Michelle Boisson

Paired is a set of wearable, networked devices exploring intimate communication between people via screenless, interactive technologies.

Our current digital tools empower us to interact with our environment in new ways, being able to connect with more people and things at once. While the modes of communication and how we connect are expanding, what happens to the depth of our messages? In digital spaces, we can send an email, voice, texts, pictures, videos, approval, and even money. What if we wanted to send a pat on the back, a hug, or "I'm thinking of you"? Paired is a set of necklaces for couples to be worn near the skin. When you grab one, as if you were holding your heart, it warms the other, essentially warming their heart. Paired is worn near personal spaces on the body. Couples send and receive messages via Paired's tactile interface.These simple notifications form a language that's real-time, subtle, and intimate between lovers: the physical rendering of a sweet nothing from a distance.

I've done the bulk of my research in human communication, human bonding and relationships. Bonding is the process of attachment that happens between parents and children, romantic partners, close friends, and groups like sporting teams or people who spend a lot time together. Oxytocin, also affectionately known as the 'love hormone,' is the hormone largely responsible for allowing this type of attachment to happen. With humans, we release oxytocin and create bonds while performing behaviors like giving or receiving massages, kissing, holding in stillness, synchronized breathing. Many of these behavior involve touch, with the intent to comfort. My idea is to create some resemblance of touch through a device, and knowing that this touch came from your loved one, it would release oxytocin, and create a feeling of intimacy though this distant communication.

People who have close bonds with each other, like couples, family, parents and children and close friends.


I'm focusing on communication that's intimate, meaning between people who are very close whether they are romantic partners, family, or close friends.

Based on research and things I took from testing other products in this realm, I came up with four design pillars for Paired. For Paired to be successful, it need to be:

Real-time: with things like SMS, twitter, etc., we are now accustomed to communications that are happening in the now. The user will be able to send love exactly when they want and it will be received a few seconds later.

Subtle: see below

Intimate: subtle and intimate go together. It's the space that the project lives in, intimate relationships. With intimacy comes a sense of privacy, so it's important that the interaction are subtle.

Wearable: Making it a wearable would mean it would live as close to the body as possible, which plays directly in the intimate space in relation to how we interact with other people. It connects the two users directly to each other and in a way connects their bodies themselves.

I mapped out how we currently interact with popular wearables like the fitbit and gopro and then thought about designing for personal spaces on the body like the ears, hands, wrists, crotch, neck, and chest. I came up with a system of input for sending a message and outputs for receiving the message. For input, I used stroke and touch, and for output used vibration and warmth.

In the end, I landed on making necklaces that live close to the chest. You apply pressure and the other one becomes warm.


Fabrication was my weakest area coming into this project. Luckily I had a lot of help. I met with friends and classmates who were better versed in this. And got help in making the necklaces. They are made of crocheted red wool and hang on a leather strap. Paired is made up of:

an ATTiny85 microcontroller which handles the logic

a bluetooth modem for sending and receiving data to the paired cellphone

a switch for sensing when pressure is applied

conductive thread which warms up the pouch

and a battery.

Technically, Paired is a mixture of physical computing and Android app development. When one Paired necklace is squeezed (or when pressure is applied) a message is sent via bluetooth to the wearer's phone running the app. The app then sends a special SMS to the other phone number, who is also running the app. When that phone receives the message is stops it from reaching the phone built in messaging system, and alerts the second device to become warm.

It took me some time to finally get into production, because I was getting caught up in user testing and research. I finally decided to go with my gut and move forward with my original vision for Paired. The fabrication workshop was inspiration (and crucial) to getting out of research and start making.

After my user test I struggled with what to do next. I thought I needed to refine my test, try different environments and contexts, different sensations and placement, to get results that were more positive or closer to the sensations I was trying to create. This would mean my project would turn into a research project. I like research and user testing but in talking to my peers I was reminded that I actually started this process with the intent of making something. This was a turning point for me. I had to make a decision about what this product was finally and start making. I learned that sometimes you just have to go with your gut. For next steps, I'd like to work on the form. One of my design pillars was ‘subtle’ and as lovely as the red crocheted necklaces are, they aren’t very subtle. It's a little strayed from the design intent.