In a bizarre move, tech experts in Japan have created a suit that lets a man experience the constant discomfort and odd physical sensations of being pregnant.
Takayuki Kosaka's "Mommy Tummy" pregnancy suit simulates nine months of weight gain, breast enlargement, baby kicking and balance changes in just over two minutes.
Designed at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology (KAIT) in Atsugi, Japan, the suit resembles a flak jacket or the lead vest that people wear when getting dental X-rays.
A bladder in the belly fills up with water, simulating the growth and average weight of Japanese babies. Similar bladders in the chest expand to simulate breasts filling with milk.
A series of actuators that lie against the wearer's stomach fire on and off to give the sensation of a kicking baby, and sensors on the tummy allow the wearer to relieve the kicking by rubbing the belly.
Kosaka and his team hope to deploy the Mommy Tummy suits in hospitals and community centres, where men can increase their visceral empathy towards their partners during pregnancy classes.
"It's hard to tell in two minutes if someone becomes more empathetic, but we have gotten a lot of comments about how users are glad that they're dudes," Live Science quoted Robert Songer, an associate lecturer at KAIT and a researcher on the Mommy Tummy project, as saying.
The suit has been put on display at the SIGGRAPH 2011 interactive technology conference.