This pale, sweaty robot hand wants to take romantic walks with you

From Japan comes a soft, warm motorized hand that lets you "experience holding your girlfriend's hand more easily than finding a girlfriend."

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
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"Oh, yeah, I'll tell you somethin' I think you'll understand..."

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Sometimes you just want a warm hand to hold, but there aren't any around. At least not any connected to humans. That's where a new robotic hand out of Japan comes in. It's covered with a soft pliable gel to feel more like skin than machine, and when you squeeze it, it squeezes back. 

Four engineers from Gifu University created the motorized device to let users "experience holding your girlfriend's hand more easily than finding a girlfriend." 

In its current form, Osampo Kanojo ("My Girlfriend in Walk," in English), is a cumbersome-looking wearable contraption with wires and a track that might detract from the romance of long, leisurely strolls. But though a disembodied hand can't take the place of a real inamorata, its creators have taken several steps to increase the realism. 

A cloth inside the hand emits the fragrance of a woman's shampoo. Sounds of your virtual girlfriend's steps and breathing, and the rustle of her clothes, play through an accompanying app on your smartphone. And if you want the warm hand to seem a little nervous (definitely a sign it likes you), you can even make it sweat. Just add a damp cloth between the heater and the "skin" and bits of moisture escape through small pores in the material.   

That the hand comes from Japan, land of robots for every occasion, shouldn't come as a surprise. Japan has also seen its share of virtual girlfriends, with one resort even becoming a vacation hub years back for guys who like to treat their digital dates to sun-and-fun getaways.

Osampo Kanojo creators note that finding a girlfriend isn't always easy. But as SoraNews 24 points out, they also see their invention as a potential tool for comforting people isolated during the coronavirus pandemic. Say what you will about walking around attached to a pale set of mechanized fingers, but a growing body of research does link loneliness to a range of health problems.  

No word yet if or when the hand might be widely available or whether it'll be looking for dates on Tinder.