American in Spain

Telecaress: v. to touch someone across a long distance

June 12, 2015

TelecaressMy eldest child, born in 2009, does not remember a time before she could instantly summon a video call with her grandparents on the other side of the planet. It took science fiction writers no time at all to predict such technology as soon as they saw a black-and-white television broadcast back in the early twentieth century. Obviously we'd be able to hold "face to face" conversations over long distances as if the other person were just on the other side of a pane of glass.

So how will we communicate over distance in the future? This year, Apple released the first consumer level device that literally lets people touch each other over a distance: the Apple Watch. It's still very crude, and really only the touch equivalent of the telegraph, allowing single taps to be transmitted, but it, like the telegraph, bodes of a more connected and flexible future of touching each other over distance. As such, I've decided to give my best shot at coining a term for such communication.

telecaress: v. to digitally transmit an act of physical contact from one person to another over distance, with a sensor at the transmitting end, and a mechanism to reproduce a facsimile of the action at the receiving end.

I'm old enough to remember back with AT&T's marketing slogan was "Reach out and touch someone." They were just trying to get people to pay those exorbitant long distance charges (remember those?). Now perhaps my kids will actually be able to touch each other.

Apple pundit, John Gruber, put forth an interesting hypothetical scenario in his initial Apple Watch review. Imagine with him:

You’re 16. You’re in school. You’re sitting in class. You have a crush on another student — you’ve fallen hard. You can’t stop thinking about them. You suspect the feelings are mutual — but you don’t know. You’re afraid to just come right out and ask, verbally — afraid of the crushing weight of rejection. But you both wear an Apple Watch. So you take a flyer and send a few taps. And you wait. Nothing in response. Dammit. Why are you so stupid? Whoa — a few taps are sent in return, along with a hand-drawn smiley face. You send more taps. You receive more taps back. This is it. You send your heartbeat. It is racing, thumping. Your crush sends their heartbeat back.

You’re flirting. Not through words. Not through speech. Physically flirting, by touch. And you’re not even in the same classroom. Maybe you don’t even go to the same school.

This is how my children might flirt, as they sit idle in their self-driving car. Pretty weird and foreign, huh? Our current tech on this is still very, very primitive, but I'm convinced that telecaressing's arrival into our lives is not a matter of if, but when.