For better or worse, I find it reasonably obvious that full immersion virtual reality is the future of human sexuality. It isn’t going to happen overnight, and I don’t even think it’s going to happen over the next few years. Technologically, we just aren’t there yet. But we will be soon, probably sooner than most people think, and when we are, the upsides are hard to ignore.
RED ALERT: Virtual reality is about to change the way that nerds have sexual relations, so listen up while I explain exactly what the deal is with simulated sex tech.
Your girlfriend in a virtual reality sex program will never have a headache, or be on her period (unless you’re into that sort of thing), or feel fat and unsexy today. She will always, always be horny, greeting you with a lusty smile every time you go to see her and being utterly receptive to any and all of your advances. And from a heterosexual female perspective, virtual partners will never be too stressed from work to be able to perform that night, nor will they get jealous because their user smiled at another man earlier.
But just how close are we to our VR porn future? Let me tell you, bro, we’re making some very impressive strides. Using virtual reality equipment like the two current industry heavyweights, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, it is already possible to experience highly realistic erotic environments. Because of specialized devices worn on the hands, delicately programmed vibrations can be used to simulate what’s supposed to be happening through haptic feedback, the same principle as a video game controller buzzing in your grip as you wail on a group of orcs on the screen.
And through the magic of “teledildonics”, a word I swear I am not making up, men and women alike can wear anatomically considerate attachments that provide targeted stimulation right where it counts when things get really interesting. Of course, there are already such devices that can (currently with questionable effectiveness) link together over remote distances and each respond to input applied to the other, allowing two people to have “sex” while nowhere near one another.
With the advent of teledildonics, sexual partners can now engage in physical intimacy at a distance.
Don’t underestimate the power of these features, either: users report that when the input on your skin matches what you’re seeing and hearing closely enough, your brain starts to internalize the digital body you control in that environment. That virtual dick made of virtual 1s and 0s that’s getting all that virtual action in front of you? As long as your brain is receiving the correct stimuli, it seems and feels like your dick, in a way that’s anything but virtual.
How Far Along is Virtual Reality Sex Tech?
Let’s quantify this a bit. If we define our goal of “full immersion virtual reality porn” as simulated erotic encounters that engage all five external senses, we begin to get a much clearer idea of where we are. Sexually explicit drawings, which have existed for tens of thousands of years (literally going back to crude paintings on the walls of caves), are only useful to sight, so that’s one. The advent of pornographic movies with audio tracks brought in hearing, which is two.
Today, the tactile sensations of haptic feedback and teledildonics raise the tally to three, so mathematically speaking, we’re most of the way home. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the quality of that sensory stimulation, either, so I’ll also note that while video alone is purely visual, it’s nevertheless an improvement on stencil drawings, which themselves have a leg up on those old cave paintings.
Fine, but let’s face reality here. As impressive as virtual reality sex may have gotten, we’re still light years off from Star Trek’s holodecks, which themselves raised all sorts of physics questions that made us ponder whether such devices could ever be possible in real life. And it’s tricky to predict here and now just how far haptic technology could yet go, while we could argue over exactly how the remaining outstanding senses of smell and taste might eventually become involved.
But it’s impossible to doubt that historically, the wind is at our backs, and the signs are good. Innovators like Elon Musk are constantly pioneering new advances that could have applications in virtual reality sex, and the technologist Ray Kurzweil has stated that humanity is fast approaching a “technological singularity” when the advancing pace of high-tech developments will render the world unrecognizable and unimaginable to anyone current alive. The year he gives for arriving at this singularity is 2050.
To be sure, I’m not saying we’re headed for a VR porn future that will completely eschew face-to-face human sexuality. There will probably always be those who insist on following good ol’ Mother Nature’s instruction book. Some religious people will feel obligated to do so, while even some secular folks will prefer tradition. “If it was good enough for my daddy and his daddy before him, it’s good enough for me!” is a popular and powerful philosophy, however logically questionable it may be.
While old fashioned bumping of uglies is unlikely to disappear completely, virtual reality may seem like the better choice for many.
But in a world of immersive, full-sensory virtual reality sex that’s every bit as good as (and much easier to obtain than) the real thing, those who think that way will increasingly be seen as backward-facing. We still have people who seem to enjoy investing countless hours in developing and maintaining the skill of building fires by rubbing two sticks together, but they are eccentric and even a little odd.
And interestingly, if you could find any such people who never use modern means of ignition at all, I doubt even they would claim that their laborious, failure-prone way of making fire is better than a box of matches. What they do is clearly obsolete. They may have their own personal reasons for doing it, but effectiveness and efficiency are not among them.
The Downside Of Full Immersion Virtual Nookie
Needless to say, such a world of full immersion virtual reality presents many potential pitfalls. The most obvious of these concerns human reproduction, but ironically I think this is also the most easily answered. In the developed world, having kids is already very much a choice that does not require one to deny their most basic animal instincts.
If you have a willing partner and wish to have sex with her or him while avoiding the risk of pregnancy, modern contraceptives make it a relatively simple feat. Among the world’s most affluent, it is overwhelmingly those who want to be parents who become so. In our VR porn future, it will be no different.
In a world where most people have sex only through virtual online environments, will there emerge a new class of socially crippled individuals incapable of in-person sexual relations?
Of far greater worry, I think, is the impact we could be facing upon basic socialization. Here I’m not even talking about recluses engaging exclusively with computer programs and never interacting at all with other human beings; as I mentioned earlier, modern teledildonics already make it possible for people on opposite sides of the planet to have crude virtual reality sex with each other, and the sharpness and immersiveness of this experience will only strengthen over time. People socialize on the internet now, and they will surely continue to do so in the future.
But I’m definitely concerned by the fact that the online environment has seldom encouraged a particularly healthy brand of interaction. It seems that the anonymity of the net draws out in people a level of deception, manipulation, and outright predatory behavior towards one another that far exceeds anything these same individuals would dare try in a physical encounter.
Given that full immersion virtual reality systems are all but certain to allow users to play any characters they can imagine, right down to creating digital avatars of the opposite sex if they so desire, I only see this problem being exacerbated as more and more intimate activities are conducted online.
Overall, though, I’m an optimist on the issue of future technology. History teaches that the birth of new problems brought on by innovation is invariably followed by the development of antidotes to those problems. There’s no question that a revolution is in store for the most basic ways humans relate to each other, but while it may face some turbulent waters at first, I remain confident that the seas will eventually smooth, and that in the end, we’ll all be better for having boarded the ship.