Japanese videogame developer creates intimacy tech for mobile game.
What with so many developers focusing on the directly sexual side of sex tech, it’s refreshing to see a different technological approach to that deeply reassuring feature of human contact: the hug.
That’s just what the Japanese game maker, Otome Yusha—which basically translates as “Hero of Maidens”—has done by unveiling what it calls Boyfriend Hug Speakers.
Big strong arms
First, a bit of background: Otome Yusha is well known in Japan for its mobile game Tensui’s Illuminasia-Otome Brave. The game is all about players assuming the role of men who, and we’re not kidding here, have the goal of “saving the world through love.”
As part of a promotion for the game, back in July of last year, Otome Yusha created the Boyfriend Hug Speakers as a way for its users to add a new, physical element to their play.
Visually, the speakers look a bit, to be fair, mildly disturbing: a pair of muscular folded arms and a featureless disc where the picture of a boyfriend, real or fictitious, can be placed. Set into the upper part of each arm is also the black disc of a speaker.
As it is Bluetooth enabled, users can play whatever they want through them, including potentially some deep bass sounds to make the arms vibrate.
To use the Boyfriend Hug Speakers, all you need to do is place them on your shoulders so that the arms hug you from behind. Or, you can just set the rig down on a table so you can have the experience of chatting with your artificial partner.
Availability? There’s a question
Unfortunately getting your, excuse the expression, hands on your own set of Boyfriend Hug Speakers might be a tad problematic, as they don’t seem to be available to purchase.
Originally, Otome Yusha offered the tech as part of a limited-time contest that ended back in August 2019. What’s puzzling, and might offer some hope that they might be available in the future, is that the contest info is still live on its site.
Meanwhile, if anyone’s interested in trying out the game itself, Tensui’s Illuminasia-Otome Brave is available through both Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android—though there might be some restrictions depending on your country.
The special reassurance of a hug
Despite their non-availability and the jokes thrown at their design, there still remain good reasons to be optimistic that Boyfriend Hug Speakers, or something like them, could soon be out there for anyone to purchase.
First of all, the technology itself is quite simple: silicone or other similar materials for the arms, a pair of Bluetooth speakers, and you’re pretty much there.
In fact, there’s no reason why you couldn’t add some new features to make them even more lifelike, such as a heating element so they don’t feel so coldly artificial, a few internal mechanisms to make the arms contract by a tiny amount, and even some degree of artificial intelligence so you’d get some verbal comfort and reassurance to go along with a hug.
The big impediment, however, is getting developers to recognize that things like the Boyfriend Hug Speakers are in demand and to be motivated to work to meet this need.
This brings up a different issue. There remains a kind of unspoken stigma in using things like these speakers, a level of discomfort in admitting that people have a need for the deep satisfaction found in a hug.
But people do, maybe now more than ever. With high levels of social anxiety and feelings of disconnect from others, people crave a different way to be vulnerable and then reassured when doing so with other people might be too emotionally risky.
So while we can hope that developers pay attention, it’s first up to us to be vocal and open about our not-immediately sexual needs: we want technology like the Boyfriend Hug Speakers.
Besides, even if we don’t want it personally, by encouraging the development of these kinds of devices we’ll be giving voice to those who might be too shy but who truly need and deserve a way to have a proxy for human contact—those we should give our own kind of supportive hug.
Image sources: LEVEL5ch