Sex has been getting an assist from technology ever since the first condom was invented some hundreds of years ago.
But until recently, the role of electronics in our erotic lives has been relatively modest: a sext here, a vibrator there, mostly minor variations on the classic sex act, or masturbation, or the transmission of images or videos of ourselves engaging in one of the above.
That’s about to change. The coming decades will bring innovations in intercourse that will make even the seasoned among us blush.
Scroll down for seven of the most unbelievable inventions that could transform sex as we know it, from the imminent to the fantastical:
1. Oculus Rift + Leap Motion
The Oculus Rift could transform the way we experience a lot of things, including watching TV and movies, shopping, and even time. The 3D virtual reality headset, and others like it, will offer an immersive experience unlike anything we’ve ever seen outside of science fiction.
Combining a VR headset with a technology called Leap Motion, which allows the user’s hands —not a controller — to interact with the virtual world, will elevate the experience to the point that it’s indistinguishable from reality. The Daily Beast reports that such immersive, realistic, customizable porn could be available as early as 2015.
2. Tactile feedback suits
Virtual reality will bring a new level of visual immersion to the pornographic experience, but even that thrill will wear off without the experience of touch. So much of the sensuality of sex comes from touching and being touched — and soon, we’ll be able to experience that virtually, too.
Also known as haptic suits, wearable garments that simulate touch are already being developed for gaming purposes, and more lurid applications can’t be far behind. It’s not difficult to imagine two lovers, wearing full-body haptic suits and VR headsets, exploring each other’s bodies while hundreds of miles apart in reality.
3. Robotic exoskeletons
Tactile feedback is great for virtual reality, but some people will always prefer the real thing. For the sexual adventurer who has everything — except superhuman stamina and flexibility — a tactile feedback-equipped exoskeleton might come to the rescue.
Panasonic plans to release the first commercial exoskeleton next year, with a price tag of about $5,000. While early models will no doubt be clunky and decidedly unsexy, future versions will become streamlined and lightweight, offering would-be sexual cyborgs the greatest stamina enhancer since Viagra.
Scientists at the Harvard Biodesign Lab are already working on a soft exosuit that can be worn under the clothing; if it succeeds, there’s no reason one couldn’t make one for wearing in lieu of clothes.
4. Extra robotic limbs
Here’s where things get very strange indeed. Futurist Zoltan Istvan predicts that developing technology that allows a leg prosthesis to be fully integrated into the musculoskeletal system will be used to enhance the sexual experience.
Istvan also predicts that robotic fingers will soon be equipped with sensors that will make them far more sensitive than their biological counterparts.
5. Brain implants
It has been said that the brain is the biggest erogenous zone. In his essay in Motherboard, Istvan also suggests that brain implants could enable us to bypass sex altogether, and instead directly stimulate the regions of the brain responsible for sexual pleasure. Conceivably one could do this with a partner, or multiple partners, effectively engaging in a literal orgy of the mind.
Compared with the Pentagon’s ongoing project to create brain implants to aid in the recall and processing of memory, a sexual pleasure implant seems like a trivial accomplishment. But if such a thing is possible, and can be done safely, there’s no reason to think it won’t happen.
As far as ideas sure to trigger visceral revulsion in some, bioports are pretty high on the list. The idea of using bioports to interface directly with machines has been floating around in science fiction for a few decades, and it doesn’t seem likely to become a reality in the near future.
But that’s not discouraging in the least to Alex Lightman, futurist and executive director of Humanity+, an international transhumanist organization. He looks forward to a world in which “men and women will interpenetrate each other, multiply, and, as with USB 2.0 daisy-chaining, so will men, women, and androids be able to multiply-interpenetrate, locally or remotely.”
7. Group minds
Although collective minds are invariably portrayed as sinister in science fiction, futurist and Second Life resident Extropia DaSilva looks forward to a day when we’ll be able to upload ourselves into cyberspace.
If that’s possible — and to be fair, it’s a big if— DaSilva thinks that virtual lovers could merge wholly with each other, becoming one ideal entity.
If so, the idea of marriage, in which two become one, will become rather more literal. Although, for her part, DaSilva doesn’t expect monogamy to persist as a norm that far into the future.