Stress OutSourced (SOS), a project started at the MIT Media Lab, is a peer-to-peer network that allows anonymous users to send each other therapeutic massages to relieve stress.

Millions of us already rely on strangers online to relieve stress. We post about our day, feelings and aspirations and receive nice words from friends and strangers who visit the blog or forum or watch the video. Can we cooperate with strangers online to exchange touch therapy, rather than to exchange textual or audiovisual information?

With SOS, a stressed individual can send an anonymous signal with a wearable module, which is received by other members around the world. As people respond with their wearable module to calm the stressed individual, each response combines to form a massage for the stressed.

By applying the emerging concept of crowdsourcing to haptic therapy, SOS brings physical and affective dimensions to our already networked lifestyle while preserving the privacy of its members. SOS is an exploration and illustration of a new field of haptic social networking.

Video: Massage Jacket Moving
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Massage Jacket - Back
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Massage Jacket on Model - 1
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Massage Jacket on Model - 2
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Massage Jacket on Model - 3
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Inside the Jacket, First Prototype
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Signal Module, First Prototype
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Necktie + Wireless Signal Module
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Bag + Wireless Signal Module
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Tangible Poke:
Vibrating Accessory to Display Facebook Poke

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Send Thank You via SOS Website
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Scenario Montage
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How SOS Works

Stressed member sends an SOS signal via a wearable module.

During a particularly stressful day, Todd in Cambridge, MA sends out an SOS signal to its members worldwide, requesting a massage.

SOS members worldwide receive vibration signal on their wearables, and respond by calming the vibration, pressing on the module.

Members around the world receive it through their signal modules in the form of subtle vibration, tapping, heat, light or sound. When member B in Palo Alto and C in Milan receive the signal, they gently press on the signal area as a gesture to calm the stressed person.

This motion of pressure in turn sends an anonymous response back to Todd, translating each response into one stroke of a massage.

Each response translates to a massage stroke, delivered to different parts of your back based on where it comes from.

While there can be hundreds to millions of SOS members, only those who happen to be wearing their modules, notice the subtle incoming SOS signal, and be willing and able to respond in time will send responses. If 50 members send a response back, for instance, Todd gets a massage consisting of 50 strokes distributed in sequence. In about a minute after sending the SOS signal, Todd receives a massage that lasts several minutes through the massage unit attached to his garment or accessories.

Each stroke is categorized by its geographical origin into three zones: Responses originating from a 10-mile radius distance from Todd's location turn on the actuators located nearest to his spine, while those from the same country and overseas massage farther and farthest away from the spine, respectively. Although Todd is unaware of the identities or the exact locations of the 50 respondents, he can physically tell that the responses are coming from all over the country and around the world.

After several minutes of massage, the relieved can log on to SOS website, to see where the responses came from and say thank you.

Feeling comforted and refreshed by the generosity of anonymous SOS members, member A can go to the SOS website and check the list of responses he received.

While the website does not disclose the identities of the respondents either, he can see which city in the world the signals originated from and choose to send anonymous thank you messages to the anonymous respondents through the website.

Design Concept

Attachable Modules

A member of the SOS network wears garments with an embedded or attachable signal module and a massage module of various form factors.

10 Strokes = A Massage

An old Korean wisdom: if ten people give you a spoonful of rice, you will end up with a real meal. What if ten people each gave you one stroke of massage?

The Beauty of Simple Signal

Gmail offers information-dense communication; video conferencing offers multi-mode communication. But we find the Facebook "Poke" feature quite simple yet sustainable. To honor the beauty of low-resolution signals like Poke, SOS only uses a simple signal of massage strokes, categorized into three geographical zones.

Interaction Design Considerations

As a network built on the principle of strong reciprocity, it is crucial for SOS to incorporate mechanisms that encourage member contribution and discourage selfish behaviors. Incoming subtle signal stimuli will be ambient in nature in the case of audiovisual feedback, or completely unnoticeable to others in the case of touch or temperature feedback. Being tacit, calm and not dramatic, we find this interface "unremarkable" and nearly invisible in use, following the ubiquitous computing vision.

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