A woman appears with digital information overlayed in her physical environment.

Augmented Reality and the Future of Sex: Enhanced Lovers and High-Tech Dating

Could Facebook’s foray into AR help kick-start the tech’s erotic potential?

A woman appears with digital information overlayed in her physical environment.

At Facebook’s annual developer conference last month, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg introduced a new open platform that will allow developers to create augmented reality (AR) filters for Facebook Camera. He also made ambitious predictions for the future.

Want to see sharks swimming in your cereal? How about personalized street art, or meal recommendations from friends on restaurant menus? Using AR, Zuckerberg said, this could soon be possible.

He wants Facebook and partnered developers to create technologies that make AR ubiquitous. AR could even replace household hardware, Zuckerberg argued. For example, we could throw out our TVs in favor of virtual screens. Smartphones might become obsolete, as smartglasses gradually replace their functions.

In effect, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to usher in a new age for everyday technology: an age of augmented reality.

Jaw-dropping erotic possibilities

For some time now, futurists have predicted that virtual and augmented realities will also change how we have sex.

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, thinks that we’ll be able to have sex across long distances and change our appearances for others. In an interview with Playboy, he told David Hochman: “You could transmit a more idealized version of your lover, or she may alter how she wants you to look.”

Want your lover to look like Amy Adams or Ryan Gosling? In the future, this will be easily accomplished. When couples are far apart, sex across distances will be possible thanks to wearable haptic and teledildonic technologies that simulate the sensory stimulation of being touched.

Apps like Pokémon Go and Snapchat have already shown a hint of what’s possible with AR. In Pokémon Go, digital images of virtual creatures are superimposed over the real world through smartphones cameras. Using Snapchat, users can change their appearances, adding animal features or digital makeup. Just last week, Snapchat added a new feature that allows users to insert cartoon objects into their pictures.

Overcoming AR’s biggest obstacle

The biggest hurdle for augmented reality is the development of affordable and comfortable wearable tech. Such tech also has to look normal or trendy. As Alasdair Allan writes over at Vice: “Augmented Reality Will Take Off as Soon as it Doesn’t Look Silly”.

Google’s attempt to popularize augmented reality with Google Glasses famously flopped due to privacy concerns and derision for their clunky design. But other companies are now working on, or have released, their own glasses. Unveiled last year, Snapchat’s Spectacles embrace the silly look of wearable tech by making them big, bright, and fun. So far, the glasses just record video, but there’s plenty of speculation augmented reality could be the next step.

Microsoft’s HoloLens, while far from casual wear, features both virtual and mixed reality capabilities, allowing users to play with holograms, make video calls, and explore virtual environments.

Meanwhile, secretive startup Magic Leap has received huge investments from Google and Alibaba to develop glasses that augment reality by projecting a digital light field into the eye. Facebook also hopes to create normal-looking glasses and even contact lenses.

AR and the future of adult entertainment

While big things are predicted for AR and sex, only a few companies have announced related projects. Back in 2010, adult entertainment company Pink Visual showed how someone could fill their environment with erotic images that appeared on a webcam display. Since then, there’s been much more focus on virtual rather than augmented reality.

Nonetheless, the major adult virtual reality film studios see the future as AR. Anna Lee, founder of HoloFilm Productions, believes we’ll eventually be able to look down and see a performer sitting on our laps. CEO of BaDoinkVR Todd Glider adds that viewers will also be able to feel the performer, as if he or she is really in their home.

Startup PrimaVR has shown how this might be possible, releasing adult videos that allow viewers to interact with performers using VR controllers. When a performer is “touched,” her body moves and the controllers vibrate, providing tactile feedback.

Perhaps most promisingly, Ian Paul, chief information officer at adult production company Naughty America, recently stated that the company will be “exploring augmented reality this year.” He didn’t go into detail, but has predicted before that AR will first appear on smartphones.

Waiting for its moment

There is no shortage of potential uses for augmented reality, in the bedroom and out. Imagine being able to look at any physical object and receive information on it. If the technology becomes common, it could also be a way to communicate dating info, including relationship statuses and romantic or sexual preferences. A quick glance at someone could tell you if you have common interests, thanks to a convenient digital overlay. AR could also be used to brighten up urban environments with customizable erotic images.

Perhaps the most exciting, and discomforting, possibility lies in Kurzweil’s prediction that we’ll able to change our appearances, either to enhance certain attributes or to look like someone else entirely. Using AR, it will become easier and safer to experiment, in ways that might be beyond our current ability to foresee.

Will augmented technology be the new big thing? Zuckerberg predicts it will take ten years to develop casual, wearable glasses with both virtual and augmented reality capabilities. But with the number of companies working on glasses that just do one or the other, we could be seeing basic AR even sooner.

Image sources: Nick Smith, Antonio Zugaldia, yash mithwani