Inventing Tangible, the world’s first Teleportation Kit
March 2020: A month before my mom passed away from cancer, my dad and I were banned from visiting her hospital room.
Due to new Covid-19 health restrictions, the hospital had decided to ban all visitors & overnight guests, even family members of close-to-death patients.
What followed was the worst month of my life. With our inability to be present in the hospital room to make critical treatment decisions, I entered a state of learned helplessness as I remotely witnessed my mom’s body parts shut down, one by one.
All I wanted was two things — either to be in that hospital room and emotionally support my mom, or to be comforted by my friends. But shelter-in-place restrictions eliminated both options.
I felt powerless in my ability to stop cancer from taking my mom. But through the experience of losing her, I was exposed to several pain points, especially the horrific grief of isolation.
I learned that when we are hurting and feeling most isolated, we crave physical human connection to lift our spirits, and make us feel cared for. It is how we as humans are evolutionarily wired.
As a design-minded engineer, this pain point wasn’t just a problem that I felt uniquely equipped to tackle, but one that I had a burning motivation to solve.
November 2019: Five months earlier, I was designing toys for the children of military families.
During a needfinding interview, my close friend Emily — who had moved cities a dozen times before graduating from high school — told me a story I’ll never forget.
As a toddler, she and other military kiddos would peer through the chain-link fence by the runway, watching fighter jets take off from the Air Force base where her family lived. As they watched the planes disappear into the clouds, they’d wonder when (and if) their deployed parents would return home.
I couldn’t shake that story out of my system. I realized that for so many military families, there was a crucial period — often upwards of six months — when a small child was separated from their parents, deprived of in-person bedtime stories, hugs, and cozy time. I thought to myself that there must be a way to fill that essential, physical-emotional gap of distance, especially in this formative stage of a child’s relationship with their parents. And I wanted to be the one to figure it out.
It was time to get to work.
I’m grateful to share these two stories behind the Tangible Teleportation Kit, a solution I’ve spent the past two years bringing to life (with the help of a stellar team).
Tangible is a new communication medium that brings you the physical presence of a loved one over distance.
It looks like a neck pillow and feels like a cozy weighted blanket. But there’s magic in it — Tangible uses clever vibrations to trick the human brain into feeling delightfully immersive sensations of touch throughout your upper body — from a hug to a hopping bunny.
Pair it with the Tangible App, and together, they give you the power to physically comfort a loved one over distance. With intuitive gestures, you can literally “reach out and touch them” through your screen. Share a hug, blow a kiss, feel a “heart emoji” come to life, and more!
Our Covid-19 world has created more distance than ever before, and revealed that our existing ways of connecting remotely through technology are spreading more hate than love. We’re losing our ability to “be there” for those who are facing tougher times than ever.
Social media doesn’t solve this problem — if it did, we wouldn’t be so sick of social distancing. We need to remember that caring for others and connecting through physical touch are fundamental to the human experience, and the communication devices we use now aren’t fulfilling these needs.
At Tangible, we’re on a mission to augment these essential human qualities. If you’re interested in joining our journey, we’re thrilled to share that we just launched for beta-testing — and we welcome you to claim your exclusive beta-testing spot here.
Akshay + Team Tangible
I’d love to connect — say hi: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.tangible.team