School administrator Akihiko Kondo, 35, married the woman of his dreams in November. Among his guests, his mother was missing. It was not something for her to celebrate, he told The Japan Times.
His was not a traditional wedding. His bride was a virtual reality singer named Hatsune Miku.
It didn’t stop him from spending ¥2 million on a formal ceremony with around 40 guests in attendance, minus his family.
Kondo finds himself among a marginalised group facing discrimination. After years of being ostracised by women, he says he’s finally found his true love, albeit a moving, talking hologram that floats on his laptop.
And he’s not the only one. The idea that humans are able to forge emotional, and even sexual relationships, with digital devices is not that far fetched. There’s a name for them - digisexuals.
The New York Times’ Alex Williams believes the term hits closer to home that we think, and in some way, we can relate. “In a world where sex toys that respond and give feedback and artificial-intelligence-powered sex robots are inching toward the mainstream, are digisexuals a fringe group, destined to remain buried in the sexual underground? Or, in a culture permeated with online pornography, sexting and Tinder swiping, isn’t everyone a closet digisexual?”
Jenni Holdsworth is a sex expert and owns her own online adult store. In all her years in the business, she’s gotten some strange requests. In her opinion, the interest in digisexuality could stem from the natural progression of online porn keeping up with technology.
“Some of the things they have today are incredible, such as 3D porn channels and interactive online role playing games. The sex doll industry is also booming, and I often get requests from people wanting to buy them.”
According to experts, we will see a rise of this sexual identity. In a report published in the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, ethics researchers from the University of Manitoba argued that psychotherapists need to be prepared for a rise in “clients participating in digisexualities”.
“It is safe to say the era of immersive virtual sex has arrived,” associate professor Neil Mccarthur, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ehics, told The Telegraph.
“There is no question that sexbots are coming. People will form an intense connection with their robot companions. These robots will be tailor-made to meet people’s desires and will do things that human partners cannot or will not do. For this reason, significant numbers of people will likely come to use robots as their primary mode of sexual experience.”
Sex dolls are now programmed to feel, respond to touch and interact like never before. The Android Love Doll, for instance, can perform “50 automated sexual positions”, while Abyss Creations’ Harmony can have a full conversion. The future possibilities are endless.
“It is great for people that have a hard time connecting with other people directly, either due to social awkwardness or perhaps sexual trauma,” in Holdsworth’s opinion. But, “if you are in a relationship, this could create problems similar to watching too much porn. You may find you can only be satisfied through the digital experience and not from your partner”.
Then there’s also the expense. Harmony’s latest AI model is said to cost between $8000 and $10000 (about R115000 and R145000).