Sex with anyone in world, at any time? Meet the tech behind it

Can you guess which fundamental human sensation has made its way to Virtual Reality ensuring that you can have full-on virtual sex? Picture: Charles de Luvio/UnSplash

Can you guess which fundamental human sensation has made its way to Virtual Reality ensuring that you can have full-on virtual sex? Picture: Charles de Luvio/UnSplash

Published Oct 20, 2022


WARNING: The following article contains content of an adult nature and should not be viewed by younger readers.

Sex in the digital world may be just a scene in the Sci-fi TV series, Upload, but in reality - or Virtual Reality, for that matter - a fundamental human sensation has made its way to VR - making a full-on digital romp more possible than ever.

With the surge in Virtual Reality adoption amid anticipation for the Metaverse, another one of the five basic senses has been added to the digital world, the most important for hanky panky (or rather human intimacy to take place) - the sense of touch.

In the Upload series, a digital romp becomes physical through a bodysuit with hundreds of 'fingers' embedded within it. Meanwhile, today, new technologies are making the physical element of sex in VR a lot more plausible and user-friendly.

Despite the far-fetched appeal of the concept, futurists believe that the digital age of Fornicating Under the Concession of the King is already upon us.

Futurist speaker and author Charlotte Kemp told IOL that there are a lot of practical examples of sex heading in a digital direction, such as toys which can be controlled and activated by a partner with an app on the other side of the world.

"People today are able to have touch sensation from a toy controlled by their partner remotely, so digital sex is already a reality," Kemp said.

Whether happily married, friends with benefits or a one-night-stand with your latest Tinder match, tech has found its way into the bedroom - and even if you aren't in the presence of anyone, it doesn't have to be a solo act with a single performer on stage.

Haptic Feedback (a vibrator, but not the one you’re thinking of)

With a range of toys and apps for nooky available today, one very common technology found in your smartphone is laying a foundation to lay pipe - Haptic feedback, the very mild vibration felt by some devices when typing.

Scores of VR development companies have been hard at work to bring the sense of touch to the digital world and have successfully done so through haptic feedback using a series of minute motors on a person's skin which elicit vibrations to mimic touch.

Lucid VR, a US-based company, is just one such company that has brought the sense of touch to the world of VR through a glove which allows the wearer to touch and hold objects in a virtual world - giving an understanding of the weight, density and magnitude of a completely digital object.

In a viral video, Lucas De Bonet of LucidVR says that a series of strings and motors are used to limit the fingers' movement while in a glove to allow the wearer to 'feel' the digital object.

More “PG” applications

John Rogers, a professor at Northwestern University in the US, said that virtual reality is a really important emerging area of technology that is currently just using our eyes and ears as the basis for those experiences.

"We've completely sort of overlooked, in a sense, the body's largest organ. The skin is an interface into virtual computer-driven reality," Rogers said in an interview.

“We think that they're going to be powerful in clinical medicine for guiding refined rehabilitation protocols. In the context of stroke survivors and amputees and others, and then for gaming and entertainment,“ Rogers said.

“I think there are lots of really exciting possibilities in that space as well, so it's really materials science driving new technology, spawning a whole array of applications we think are going to be really exciting.“

Why the sex and porn industry drive new tech

While applications of haptic technology can be seen as vast and highly useful, the story of porn's influence as a driver of new technology is decades old, following the transition from cinema, to VCR, VCR to DVD, and DVD to streaming - in the context of video consumption alone.

Porn has also been noted as a driving factor behind online payments. Internet users spent up to $1.3 billion on online porn in 1999, accounting for 8% of all online expenditures and, at the time, amounted to more than users spent on books or flights.

This led to the development of e-commerce as we know it today, spawning the launch of services like PayPal, and eBay, eventually commercialising the internet.

By 2006, the porn industry generated $13 billion in the US. By 2025, the VR porn industry is projected to be worth $1 billion, third behind VR gaming and VR NFL content, respectively, expected to be worth $1.4 billion and $1.23 billion during the same year.

Conversations around computerised coitus

Kemp believes there are many positive possibilities for sex in VR, which need to be explored, not just for the porn industry.

"Sex and touch are a necessity of life and something people desire. We are just finding new ways to express it,“ Kemp said.

It is best to withhold our automatic judgement and explore how to use such technology in sensible ways not just for porn but for couples in relationships to enhance and extend their lovemaking and sexual experiences even when they're not together.“

IOL Tech

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