Now that we have intelligent lightbulbs, doorbells, refrigerators, and more, it was only a matter of time before our most primal and intimate lives became smarter through artificial intelligence. Since sextech was allowed to exhibit at CES 2020 among the health and wellness vendors instead of denied entry or tucked away in the back as in years past, technology intended to augment the human sexual experience might just be on the verge of going mainstream. As more and more people invite artificial intelligence into their bedrooms and most intimate experiences, let’s review the possibilities as well as perils that might bring.
More Than Sex Bots
Creators of science fiction have imagined a future where human-like sex robots rule human sexual experience. However, sextech is more than just sexbots. According to an interview with sextech expert and founder of the Future of Sex Bryony Cole, “sexuality really encompasses everything from orgasms and pleasure and relationships to education, health, crimes, assault reporting, medicine and gender identity” across sexual identities and preferences.
Sextech is a $30 billion industry today, but according to an analysis report, the industry should grow to $52.7 billion by 2026 with a huge assist from online sales. Companies are feverishly working to innovate the most intriguing products that have an intelligent response for sexual activity to take advantage of this expected growth.
These products do include sex bots such as Harmony, a robotic version of a silicone sex toy made by RealDoll, but also app-connected, smart vibrators, stimulators, and massagers; personalized porn; virtual reality and augmented sexual experiences; and more.
Smart Sex Toys
Artificial intelligence in sex toys aims to achieve similar objectives as products in other industries—learn from data gathered by sensors to elevate and improve the experience as well as personalize it. And, as in other industries, the companies that use technology to create a stellar product or service will have higher sales. From Lioness, the award-winning smart vibrator created by women and referred to as the FitBit for a woman’s orgasm, and Osé, an award-winning robotic sex device “designed to mimic the best kinds of human touch,” smart sex toys are responsible for incredible innovation. Many of these companies are led by women who address sexuality with new voices and concerns. Most of these toys are connected to smartphones via apps that let users learn more about their sexuality and sexual preferences. There are also gadgets for men and couples, even some that provide benefits when couples aren’t together.
Sex in Virtual Reality
While there are questions about the long-term consequences of allowing people to live out whatever sexual fantasy they have via artificial intelligence and what that may or may do to their real-life interactions with human partners, virtual reality offers a way to explore sexuality safely. Virtual reality sexual experiences are today more realistic than ever before, and many offer haptics (the sensation of touch). Virtual reality technology is developing rapidly creating very realistic experiences. The sexual experiences available through virtual reality will continue to become more immersive in the future. Many of these VR experiences can also be combined with other online devices.
With this new technology, those in committed relationships will have to determine new boundaries with one another. Is exploring sex in a virtual reality a safe way to experiment, or is it considered cheating? What if you engage in sex with your partner while augmenting reality so that your partner looks like someone else? The comfort level and boundaries of these experiences will need to be discussed among partners to establish what enhances the relationship rather than harms it.
Realistic Sex Robots
While you can see sextech is much more than sex robots, the reality is that much progress has been made to create sex robots that are very realistic and that you can customize. There are companies that are almost ready to unveil robots that seem to have a heartbeat and can mimic breathing. Ultimately, they are working on having sex dolls interact and communicate with partners as if they were human. RealDoll, makers of Harmony and other versions for men and women, offer technologically advanced AI-driven robots that can blink, move, and more. While these bots are available with a hefty price tag, Matt McMullen founder of RealDoll expects to have no shortage of customers.
Artificial intelligence and advanced technology have opened up a new world for healthy sexual expression, education, and knowledge, albeit it does present some new challenges that need to be considered. The comfort and willingness for committed partners to explore their sexual fantasies through AI might cross boundaries. Whether sex with AI is understood and allowed or allowed at what level will come down to each couple's comfort level and understanding. Could AI create unrealistic expectations for human interaction, or do they provide an acceptable outlet for sexual transgressions and exploration not appropriate in real life?
As with any new frontier, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer here. In fact, there will likely be negatives along with the positives this technology offers.
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Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.