Speaking to Business Insider, Angelina Aleksandrovich, CEO, founder and creative director of the avant-garde sex tech company Raspberry Dream Labs predicted a post-pandemic age where cyber sex experiences and technologies such as sex simulators and VR sex games will see a huge surge in demand. The ‘new normal’ will be sex tech-related, and here’s the crucial part Raspberry Dream Labs will play in it.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, everything changed, including our relationship with intimacy. As we put our real-life interactions on hold, we first turned to novel apps to entertain ourselves, only to grow tired of Houseparty pretty quickly. As Clubhouse replaced it, we also started wondering about how different the world of dating will be when we finally get to meet people face to face again. But what about our current love life—what about our current sex life?
For those of us who didn’t manage to grab that last-minute-someone to spend lockdown with—and for those who just didn’t want to—sex in the past year has been pretty one-sided and technology-reliant. We saw sex tech rise to stardom like never before, and for good reasons. In comes Raspberry Dream Labs!
During lockdown, Aleksandrovich’s company has been busy building a rig and software where people who are apart can still enjoy intimacy. “The time is so ripe for it,” she told Business Insider. As a transhumanist specialising in creative storytelling through Extended Reality (XR) technologies with a background in sculpture and performance art, it’s safe to say that the creative director knows what she’s talking about.
Back in university, Aleksandrovich grew the world’s first VR headset out of mushroom mycelium and created her first 360° film about the process. Since then, she has worked with many global brands, including Nike, Samsung, Adidas, SXSW, Dove, and many others on a variety of award-winning high-profile productions where she designed and directed interactive and multi-sensory technology activations.
In 2019, she founded Raspberry Dream Labs, a collective of artists and engineers creating innovative multi-sensory solutions for cyber sex “to combine my technical and production expertise with one of my greatest passions: human sexuality,” her website reads. As a part of this, she also curates and moderates bi-monthly events named UNSENSORED talks and speaks publicly on the themes of sex, technology, XR and intimacy in the digital age. Her latest one? ‘Are we ready for sex robots?’
In the post-pandemic future envisioned by Raspberry Dream Labs, some people will remain reserved about meeting new potential partners in person, for obvious reasons. With the help of immersive visuals, sounds, and even scents, the collective’s rig is meant to give users who are far apart a new sense of intimacy. “It also places haptic pulses on their bodies, giving them the sense of being touched. It’s still a prototype but eventually, users will be able to wear the rig and enter the company’s virtual platform, Raspberry Dream Land, to meet others,” Business Insider reports.
And for those of you who are still sceptical about the rig’s potential to change the norm, Raspberry Dream Labs already demoed the experience recently, hosting a week-long event that celebrated sexuality, identity, gender, body, technology and futurism. It included talks given by artists and sex-tech proponents, who attempted to demystify cyber sex, said its founder.
Now, the company is getting prepared to publicly launch its safe and uncensored ‘Dream Land’. On there, users will be able to “meet in the virtual world, go on the dates, attend events that would be censored elsewhere online, get playful and build meaningful connections over the distance,” explains Aleksandrovich.
For now, people who are interested in being a part of the platform’s launch can register their email address to be the first ones notified. And Raspberry Dream Labs is not the only company looking to elevate remote intimacy; more and more VR sex tech companies are releasing inexpensive products that are accessible to most customers, leading many who were previously reluctant to start considering these options as worthy ones.
The sex tech industry is booming, and with it come many positive as well as negative aspects. While some people are receiving these new changes with open arms, others keep a guarded approach to them. Why? Well, because some of these technologies might alter the way we have real relationships, and how we interact with potential partners. This is the case of Virtual Mate, a virtual partner aimed at heterosexual male users (for now at least) that comes with a high tech fleshlight. Could this be the future of intimacy or has sex tech gone too far?
Described by some as “the sex tech industry’s most ambitious project,” Virtual Mate is the first virtual intimacy system that combines realistic adult gameplay with an advanced, sensor-based masturbation sleeve—also known as a fleshlight. The virtual girlfriend comes with an adult game, where users can put themselves in any kind of situation they want. Pick the story mode if you want a drawn-out love affair in a picturesque hotel in Paris. If you’re in a hurry, just select the mode for a quickie.
The Core is the main element of Virtual Mate. It is a wireless, Bluetooth-enabled masturbator that includes real-time motion tracking, and a sensitive internal sensor to give ‘feedback’ to the Virtual Mate video game. The game comes with a main model called Shelia, a white, busty woman, ready for any kind of sex. She comes with a database of animations, facial expressions, and responses to every type of thrust.
The Virtual Mate can be used on a smartphone, a tablet, a computer and with a VR headset. Once the player turns on the Core, slides it over his erection, the realistic 3D model responds. Because the animations are based on the player’s movement and ways of having sexual relationships, each experience is supposed to be different for everyone.
Screen Shot spoke to Jeff Dillon, the CEO of Virtual Mate, about what this sex tech innovation means for the future of relationships, and what’s next on the company’s agenda. “Our goal is to create an experience so real it will be hard to tell what is real and what isn’t. This starts with a mental connection to the Virtual Mate character and the more personal we can make it, the better the mental connection,” Dillon shared. In his mind, anyone owning a Virtual Mate will soon be able to create their own perfect sexual fantasy—something that sounds both exciting and somehow worrying.
On its Twitter account, the company is currently running a contest where users can vote for who they’d like to see Virtual Mate create as its new avatars—from Kim Kardashian to pornstars. When asked about whether he ever worries about how Virtual Mate could influence the way we behave in real life relationships, Dillon admits that he simply doesn’t. Sharing where the idea came from in the first place, he says that “One of the reasons we came up with this concept was because my wife had a difficult pregnancy and post-birth, so it impacted our sex life. Because the Virtual Mate character is not a real person, my wife doesn’t feel like it is cheating, and she isn’t threatened by a digital character.”
Although Dillon makes a fair point—after all a virtual ‘girlfriend’ is not real—the sense of attachment that could develop over time between a user and the virtual partner could still cause some to become jealous. It could even affect a user’s ability to connect with real potential partners. Dillon explains that he wants to “fill a void where traditional relationships break down,” because “traditional relationships are not for everyone.” In other words, Virtual Mate would be there for users as an alternative relationship and sexual release. And isn’t that what makes this technology so strange, the idea that your partner might not need you that much for the intimate aspects of your relationship?
No one has the answer to that question just yet, as only time will tell. In the meantime, Virtual Mate is already working on expanding its reach to more users. “We are already in research and development for a product for women, which will be a haptic silicone dildo that will simulate the male erection and get harder the more aroused the Virtual Mate character gets. The silicone dildo will also be able to thrust in and out while changing speeds and motion,” Dillon explained. The company is also exploring lesbian and gay options, for the Core as well as the available virtual partners.
The possibilities for this new technology and the many concepts that could derive from it are endless. Dillon said that he and his company “are getting in front of this market, and intend to lead the way in virtual product capabilities.” The future of intimacy is here, and it’s as mind-blowing and scary as it sounds.