Every generation has found ways to use new technology to shock their parents. VR is probably next on the list. Virtual reality, is rapidly improving, and it will change the most intimate areas of life.

David Holtz, founder of Leap Motion, gave a speech » Our kids are going to get really weird «. He talks about the philosophical implications of VR — but the mood is much broader than that. If there was a VR song, it would be the choir.

Soon our children will have access to machines that can fully and convincingly take over all their perceptions, providing experiences that we cannot even imagine. Suffice it to say that the generation gap will be huge. Every day we hear how new technologies will destroy this or that industry. Well VR is about to break puberty.

How will it look like? It’s impossible to know for sure, but we can make some educated guesses. Today we’re going to dive in and take a look at what VR will make possible in three to five years — and why you should probably stop panicking right now.

social machine

VR is already developing a reputation as an anti-social technology, and it’s easy to see why. The image of someone trapped in their own fantasy world behind opaque glasses hits some scary psychological buttons.

Nintendo of America President Reggie File-Aim said polygon, that virtual reality is “not fun or social. It’s just technology.» This seems to be the consensus in many parts of the gaming industry, and the CEO of Take-Two Interactive has made a similar point.

This point of view is obvious, but I think it is almost completely wrong. While virtual reality isolates you from the people who are physically close to you, it opens up the possibility of being deeply connected with anyone, anywhere on the planet. In a sense, VR is the holy grail of communications technology that can convince your lizard brain that it’s in the same room as another person. Ultimately, all the little nuances that make face-to-face communication special can be recorded and transmitted.

One of the demos that Oculus showed at E3 this year was toy box . The demo brings two users together in the same virtual space, allowing them to play together with toys using the Oculus motion controller to track gestures. The feedback has been surprisingly positive. Even without facial expressions or detailed avatars, VR can already tap into the social parts of our brain in a way that no other technology can.

Faces can’t be far either! Oculus is working with a research team using a depth camera and strain the sensors to capture the pose of the face from inside the head-mounted display (see video below).

None of these technologies are particularly expensive. While there is still some work to be done in terms of accuracy, form factor, and elimination of the calibration step, this material could easily find its way into consumer products within one or two generations of hardware.

Contrary to current fears, VR could be the most social technology in human history.

transatlantic first date

Imagine that you are going on your first date in VR. It would be very similar to a first date in real life. You would smile and laugh. You exchanged sly glances and didn’t know what to do with your hands. You may both look a little cartoonish, but your partner will feel very real — and every gesture and tiny facial expression will be there.

Apart from the fact that you could be on the Moon, there would be very little to remind you that you were not physically there.

All this can happen without you being near each other. You could go on a date with someone in France or China. Obviously, this sort of thing can be a godsend for a couple in a long-term relationship. It’s also easy to imagine being bundled into dating apps like OKCupid and Tinder. which will allow you to meet your matches quickly and without problems. Imagine a kind of hyper-efficient speed dating technology. There’s a billion dollar startup out there somewhere.

This is already a pretty big deal, but let’s take it one step further. Imagine a long term relationship that happens exclusively using virtual reality. Current VR focusing on vision, sound and movement will not be enough. Relationships depend on touch — not just sex, but casual touch (kiss, hug, hand-holding). The lack of these things is one of the main contributing factors to the decline of long-term relationships. So, can technology provide this experience?

teledildonics

Transmitting information over the Internet is something that people have put a lot of work into over the years, although none of it lives up to the standard set by VR goggles. There is a jacket that can simulate the pressure of a hug. There is a very early prototype of a device that can send a kiss over the Internet. There are terrifying armatures out there that can provide complete feedback on your hands (and, yes, they can mimic boobs).

None of this is particularly mature or practical, but it shows one possible way forward. It seems unlikely that the future involves binding humans to terrifying mechanical armatures like those described above. But it may be possible to use «artificial muscle» technology to reduce the entire operation to something more comfortable, such as a jacket and gloves. You can imagine adding more peripherals for kissing or, well, kanauding.

Serious work has also been done on this issue.

