Modern Life

Technology Fueled Valentines: 5 new ways to show you care

Americans are spending more on Valentine’s Day gifts, but in our digital era, personal notes and physical gifts are the ones we remember.

By Garage Staff — February 8, 2018

For decades, the conversation hearts that are exchanged on Valentine’s Day have come stamped with classic messages conveying the sentiments of the day. While the original 1902 recipe for the beloved heart-shaped candies remains the same, the messages now also reflect our digital era: In addition to saying “BE MINE” or “KISS ME,” today’s romantics can urge their sweethearts to “TEXT ME” or “TWEET ME.”

The details of how St. Valentine became the patron saint of the day are murky, but it’s popularly believed that he was one of several Roman priests who were martyred in the third century AD. While awaiting his execution, the story goes, St. Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and wrote her a love note on the day he was beheaded, which was February 14.

Despite the mystery that surrounds our champion of love, Americans’ passion for Valentine’s Day is strong — and on the rise. An annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics estimates that total Valentine’s Day spending in 2018 will reach $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year. Consumers are expected to spend an average of $88.89 on lovers and spouses, $25.29 on other family members, $7.26 on children’s classmates and teachers, $7.19 on friends, $5.50 on pets and $4.79 on co-workers.

In our multitasking, always-on digitally mobile lives, technology has also changed the way we send valentines. Twenty-nine percent of consumers surveyed in the NRF study said they would make their Valentine’s Day purchases online. And why not? With just a few clicks, technology lets us buy and deliver a gift without us ever leaving the couch.

But a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2015 confirmed that a closer connection is felt by the recipient when a gift reflects the giver. To ensure that their sentiment makes it through the noise of commerce, many people are finding that a customized gift is key. In fact, market researcher Technavio predicts that by 2021, the personalized gift market will hit $31.63 billion, up from $20.46 billion in 2016.

Now, new companies and digital innovations are cropping up to help us deliver more potent expressions of our affection. Here are some of the ways you can send a high-tech yet personalized message of love to your valentine this year.

Courtesy of Bond

Love notes by robot

New York City startup Bond is one of the companies that are using technology to help make the impersonal more personal. Bond aims to connect your digital thoughts with the physical world via robots that learn and recreate your handwriting style, then convert your digital notes into personalized, “handwritten” letters and print them out on paper.

Courtesy of Kniterate

Knitted just for you

Giving a physical object also allows the receiver to have something to hold and hang on to so they can remember the moment for years to come. Another innovative option for physical gift-giving is offered by London-based Kniterate. For those of us who can’t knit our loved ones a sweater, Kniterate has developed a 3D printer for knitting that turns your digital designs into wearable garments. Its digital knitting machine can produce custom-designed scarves, beanies, dresses, sweaters and even shoes. 

Jonathan Bielaski

One heart, no passwords

Toronto-based Nymi takes personalization in a different direction by aiming straight for the heart — literally. Its wristband senses users’ cardiac rhythm to authenticate their identity when they access digital devices, replacing all passwords. It’s a gift of peace of mind — and freed-up time to spend with loved ones.

Courtesy of Parihug

Send a digital hug

And when you’re in a long-distance relationship or away from your family on a business trip or working late, how great would it be to somehow give your partner or kids a hug? Cleveland-based Parihug is working to bridge that divide with its remotely linked stuffed animals. Currently on pre-order, the plush toys transfer a digital approximation of your touch. When you hug a “Pari,” a connected Pari vibrates, with the vibration intensifying and easing along with the intensity of your hug. If your squeeze is strong enough, the toy transfers the real-time beating of your heart.

A photo booth in your pocket

If you’re looking for a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift, printed photos are having a revival, especially among millennials. HP’s palm-sized Sprocket printer lets you print photos directly from your smartphone, creating an instant photo booth wherever you are. Add a personalized note directly to the photo and give it to a romantic partner, a friend, the little ones in your life or even yourself.

While it’s true that technology can separate us behind screens, digital innovators are using it to bring us closer in some ways than ever before. This Valentine’s Day, instead of texting, emailing or sending a loved one a Snap, consider enlisting digital innovation to deepen your connections with the people you love.


Learn more about making your own instant prints with the HP Sprocket.