Interest in cybersex is soaring as the pandemic has left people subject to lockdowns and travel bans and unable to seek intimacy in the usual ways, according to experience designer Angelina Aleksandrovich.
At the same time, the pandemic has also pushed people's willingness to use a tech solution to an all-time high.
Aleksandrovich runs a collective called Raspberry Dream Labs which creates multi-sensory cybersex experiences which allow people to enjoy intimate moments together even when they are not in same place.
"Because of COVID a lot of people understood how we can use technology and virtual reality in exciting and expanded ways," Aleksandrovich told Reuters. Whereas VR used to be dismissed as something just for gamers it has gone mainstream and is being used in intimacy and dating, she added.
In an industrial unit in North London two volunteers demonstrate her prototype experience combining virtual reality (VR), augmented reality and even smell, delivered through a collar worn around the neck, a head set, and hand-held sensors. The volunteers see each other as outline human forms through their headsets and can caress each other without ever actually touching.
The experience involves haptic stimulators positioned over erogenous zones, something that could eventually be incorporated into soft robotic 'underwearables', said Aleksandrovich. She argues that as we are happy to allow technology into many aspects of daily life, such as health or finance, we should include the bedroom.
A report in 2019 by US market research firm Arizton said the global market for sexual wellness products is expected to reach around $39 billion by 2024. Asked what she made of her cyber sex experience, volunteer Victoria Gillett said, "I love it – it is definitely an experience."
"There is so much going on and it takes a while to take it all in. When it finished I kind of wasn't ready," said fellow volunteer Aaron Vandeyar.