A number of sex toy manufacturers have begun developing computer-controlled sex toys that can be linked to other sex toys over the Internet. The idea is that everything you do with one toy is copied to another. funny it is called » teledildonics» . They’re pretty rough right now, and basically just compress or vibrate. To properly solve the problem, you need something that can move and rotate freely — a sex toy on a six-axis robotic mount.

Since the virtual reality revolution began, several companies have already started combining sex toys and feedback peripherals to achieve this effect. The next step, I suspect, is to mount these devices on the case to open up more possibilities for simulation.

Right now this technology is pretty raw, but it won’t be that long. The killer app for this stuff (virtual sex) hasn’t been invented yet. Once that happens, I don’t think it will be long before we start seeing huge demand and rapid progress. In five years, you will probably be able to buy a very convincing product at a reasonable price with discrete shipping. It will probably never be completely convenient, but if the internet has taught me anything, it’s that people will do some pretty crazy things to get posted. Putting on a silly-looking teledildonic mechanism is not even a question.

It’s not like saying it will change the world. Right now, «cybersex» is a somewhat odd tradition in online role-playing forums and games. This is just a small update on the old concept of phone sex.

This state of affairs will not last very long.

In just a few years, cybersex will become frighteningly physical and in some ways indistinguishable from the real thing. It even has some advantages: you can look whatever you want, which will be a huge relief for unattractive, disabled, and transgender individuals — not to mention furries. It is also the safest sex, insulating you from any risk of infection or unintended pregnancy. It also simplifies consent issues that can be implemented as a software layer.

Imagine that you will pass puberty in the near future. Where kids ten years ago hid porn under their beds, our kids could soon do the same with teledildonic gear. It will be a very different world with a huge number of prickly legal and social questions that we have not even begun to answer.

Beware the Lotus Eaters

Overall, I think it’s good. I’m all for anything that reduces teen pregnancy, and this technology can bring a lot of benefits to a lot of people. I’m also skeptical of the notion that this technology will corrupt the morality of the younger generation — although I’m looking forward to the inevitable moral panic when the millennial vamps of the day’s news become aware of this material.

There is one potential dark side to all of this to discuss.

Once you get all this sophisticated technology to simulate intercourse, you don’t need to have another person on the other end. VR porn is already a thing, and teledildonics will make it that much more appealing. After all, why would we need to build a relationship with another person when you can just summon a dead eye but malleable virtual slacker?

Most people will probably still decide to put in the effort to build relationships with real people, but I think there is real risk that some people will simply give up on puberty.

People may choose to retreat into ultra-persuasive VR porn rather than endure the rather significant discomfort that you have to put up with in order to learn how to interact with the opposite sex. Science fiction has seen this for a long time. There is even an episode of Star Trek about it.

My colleague Ryan wrote about the new technology of humanoid sex robots. and how they can change the future of sex. I tend to suspect that VR will eventually beat sex robots. Virtual reality sex toys are less mechanically constrained by the need to appear human and are easier to hide when visiting family. There is also the strange issue of the valley.

Making a silicone robot human enough not to scare people is extremely difficult. Unlike computer graphics, it has a long history of creating non-creepy characters at various levels of graphic fidelity. This is likely to continue as graphic fidelity improves to photorealistic levels in the coming years.

VR porn can wind up being very convincing before taking too long. At the very least, traditional 2D porn is completely doomed. This is problem? I have no idea. Maybe I’m just a luddite, but what worries me the most is the element of it all.

Not so long

Over the next five years, our ideas about sex and relationships will change. « Online dating will take on a much more radical meaning. The future will be strange. And not just «weird, we have robots now», weird. Kind of weird what your grandma experiences when she stumbles upon 4chan.

I’m probably just scratching the surface of the depraved technology people are going to come up with for this stuff. It’s going to be a crazy ride and I’m genuinely curious to see if civilization survives this.

Interested in the implications of telepresence? Worried about the future? Let us know about it in the comments!

Image Credits: Sending a kiss via Shutterstock

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