By Robert Hickson 09/04/2016 2


Wired magazine has always been somewhat of a tech fetish publication. Recently they’ve highlighted fetish tech. Silicone valley comes to “adult” toys. [I’m not revealing anything explicit here].

It’s not the sad and seedy that you may expect. These are items designed to be flaunted, or at least not to be seen as embarrassing items hidden away in a bedroom drawer.

3D printing, apps, haptic technologies, and new materials – it’s all being brought to bare.

As the smart clothing field develops, you’ll probably want to upgrade your gimp suit to keep up.

A more socially positive result is that such technologies may enable those with physical or sensory limitations to enjoy more healthy and fulfilling sexual relations.

This highlights the broader trend of such devices becoming more mainstream. It’s now such a thing that you can, if you so desire, and the economics excite you, part with thousands of dollars to buy a report on the “Global sex toy market 2016-2020.”

No one’s talking about the internet of sexy things yet, but that night too may come (at least in some entrepreneurs dreams).

There is likely to be a very interested market in collecting data on activities and proclivities from such intimate apps and connected devices. If I were you I’d look closely at the privacy and security agreements for these so you don’t inadvertently and embarrassingly over share what you are getting down on.

Is that it?

Vibrating attire, and fancy new materials probably aren’t what immediately sprang to mind when tech and sex were mentioned. Generally it’s the sexism within the technology sector, or sex bots and virtual reality sex.

Disturbing virtual reality sex suits (definitely NSFW) are becoming available (at least in Japan). There is already a lot of interest in carnal applications for virtual reality head sets, even if initial contact is uncomfortable. And there’s an emerging market in virtual reality sex games.

There are breathless pieces about the imminent arrival of the pleasure bot, and confident predictions (Pdf) about how many of us will be getting down with, and perhaps falling for, robots in the not too distant future.

More hype than hump?

In addition to contributing to the objectification of women, there is likely to be more hype than hump in sex bots.

At least for men. I haven’t seen reports of male sex bots, yet. Most effort seems to be going into the creation of Stepford wife-type robots. The implication being that men want to get intimate with more realistic robots.

That’s a huge, and expensive, barrier to overcome. The “uncanny valley”  is an issue for humanoid robots. Developments are a long way from creating a realistic physical and behavioural automaton that would convince most people that it is anything other than an expensive crude mechanical object. Just more robotic sex.

But Chelsea Summers makes a very good point in an article in Vice. Women, based on their purchase and use of sex toys, appear less concerned about the realism of sexual devices as long as they do there job. The need to establish an emotional connection with sexual partners, animate or inanimate, is also over emphasised. She thinks that the bigger market for robot partners may eventually be women.

Chelsea observes:

“In short, we humans will always anthropomorphize our tech and imbue it positively or negatively. Ultimately, however, the ways we see our tech say more about us than the tech itself.”

Prognosis

It seems clear that there will be more virtual and enhanced sexual interactions in the future, providing tactile as well as visual stimulation. That’s neither fundamentally bad nor good. It just reflects the broader way in which technologies are becoming associated with everyday lives.

High-tech sex is just a mirror on the more general discussions of robots, artificial intelligence, and automation. The common issue is about how much we choose (if we can) to use machines and electronic means to replace what we have considered traditional human activities versus whether we choose to use them to enhance what we do or how we live. And how these actions affect other aspects of our lives, or those around us.

Use of new technologies for sexual gratification is likely in some cases to help maintain and strengthen relationships with real partners. While in others, as with existing technologies, they may reinforce an “alone together” trend , or even just the lonely practices that some already have.

Either way, more tech in sex, coupled along with how we are using other mobile technologies, seems likely to lay the way to lowering inhibitions to developing more intimate relations with robots and forms of artificial intelligence later.

Another insight is that, as with other discussions about potentially “disruptive” technologies, it is often the less sensational and more incremental types of technologies or applications (such as the more modest sex toys) that are likely to be of greater influence in the medium term. We often jump to the implications raised by the extremes of innovation, while spending insufficient time considering the more modest steps along the way there.

Header Image: from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, 1927. Universum Film A.G.


2 Responses to “High-Tech Sechs”

  • Why is it “socially positive” to try to be intimate with life less robots?

    I guess if your sex life is lifeless, dysfunctional and you are disconnected from your lover this bizarre development of a (an enhanced robotic vibrator + dildo) would be seen as “normal”.

    The current state of social disconnect in the world does not warrant this or the need for any further development of mechanical tools for sexual pleasure . Shouldn’t we be trying to connect with each other, (isn’t that more “socially positive” than humping robots).

    This area of tech expenditure reflects the “follow the money-sex sells” obsession of venture capital.

  • the VCs are only interested in something they think there will be a market for and they obviously think there is a burgeoning market for this. Which isn’t surprising when you consider the widespread consumption of pornography in society, which is about to go to a much more immersive level with the debut of virtual reality porn…

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