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Smartphone robo-cushion lets you love the one you're not with

Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro's "Hugvie" translates your caller's voice into huggable vibrations. Great for long-distance lovin' -- and maybe a new form of high-tech group grope too.

Mmmmm... Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

We've found the perfect accessory for your next cell phone rave/love-in.

Introducing "Hugvie," the latest creation from Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro -- the Osaka University professor behind the giant-fetus-like Telenoid R1.

A microcontroller and vibrators. Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory

The Hugvie is a colorful cushion shaped a bit like a pudgy stick figure (or the old AOL Instant Messenger logo). When you slip your cell phone into a pocket on the Hugvie, the cushion vibrates in sympathy with your caller's voice, creating a physical sensation of his or her alluring tones.

As Ishiguro explains in the video below, the Hugvie contains a couple of vibrators that throb like a heartbeat and can vibrate more quickly or strongly depending on the caller's tone or volume. Like the Telenoid, the Hugvie is meant to make communicating by phone a richer, more human experience.

Ishiguro says that when seniors used the Telenoid, they often hugged it, a fact that apparently inspired the new robo-cushion.

"We think this could be used by families and lovers, as well as by seniors and children," Ishiguro says of the Hugvie. Fair enough; it does have a certain adorability factor (and we're not quite so cynical that we can't see its possible emotional appeal). Headquartered in San Francisco as we are, though, and judging from some of the footage in the video, we imagine the Hugvie could give rise to a whole new form of high-tech group grope. They allow cell phones at Burning Man now, don't they?

Hugvie party -- pile on! Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory

The Hugvie is available for about $50 from the robot shop run by Ishiguro's Vstone.

(Via The Verge)