Why you should care
Because even the shiny stones you sport are getting smarter.
Remember those matching necklaces, each with half of a heart charm, that you and your seventh-grade crush wore? Awwww. And now here comes a version for the information age: Magnet updates that concept with paired smart jewelry that lights up and vibrates whenever your partner taps out a message on his or her corresponding device.
Partners can create their own code and communicate physically even when physically apart. Two taps on the gadget might mean, “I’m thinking of you,” (romantic) and three taps could convey, “You’re cooking tonight” (not so romantic).
Does intimacy really translate over technology?
It looks like a smart-watch-meets-fitness-tracker and can be worn as a bracelet or necklace. The stone-like device connects to your iOS or Android smartphone via Bluetooth and an app, linking you virtually with your other half when you’re apart. Tap on your Magnet in whatever sequence you want, and your partner’s Magnet will replicate that pattern through vibrations and LED lights.
“The intimacy that comes with a private, dedicated channel of communication where you can convey emotion is very powerful in a relationship,” said Harish Kamath, who created it with a friend from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. No surprise: Kamath uses Magnet with his significant other.
But even for those who like to connect via technology — whether by heartfelt text, couples’ apps or X-rated devices — the idea of constantly connected jewelry might seem, well, hokey. Or creepy. And does intimacy really translate over technology? Licensed marriage and family therapist Lori Cluff Schade says that while technology used for positive purposes can be associated with more happiness or satisfaction in relationships, she points out important caveats: “When you don’t have the person right in front of you … you can misinterpret the meaning behind something because so much interpersonal communication has to do with nonverbal cues.”
This suggests that while tech can enhance a healthy relationship, if your relationship has turned sour, Schade says it probably won’t help. And if you have an “anxiously attached partner,” you might feel smothered with constant, tech-fueled connections, she added.
For $70, you can get a beta Magnet pair now, or you can wait for the more refined design that ships this fall. Kamath says the company is also exploring the possibility of integrating the technology in real jewelry, like a pin, perhaps, or for the high-maintenance honey, a diamond-encrusted pendant.
Romance aside, long-distance lovers and commuter couples might want to consider a set for the practical sake of their relationship. After all, a Swedish study found that committed couples are 40 percent more likely to fail when one of them has to commute at least 45 minutes to work. Better get tapping, right?
This OZY encore was originally published Feb. 12, 2015.