Thursday, 19 July 2012

Long distance relationships and the technology that might help

During my first year at University I was on top of the world, I gave my girlfriend a long lingering kiss at the train station and said goodbye. I had to travel across the country and start a three year course for my degree. I thought it was kind of romantic to say my good byes at a strain station like some film I won't admit to watch. The truth is I didn't plan on a future or the fact that long distance relationships would not work. In my own defense I had no technology or possible strategy on maintaining karma girlfriend points.
So years later with free time and melancholic reflection, I wonder how to maintain long distance relationships?

Communication, was one of the problems I had due to being a student I had virtually no phone budget to telephone. I also didn't know about skype (communication via internet protocols with web cam and microphone) at the time so lack of talking kind of screw things up with me. I did how ever wrote letters which was cool at the time as things seemed more intense, sending photos and small care packages might have helped though its best not to over do it with the packages. About that time technology allowed me to send pager messages, so I sent short codes via pager. I think it was cool at the time but looking back It was the dumbest thing I did for instant messaging.

Ask the important questions at the onset, to make sure you are both clear on the parameters of the relationship Setting parameters such as naming your relationship (dating, seeing each other, boyfriend-girlfriend, engaged) as well as defining exclusive or non-exclusive. These can be difficult and awkward questions to ask, but will save you great heartache and misunderstanding down the line. Example: "Are you open to the possibility of relocating if the relationship should become more serious?" or "What are you looking to get out of the relationship?" Stating your end goal or ideas will allow each person to maintain what they need. Its seems easy to forget, but people do like to know what going to happen and if the relationship is worth the hassle of long distance

Rituals are cute and possibly a way to maintain your lover, it is hard to sustain in memory the person you love if you don't have something by way of a schedule. As a long distance couple, it's important to do other things together besides the usual phone call. In a long distance relationship, interaction over the phone can become dull in the long run. Incorporating other forms of interaction are important. Just think... People in short-distance relationships do not spend the majority of their time talking, but rather doing things with each other.

Try to replicate this by finding things to do together such as watching a TV show or movie simultaneously. Possibly set your watches to go off at the same time or alarm clocks, I guess its sounds silly but syncing your bio rhythms must be a subliminal way of making it work as a couple.
Talking about the future and plans, that includes visits and where the relationship will be in a few years time and possibly any scenarios in which someone could be in.

Avoid jealousy and be trusting. One of the easiest ways to destroy a perfectly healthy relationship is to poison it with jealousy and drama. When you start a long distance relationship, you must be realistic of the difficulties ahead. It always helps if you go in a relationship with the idea that everyone is innocent and worthy of trust until proven otherwise. Don't fall in the trap of interrogating your partner every time he/she decides to go out for a drink with people you haven't met or he/she didn't get back to you right away when you called and left a message. Just because you are in a long-distance relationship doesn't mean your lives will pause. Your partner will naturally have a social life where he/she lives and so should you. Sure, it helps to have your eyes open and not be totally naive, but being overly suspicious is unhealthy for you and your relationship too. You should both maintain your social activity and be happy within yourselves.

Being positive and giving each other gifts seems like the only thing you can do, I hoped to find some sort of magic formula. But what the guide books tell you to do is a lot of romantic gestures which will hopefully reel her in. It actually helps the cerebral part of the brain to keep those feelings, but is this simulated intimacy any good?.
The need for human contact leads technology to strange avenues of telepresence.
Using an arduino microprocessor board and some servos on the front and back of the shirt to simulate a real hug. CuteCirtcuit a London company offers a innovative idea of sending a text via a phone and translating the bluetooth signal to the microprocessor to the servos. The servos are strategically place on the arms the back of the neck and the side of the hips and middle of the back, to represent many hug scenarios including squeezing and back patting. Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz the co Founders of CuteCircuit have been awarded one of the best inventions of the year by Time magazine.The shirt also has sensors to encode strength of touch, skin warmth and heartbeat rate of the sender. Sending a hug is as easy as sending a SMS, which could be literally anywhere in the world so long as your phone is connected.

The kisser is another device, invented by Dr Hooman a artificial intelligence researcher at the keio CUTE center from the National University of Singapore. The egg shaped device is connected via usb and translates the pressure of the lips to a series of vibrating pulses. Improvements have been made to allow sensors and actuators, so when kissing the shape of the lips move while in progress. Dr Hooman says the device is a prototype and will not be commercialized until all the ethical and technical considerations are covered, he also adds he is not interested in sexual uses for it.

long distance relationships are are a struggle at the best of times and the lack of intimacy and constant communication could hinders the bonding process. There seems to be an increase of distance relationships, due to moving for educational or for work reasons. I predict there  will be a need for virtual telepresence devices like video conferencing, but also a possible future for intimate contact. Sending a Hug or even kisses would certainly aid the human need for contact. Beyond that I can not say for sure, though if there is a market for contact there would be a dark side of lust and fulfilling a need. I would go as far as to say if its in the minds of a few people, that the idea becomes popular its is likely become a reality and at distance human contact won't stop at first base.

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