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.
You’ve probably sexted before, possibly with your partner or with your most recent match. It can be a fun, stress-free experience for some, but for others who’ve never done it before, it can also be intimidating and beginners can miss out on the opportunity of becoming a master of dirty talk. That’s where Slutbot comes in.
Launched by the creators of Juicebox, a sex and relationship coaching app, Slutbot is a free service developed by sex educators and erotic fiction writers—sexting pros basically. At the moment, texting Slutbot is only free in the U.S. and Canada, while the rest of the world can sext with it for the cost of your standard messaging rates. If you feel like trying it, you can text ‘slutbot’ to (+1) 415-650-0395.
Slutbot starts by asking your age, gender, and the gender of the person you’d like to practise sexting with. The chatbot offers different types of pairings like female user to male bot, female user to female bot, male user to female bot and so on. After picking a pairing that suits your needs, you’ll have to choose between two types of sexting: one softer, called ‘slow & gentle’, and another called ‘hot & sexy’, which, much like its title, is more forward.
When I decided to try it, Slutbot was considerate enough to choose a safe word, in case things got too hot too soon—the bot picked ‘pineapple’ for some reason. The conversation started quite slowly, with sentences like, “I’ve been thinking about you today. Last night was really hot”, nothing too crazy considering I picked the ‘hot & sexy’ option. Slutbot quickly killed the mood by using texting abbreviations like ‘O.M.G.’ and the ‘100’ emoji three times in a row, making me wonder if I was texting a bot or a 15-year-old. The experience as a whole wasn’t that bad, and for a sexting beginner, the upsides that could come from a few conversations with Slutbot are clear, if you can ignore the over-the-top use of emojis and the absence of any sense of humour.
Talking to the New York Times, Founder and CEO of Juicebox Brianna Rader said, “People think sex and dating is supposed to be easy and innate, but it’s not. It’s absolutely a life skill just like all other life skills, but unfortunately we’re never formally taught these things.” A study conducted by McAfee in the U.S. showed that 49 percent of all smartphone users sext and of those, 70 percent are between 18 and 24 years old, so it only makes sense that someone came up with a sexting ‘starter pack’ to help onboard this new generation of sexters. Although Slutbot is exactly what it says on the tin—a slutty bot—it should be seen as a first step towards opening up new horizons for your sex life (that is, if you feel like you need a little push).
Slutbot tackles important issues, like consent and communicating desires, by always ending a text asking users if they’re enjoying this conversation or want to try something new. By practising your sexting skills with Slutbot without dreading the possibility of being ghosted, you could eventually feel confident enough to try it out with someone real. Ghosting is a problem that goes hand-in-hand with technology, especially texting—not only with sexting. That’s where another app called Mei comes in, your best chance at texting perfectly, thus avoiding any chance of being ghosted. Once you’ve downloaded Mei, the app includes an AI assistant that gives you real-time comments on your texting skills as you chat with friends, family, and partners.
Let’s say you’ve been talking with your new crush for a few days, but you feel like the conversation is not going as smoothly anymore. In your text conversation, Mei will pop up at the top left corner to comment on your way of texting, advising you on which tone you should try out and why. The app’s website says, “We hope to be a new messaging option that users can be excited about”. Although the concept sounds great on paper (we all ask someone close for texting advice from time to time) the idea that people could one day rely on extra help to text from AI should be a forewarning of how our society is beginning to lean perhaps too heavily on technology (especially when it comes to social interactions).
By now we all know that technological innovations have both positive and negative impacts on our social interactions. So next time you feel like sexting for the first time, or you don’t want to receive an unsolicited dick pic, you’ll know Slutbot is always here for you. Same goes with texting your mum after having a bad argument with her, Mei will be there to help you formulate that perfect text. Let’s just try to avoid being dependent on these apps—preferably without throwing away our phones.