having a whole-body representation of yourself can make interaction seem far more real. So if you've had longing dreams after watching Avatar this might be what you've been waiting for. The wait's not quite over yet, though, as both the Kissinger and Mini-Surrogate seem to be concepts for now.