Robotic VR boots let you walk without moving forward – Screen Shot
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Robotic VR boots let you walk without moving forward

Virtual reality (VR) is sprinting forward when it comes to its technological advancements, however, public adoption rates aren’t exactly resulting as developers would hope. This isn’t stopping progress though, as devices are improving in a multitude of ways while also getting cheaper, which in turn will make the products far more accessible to their consumer market.

At the moment, VR is battling with how to allow humans to safely move around while using headgear and playing games, but one company has come up with an interesting solution: VR boots. So, what are these and how exactly will they work?

Why would we need VR boots?

Moving around in VR games has proved to be quite tricky, as the sensation of traveling forward visually as we manoeuvre through a digital realm while our bodies remain stationary can cause motion sickness. Then, there’s the danger of crashing into your surroundings if you move in real life.

Most games, like Half-life: Alyx for example, use a teleport illusionary system where players can instantly jump from one spot to another, which obviously cannot happen in real life—and it’s bound to be disorientating to say the least. The Pittsburgh-based company Etko VR has made the first attempt at combating this problem.

What is the Etko VR boot?

Being the first to attempt this particular solution, all eyes are on Etko’s first product, the Etko One, which is a pair of robotic boots that the company claims are capable of keeping you in one spot while you physically walk forwards, without simulation or strapping into another piece of equipment. Just you and the boots walking ‘normally’.

The shoes are made of a carbon-fiber design that Ekto says is lightweight even though they look like industrial machinery. They use HTC’s Vive Tracker pucks, which provides a wireless connection between your attached tools (the boots) and your VR system, to track your movement in the game.

How does the Etko VR boot work?

When you walk forwards, the boot glides backward on wheels while keeping you in the same spot. Basically, you’ll look like a pro moonwalker. Rest assured, the boots have a set of brakes that automatically hold you up-right if your heart fluttered a bit at the sound of wheels.

As weirdly wonderful as this sounds, there are some drawbacks. First of all, the user has to move very slowly, which is not something your instincts are bound to do when there’s a monster chasing after you and your virtual life is on the line. Also, you’re not only kitted out with the boots, you’re going to be holding two controls as well as simultaneously wearing a giant helmet.

As intriguing as the design is, it obviously has leaps and bounds to perfect before it becomes a commercial product, hence why the Ekto VR boot is staying put within the enterprise markets for now. That being said, it does show a promising avenue for the VR locomotive future and gives an idea as to how seamlessly immersive VR could really be in a few years time.

Sexual simulator versus sex games: is technology making sex more fun?

Now more than ever, thanks to the leaps in technological experiences over the past few years, it’s taking just a click and a whirr of a machine to float our sex lives to new and unchartered heights. There is no shame in a sex game, actually—they can be pretty fun. Unlike real games where someone loses and the other wins, sexual games can have two (or more) winners. Well, you would hope so, anyway. Before you shun the idea of the various external sexual advancers we will soon go into, let’s have a run through the past to remind ourselves of just how much there is to celebrate in our outwardly sexual lives today, shall we?

Imagine how things were only twenty odd years ago. Most homes had a modem or dial up connection, that infuriatingly slow ‘beebaabeee’ sound squealing with the effort to stream out your internet’s display. Watching porn was exasperatingly tedious back then—which presented a challenge, completed by only the very brave people that could go into a store to ask for an adult magazine or rent an X-rated DVD, even if you managed to sneak in a cheeky home mail delivery—most would still feel like they had a ‘I’m doing something very embarrassing’ sign stuck onto their foreheads.

Now, praise be the existence of broadband internet, which is available in developed and undeveloped countries for a fraction of the price it was back then, and means that millions of people have access to porn (yes, among other educational, inspirational and useful information, of course). Because of this, as a global culture we have more or less become pretty used to sex and sexual fantasy being part of life. Thankfully. It is no longer deemed embarrassing or wrong to tell someone that you touch yourself and like it, it’s actually seen as quite healthy.

The sex tech journey

Believe it or not, humans have been using sex toys for an extraordinarily long time, about 28,000 years to give you an idea. However, there have been slight misunderstandings in the modern world that led many of us astray from the core of human sexuality, more specifically the female orgasm.

