Can a machine replace a kiss? Chinese start-up’s new invention raises eyebrows and excitement

Main issue users have with fast-selling device is the lack of a tongue

Stuti Mishra
Saturday 25 March 2023 14:07 GMT
Comments
Jing Zhiyuan uses a remote kissing device ‘Long Lost Touch’, as he demonstrates for camera how to use it
Jing Zhiyuan uses a remote kissing device ‘Long Lost Touch’, as he demonstrates for camera how to use it (REUTERS)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Howard Wolowitz, one of the main characters from The Big Bang Theory, was depicted in the sitcom as having successfully invented a device that could simulate the feeling of being kissed by someone else.

Now it turns out that a Chinese start-up has translated the idea of the character – who was always hungry for physical affection from the opposite sex – into real life.

Meet MUA, the long-distance kissing machine that has taken the tech world by storm and was inspired by the isolation and lack of physical intimacy experienced by many during lockdowns in China.

Developed by Beijing-based Siweifushe, MUA uses motion sensors hidden in silicon lips to collect “kiss data” from a user, which is then transmitted to the device of a receiver, allowing the person to experience the sensation of being kissed in real time.

Named after the sound people commonly make when blowing a kiss, MUA is more than just a simple transmission device. It also captures and replays sound and warms up slightly during kissing, making the experience more authentic.

As authorities forbade residents from leaving their apartments for months on end, Siweifushe founder Zhao Jianbo found himself unable to meet his girlfriend in person, sparking the inspiration for the MUA.

“I was in a relationship back then, but I couldn’t meet my girlfriend due to lockdowns,” said inventor Zhao Jianbo.

Mr Zhao was then a student at the Beijing Film Academy and was focusing his graduate project on the lack of physical intimacy in video calls. His research led him to establish Siweifushe, that counts MUA as its first product, on 22 January.

Jing Zhiyuan uses his phone near the remote kissing device
Jing Zhiyuan uses his phone near the remote kissing device (REUTERS)

Priced at around 260 yuan (£30), the device became an instant sensation, selling over 3,000 units and receiving about 20,000 orders just two weeks after its launch.

The MUA resembles a mobile stand with realistic pursed lips protruding from the front. A user will have to download an app onto their smartphone and pair the kissing machine which has to be plugged onto the phone’s charging port.

The user must activate the device using the app and, when they kiss the contraption, it kisses back.

The device is available in several colours though with the same unisex lips. While some users found the device intriguing, others were left feeling uncomfortable, with many citing its lack of tongue as a top complaint.

As with any new technology, concerns have arisen about potential misuse, especially regarding online erotic content, which is strictly regulated in China

Zhao Jianbo, founder of the remote kissing device “Long Lost Touch” demonstrates products for the camera during an interview with Reuters, at an office in Hangzhou, Zhejiang
Zhao Jianbo, founder of the remote kissing device “Long Lost Touch” demonstrates products for the camera during an interview with Reuters, at an office in Hangzhou, Zhejiang (REUTERS)

Mr Zhao said his company complies with regulations, but “there’s little we can do as for how people use the device”.

Although MUA is not the first device of its kind, it represents the increasing number of innovations trying to bridge the physical gap in human relationships as our world becomes increasingly interconnected yet distant.

The Japanese “kiss transmission machine”, invented by researchers at Tokyo’s University of Electro-Communications in 2011, was an early attempt at long-distance intimacy. Malaysia’s Imagineering Institute followed suit with the “Kissinger” in 2016.

While the concept of a kissing machine did not seem out of place as a gag in a sitcom, some have been left wondering if such devices can truly replace human touch and alter the definition of long-distance relationships.

Additional reporting by agencies

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in