“I believe we need to move from the age of information, which we have reached today, into the age of experience,” he says. A 2007 project extended the chicken research to children: The Huggy Pajama allows faraway parents to give their kid a remote good-night hug by pressing an input module’s buttons. In user surveys, parents and children reported higher levels of emotional engagement thanks to the huggy system. Now Cheok’s working on a commercial product that would let a user send a squeeze—and a warm thought—to the ring on a loved one’s finger. He hopes to have a prototype ready by the start of 2013.
Haptics are just the beginning. Cheok has a “digital lollipop” in the works that electrically and thermally stimulates the tongue to produce basic flavors—bitter, sour, salty, sweet. He dreams of a system that would let friends in Paris send you a taste of their wine over the Internet. “The ultimate Internet,” he says, “will integrate all our senses.”