A young woman wears a virtual reality headset.

The Future of Sexual Sensing: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Neurostimulation

Part one of The Ten Greatest Sexual Innovations to Come

A young woman wears a virtual reality headset.

As the old saying goes: the only constant is change—and the last few years have certainly seen a lot of it. So many changes, in fact, that it’s hard to think of any aspect of human society that hasn’t been touched by technological innovation over the last decade or so.

Books became ebooks, the Internet went from novelty to essential, electric and hybrid vehicles have become ubiquitous, gay marriage changed from “don’t talk about it” to “no big deal” (at least in some countries), and 3D printers left the prototype stage to become at-home appliances—just to hit some highlights.

But the greatest changes are right around the corner. Many of these innovations will occur in one of our favorite areas: sex.

Part one of our three-part tour into future sex developments is this speculation on sensory tech: how our seeing—and feeling—will be more than believing. These incredible sensory advances will be introduced to us via three innovative technologies.

Innovation One: Virtual Reality

Despite some initial clumsy attempts, virtual reality promises to become a societal game changer. Like many huge innovations, the basic idea of virtual reality is essentially simple: an artificial world accessed by miniature monitors over the eyes.  These, coupled with motion sensors, means when you turn your head, the view through those monitors changes as well.

Where the game changing comes in is two pronged. The first is that VR promises a level of total immersion that we have never experienced before. With a VR headset—like the popular Oculus Rift—you’ll feel like you’re actually in whatever artificial world you’re visiting.  Right now all we’re missing to complete this total immersion is haptics—touch technology, but that’s right around the corner.

The other prong is part of what drove the ebook revolution in publishing: privacy. With a VR set, no one will know where you are but you.

With VR you can visit—or create—any erotic world of your choosing in privacy. There is, literally, nothing you could not see nor do in a synthetic reality. As the tech gets better and better, soon the line between “real” reality and a virtual experience will get thinner and thinner.

Gazing into my—albeit cracked—crystal ball, it’s not too difficult to envision a few years from now. With VR we’ll not just be able to see films, but be parts of them. Interactivity will mean that entertainment, erotic or otherwise, will be multi-dimensional and totally immersive.

A video of a young man wearing a VR headset shows how enthusiastic people are already becoming about virtual reality sexual simulations. He can barely be torn away from a demonstration, and we can only imagine what he is seeing from his perspective.

I can hear a few worry-warts fretting about a mass exodus of humanity into artificial realities. Sure, a few might walk off into an sensual/digital fantasy land never to be seen again, but most will stay around.

The reason?  It’s what happens when you superimpose the total freedom of artificial reality with the real world: augmented reality.

Innovation Two: Augmented reality

The problem, if there is one, with virtual reality is in that total immersion it cuts the user off from reality. But when VR is combined with digital cameras and motion tracking tech, what we end up with is called augmented reality.

Again, technologically, augmented reality is rather easy to comprehend. In fact, we’ve seen some developments with gear such as the sadly chastised Google Glass project.

In essence, it’s a virtual reality rig, but one that is projected onto the inside of a pair of glasses.

Here’s where things get really interesting.  One of the great curses of mankind is ignorance. Even with the Internet at our fingertips, with smartphones and the like, there’s a lot that we could know that we don’t bother accessing. With augmented reality, though, you could glance at anything and instantly know everything you ever wanted to know about it.

Virtual reality means that we’ll be able to escape into artificial worlds where we’ll be able to experience and interact with anything, sexually or otherwise. But with augmented reality we’ll be able to learn, understand, and share anything in the real world with anyone else.

Again, staring into the misty future, it’s easy—and thrilling—to imagine a future where looking at someone through a pair of augmented reality glasses, or contact lenses, could tell you that person’s erotic interests, availability, their orientation, their gender preference, or anything else they want to share with you or the world.

This information would be overlaid in your environment as part of your visual experience. Sexual ignorance and guesswork could become things of the dim and dusty past.

Innovation Three: Direct Neurostimulation

With virtual and augmented reality, we can see both the world of our dreams and all about the world around us. But for all their power, both still lack total and complete immersion: pure sensory stimulation.  Even when haptic technology gets good enough that we can touch and be touched from a distance, there will still be a barrier between lifelike and life.

This is where direct neurostimulation comes in. Yet again, the idea is simple: wiring human minds either together or to a computer. Yes, the technology is very much in its infancy, but we are already seeing huge developments. For the first time, using neurostimulation, the deaf can hear, the blind can see, and people can seamlessly operate prosthetic limbs.

Very soon we’ll either have the technology to literally run wires into our minds or we’ll be accessing it through less invasive and icky means via dermal sensors.

In short, direct neurostimulation is the ultimate sensory technology. With it we’ll be able to control every part of what we see, hear, feel, taste—and feel pleasure with!

This future is going to be interesting. To put it mildly. With direct neurostimulation, we’ll soon be able to access every part of the human mind. Unlike with virtual reality, these constructs will be as good as from realreality. We’ll be able to couple not just with our bodies but with every part of our consciousness.

As with augmented reality we’ll be able to have enhanced perceptions, plus some senses that people may very well like to invent.

In this future, we’ll be able to record what we experience and then play it back or edit it into something new. We’ll be able to actually see, feel, and comprehend what living someone else’s life is actually like. Want to try being queer, or straight, or asexual?  Want to have the memories of anyone, ever?

Let’s go a little farther: how about puppeting? If you have total control of the human brain there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to switch minds with someone else. Never mind editing and recording, with this level of technology you could swap physical forms with other people. Take a vacation away from yourself—by being in someone else’s body.

Don’t Fear The Future

Agreed, some of these sensory and sexual developments may, at first, appear to be a little staggering, but keep in mind how our present, day-to-day lives might seem from someone only a few decades in the past. The fact is virtual reality, augmented reality, and direct neurostimulation are coming—and probably sooner than you think.

Very soon we’ll see incredible innovations in how we look at the world—or even create entirely artificial realities to experience with brand new senses.

One thing, for sure, as with ebooks and smartphones and so many other pieces of fantastic technology, they’ll be integral components of our lives, erotic or otherwise.

It’s just up to our imaginations to see—and feel, and more—just how intimate we can get with all this new technology.

Stay tuned for part two of our series on the Ten Greatest Sexual Innovations to Come: Sexual Biotechnology!

Image source: Nan Palmero