Romance can be complicated, especially for couples in long-distance relationships. There are many different technological ways lovers can stay connected, but sometimes Skype or Facetime just don't cut it.
Enter the internet-enabled pillow.
Joanna Montgomery, 25, of Newcastle, UK, set out to develop a new product that would connect couples who are physically apart. Pillow Talk enables couples to feel closer by transmitting their heartbeats - and by lighting their pillows with a glow.
While they may be hundreds of kilometres apart, the two partners are connected through a wristband and a smartphone app. The wristband picks up the wearer’s heartbeat and transmits it via Bluetooth to the iOS or Android app. The other wearer immediately receives, and hears, the other's heartbeat.
"By plugging in your headphones or the pillow speaker, you can lie in bed and hear the real-time heartbeat of your loved one," Montgomery says.
The Internet-enabled pillows also glow in the dark. When one person puts their head down on their pillow, it sends a signal over the internet to light up the other person's pillow.
The result, Montgomery adds, is an intimate interaction between two lovers.
'Sense of presence'
Pillow Talk is currently in beta testing and due to be launched later this year. But it's already received hundreds of orders. After being featured on design and technology blog Gizmodo last year, the project went viral. Since then, it has received 750,000+ views on YouTube, according to Montgomery, who founded the design company Little Riot after creating Pillow Talk.
"I'm still amazed at the success of it," Montgomery says. "I seem to have somehow struck an emotional chord with people. When people email me they don't just say, 'Can I order one?' They email me about their boyfriend or girlfriend and how they met... they send pictures of themselves."
Her inspiration derived from her digital interaction design degree at Dundee University in Scotland and personal experience with her own boyfriend, who works away every four weeks on a ship in the North Sea.
"If you text or email someone you have to sit at your computer or with your phone and it doesn't seem natural. When you’re in a relationship with someone you're sitting with them in the same room - not necessarily talking - but still with them. There wasn’t any technology out there that offered that experience."
Pillow Talk offers a sense of presence, she says. "You don’t have to actively engage with it but you still have a sense that your partner is there."