Many civilisations have known of and invested in, in some way, the importance of sexual pleasure for both genders. This history runs fascinatingly deep, so find a read further when you can. For now, we’re going to go into western medicine, where the female and male’s orgasm was considered necessary for the procreation of children. The idea was based on the fact that all sexual organs were like a man’s, and that the female’s organs were simply ‘inverted’ and the male was in reverse. This led to a part of history many of us are quite familiar with, as it frankly used to legitimse rape—because if a woman could get pregnant even with forced sex, she must have enjoyed it.

In the 1800s it was believed that female sexual tension was ‘hysteria’ or a ‘wandering womb’, a nervous condition that drove women insane and required a pelvic massage to relieve it. To turn a leaf on the story though, this was what led to the invention of the vibrator, even if it did take some time until we started seeing vibrators as more than a remedy.

The 1940s came along and finally the world realised that women masturbated, and the female orgasm was born (publically, anyway). Sweeping through to the 60s, knowledge empowered us—the scientific team Masters and Johnson produced their in-depth studies showing that orgasms reached by vaginal or clitoral stimulation could be reached many, many times. The 2000s crawled along, and now we’re talking! Sexual pleasure for all had firmly established itself. It took us long enough, and it’s safe to say that the dildo has come an incredibly long way since the days of stone and antler horn.

Innovations took us through different materials, textures, shapes. Dildos, kegel balls, vibrators, air blowers, you name it, all in the name of self pleasure! Now, it’s also far more common than not for sex toys to be used with other people.

Sex games and sex simulators for the better

Many are looking to add a little spice to their sex life, be that with the help of a savvy bit of sex tech, through a game that you and your partner bring into your intimate bubble or dressing up into role play, double dares, playing cards. And now, sexual simulations are here to play with us too. This can be seen as a positive or a negative. The fact of the matter is, sexual simulation seems just as pleasurably valid as in person sexual stimulation.

Many porn sites offer crisp and clear quality and varying content, but until recently we’ve been passive viewers. With the rise of VR technology, we don’t necessarily have to feel like we are anymore. VR headsets aren’t exactly mainstream yet but they are easier to get hold of a pair without a hefty price tag. And they’re an excellent choice for many triple-A games out there, but also the X-rated industry.

Technological innovation within the realms of sex is at a defining crossroad for future generations, it’s changing the way we express intimacy and love, and also how we see and relate to ourselves and others. Sex is fundamental, and the collaboration between it and interactive tech, such as being able to watch and move within a porn scene or play in an X-rated game, has birthed what is soon to be the next era of sexual experience, but is it making sex more fun?

Sexual experience is no longer restricted by the limitations of the human body. Other than the good old bare yourselves naked and get to it, which is obviously great, there are also more interactive and external options with your sexual partner: strip poker to start you off, or a sexy truth or dare card pack, or a karma sutra dice—all of these options accelerate the communication between you. They have the potential to build confidence and trust, you become a team playing for the same side, and what more do you want really?

Sexual arousal is a combination of all our senses, a desire driven by what one sees, hears, smells, and feels. Toss a sex toy into the mix, and together you have super powers. It is simply a sensory extension. The idea of which isn’t exactly new either as we now know, but what also came from this was the rise in cybersex, an action developed since even the very first telegraphs were sent, or love messages encoded into Morse code, and hello the internet. Cybersex is still connection, sex-based chats gave us a whole new meaning to anonymous self-expression.

However, the use of the internet and VR products focus on the path to orgasm, which depletes the richness of our sensory palettes. With this being said, it allows us to let loose, release, live out or wildest fantasies—which, if we can detach ourselves from can only lead to a positive when you do have sex in real life, because there are double the senses to be aware of and take advantage of.

With all of this being said, the evolution of sex tech has undoubtably made sex more interesting, and arguably, this has made it more fun too. There is much more to be analysed in all of this, but to leave you with a thought—technological advancements of any kind are not slowing down, so why not take advantage of the benefits it can give? Just like sexual positions evolved over time, it was uncomfortable and potentially scary to suddenly be physically stretched or flipped into places you weren’t used to, and look at it now, it’s fun!