Share a Hug Hundreds of Miles Apart with a Pair of IoT Plushes –

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The original

Born out of a hackathon and several rounds of design iteration around 2015, Parihug was a stuffed animal that was built with the intention of bridging the distance gap. It contained a sensor that would detect when a person was hugging it, and thanks to a mobile app and Wi-Fi/BLE connectivity, would send a command to another Parihug to trigger haptic feedback. However, this product ended up not being delivered on Kickstarter due to external circumstances, which is why YouTuber and maker Xyla Foxlin wanted to revisit the concept to give it an update.

Redesigning with modern hardware

Connected microcontrollers and IoT have gained a lot of functionality and usability over the last decade. In particular, the ESP lineup of microcontrollers and the entire ecosystem around them have enabled for low-cost and energy efficient projects to be created with ease. In this case, Foxlin and fellow YouTuber Becky Stern opted to use an Adafruit Feather HUZZAH ESP8266 board along with a LiPo battery cell to power their remote hug project.

How to detect and transmit a hug?

When a bottle is squeezed, the pressure inside is increased due to the displacement of its internal air volume. Based on this principle, the duo added a small plastic bottle along with a tube leading into an Adafruit MPRLS pressure sensor module. When the value exceeds a predefined threshold, an Arduino IoT Cloud variable is switched into an active state where it can be subsequently read by the paired device.

Assembly and programming

After some tinkering on a solderless breadboard, Foxlin and Stern moved their project to a more permanent home before attaching the bottle’s tube and adding it to the stuffed animal. The code running on the ESP8266 is fairly straightforward. It starts by connecting to the local Wi-Fi network, initializing the Arduino IoT Cloud variable, and configuring the pressure sensor. From here, it waits until the sensor is activated and flips the Cloud variable from 0 to 1.

Giving a hug, remotely

With their pair of huggable animals now done, Foxlin flew back to Los Angeles and gave Stern a call to test if their system worked. Upon giving one device a tight squeeze, the other quickly began to buzz. To see more about the project, you can watch the video here on YouTube or view the code and build guide on Stern’s blog.


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