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Cuddly toys let your smartphone love you back

Are you in love with your smartphone? A new plush toy and app combo from Japan lets you hug it and pet it and squeeze it and call it George.

Video screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia

We've always thought smartphones needed to be more cuddly. When we all got our very first models, we were majorly disappointed that we couldn't give them a big ol' hug and have them whisper sweet-nothings in our ears.

It's OK, though. A team of graduate students led by Yuta Sugiura at the Keio University Graduate School of Media Design in Japan have our backs. The students have created a series of stuffed toys that you can put your phone inside. Give it a squeeze, and your phone will respond by talking or flashing lights.

It works by using the phone's LED flash and camera. When you activate the app and put your device inside the toy or pillow, the light comes on. The camera is able to gauge how well the light bounces off the stuffing inside the toy; when you squeeze the toy, the stuffing compresses, reducing the amount of light, and the app reacts accordingly.

Although the system would eat up some battery life, it's a pretty smart and interesting way to make use of a smartphone's peripheral features. We imagine it would be great for creating a programmable stuffed toy that could play back your own recordings -- something to comfort a child, perhaps, if you had to go away for a day or two.

See how it works in the video below.

(Source: Crave Australia via PSFK)