With emojis, emoticons and gifs constantly growing in popularity as a way of expressing emotion – especially amongst younger generations – app developers are seeking to find new forms of digital expression.
Two brothers trying to do this are former Googlers Petter and Kaspar Prinz, who have created an app called Hug – “the first emoji you can feel”.
Hug lets users connect with their loved ones by sending digital hugs by way of vibrations from their smartphone.
To send a hug, you select the emotion you want to convey (such as excited, sad, happy, etc.) and embrace your phone to record the length of the hug.
The recipient then receives the hug by embracing their phone, which will vibrate for the same amount of time as the recorded hug.
Petter Prinz, Hug’s co-founder and CEO said: “Today friends, couples and families are living on different schedules and different parts of the world. The most written word in 2014 wasn’t ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’, it was the heart â™¥ emoji.
“With Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp we’re constantly trying to keep in touch. But along the way we’ve lost the physical touch. With Hug we’re hoping to change that.”
Apple are also exploring new avenues of expression and connection with three unique features on the Apple Watch.
Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the wearable was “the most personal device we’ve ever created”, and some of its intimate qualities could be utilised by dating apps.
One such feature is Heartbeat, which lets users press their finger to the screen and send the vibration of their heartbeat to recipients.
Apple say the Digital Touch notification system “is an entirely new vocabulary of alerts and notifications you can both hear and feel”.
The Tap feature also allows users to send sketches, short pings, audio messages and personal taps – which you are notified to with a small vibrate on your wrist.
An app called Couple – which is a private platform for couples – and has a Live Sketch drawing game, uses its own expression feature called Thumbkiss, where couples match up their thumbs on their smartphone screen.
As the biggest tech companies and smaller startups experiment with new ways of digital notifications – and using entirely different platforms – it could bring new ways for dating sites to let their members connect, as the poke and wink evolves with new technology.
Hug and Couple are available for download for iOS and Android. The Apple Watch will be available for pre-order starting on April 10, with a worldwide release on April 24.