USBs: They’re not just for external storage anymore. A quick glance through any catalogue of geekery online will reveal a plethora of crazy accessories, from coffee mug warmers to personal fans to little lamps to light your keyboard. Once we reached this point with USB plug’n’play technology, it was inevitable that our friend Rule 34 would kick in: “If it exists, there is porn of it.” Are we talking about sex toys with USB cords? You bet your hard drive! Prepare to get...yep, I’ll say it: Plugged in! (Sorry.)
If you thought virtual reality was intense, imagine this: You queue up your favorite porno on your computer, plug in a sex toy, and the toy precisely mimics the motions of your porn star du jour. You can watch a hot fuck and feel it at the same time. If this sounds like science fiction to you, get used to living in the future—this technology is here! You’re a Google search and a brown paper parcel away from putting one more chink in the armor between reality and fantasy.
Granted, it takes a lot of time and work to create the synergy between movie and toy, so this market is limited to a handful of titles from very expensive services, but pretty much all tech begins as a high-priced niche commodity. Even this lofty interactive-porno concept owes its inception to a long line of lesser but still expensive computer-compatible wank tools. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Let your fingers do the walking, 21st Century style…
The Oh-Mi-Bod, while not strictly a computer item, still deserves credit for its ingenious “plug in to headphone outlet and the dildo pulses in time to the music” concept, as well as its status as probably the most widely available, quickly recognizable techno-toy out there. (And for those of us who have always felt that music is really its own kind of porn, nothing’s going to quite get our motors running like a device that creates this kind of synergy between sound and sex.)
Teledildonics or cyberdildonics are sex toys that can be controlled remotely by computer. The field of teledildonics has been incredibly influential in the creation of sex toys compatible with computers, although its development has been unsteady and its future appears uncertain. You know how video chat meant you could look your partner in the eye and show them how they got you so hot you had to give yourself some five-fingered loving? Teledildonics seeks to go one step further by allowing a partner to control your sex toy over the Internet. While it’s a great idea, it struggles with those twin monsters of any startup tech: cost and performance. It’s not a bargain investment, and the technology has yet to reach the kind of accuracy that would really make things interesting.
The general field of teledildonics has allowed for immense development both in the sexual applications of social technology and public awareness of such potential. The longevity of its appeal is impressive given how quickly tech fads fade: the term was coined in 1975 and has never really left the sex-tech spotlight. Its longevity may partially be driven by its pansexual appeal; plenty of applications exist to interface with any sort of genitalia, and partner-driven teledildonics are truly blind to orientation or gender identity. Some of the content available for video-synched toys has begun to branch out beyond heterosexual content as well, likely due to enough profit from the broader-based “sure thing” of straight porn to begin widening its appeal.
Tearing down the wall between you and your favorite porn star
So where are we going with this, as a culture? What shall we do with all of this sexual technology? The toy that moves like your favorite porn star is an interesting twist on the popular “POV” video style, wherein one partner holds the camera to allow the viewer to imagine themselves in the cameraperson's place. But the synchronized toy concept takes an important step further: You could easily be surprised by a physical sensation you didn’t see coming, which is a far cry from simply watching something unexpected in a movie. The concept of physical surprise isn’t something that’s been achievable without a sentient partner until now, and it's likely to confuse us simple humans for some time until our brains catch up and assimilate the advancement of technology.
I wasn’t kidding about the way this invention exploits the permeability of the barrier between fantasy and reality. While this is unmistakably not a “real” sexual contact between performer and viewer, many of the very basic things that distinguish porn from the real thing are rendered moot. You might even consider this a kind of “reality plus,” where all the sensations of sexuality are wrapped up with the bonus feature of actually watching it happen at the same time. Amateur porn hounds have been engaging in this particular mixture of the sensual and visual ever since video cameras allowed live feeds onto monitors so that watching yourself boink no longer required mirrors, but the self-consciousness (or narcissism; your flavor may vary) in watching yourself fuck is absent in the video-plus-toy scenario. Whether that's good or bad is a matter of taste, but that it changes everything is undeniable.
Consider this particularly trippy factoid: RealTouch, a company hawking a Fleshlight-like toy that synchs up with porn clips, has begun encoding “classic” celebrity videos. You can engage in virtual bonking with Paris Hilton, or Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. It’s more or less the sex-tech version of the short-lived fad using computer-generated images of dead celebrities in commercials: undeniably compelling and yet slightly brain-hurting as well. It’s impossible to imagine that the celebrities caught up in a sex-tape scandal (whether engineered or not) in the 1990s could have ever imagined becoming the heart of a sexual experience involving some of the most cutting-edge interactive haptics available.
Yes, haptics. What sounds like a new slur against hipsters or the latest diet craze is actually a field of technology devoted to tactile feedback. It’s been used for decades in everything from aircraft to robotics, and is now at the forefront of virtual reality innovation. Nintendo 64’s “Rumble Pak” and Sony’s “DualShock” upgrades, which cause gaming controllers to shake in response to impacts and other events the character experiences in the game, are a basic form of haptic technology. Now, haptics is evolving into the ability to “feel” a holographic object and even perform precise surgery from afar.
While some haptics technology is being developed under open-source principles, the question of compatibility continues to cause difficulty for any form of sexually explicit peripheral development. Most will not work with Macs due to Apple’s proprietary, closed network. While the cost of entry into Apple's walled garden is steep, chances are that it isn’t just the lack of cost-effectiveness stopping sex-tech companies from getting in. It's just as likely that Apple’s anti-pornography stance would stonewall such a request as well.
It’s possible “bluedonics” may eventually get around this—teledildonics communicating over Bluetooth rather than USB or parallel port connection. Never underestimate the ingenuity of horny geeks; the same technology that powers your hands-free cellphone headset is indeed the next frontier for sexy tech. That said, it may truly be the mark of living in the future that your ability to get off may be depending upon the compatibility of a peripheral device!