The future of sex is bionics.
From Jason X to Jaime Sommers (“Bionic Woman”) to Adam from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, the cyborg body has long been a subject of intrigue in science fiction and horror. Although cyborgology may seem worlds away from the realm of possibility, continual developments in bionical creativity engineering, or bionics, such as the invention of the world’s first bionic man – a bionical Frankenstein’s monster composed of body parts from some of the leading prosthetic technology providers demonstrate that the gap between nature and technology, the human and the computer, and science fiction and reality is much smaller than we may have been lead to believe.
In horror and science fiction, the subject of bionics challenges the concept that the human body must be restricted by its natural-born facilities by proposing a merging of the human and the machine. Related to this is the theory of transhumanism, which suggests that the increasing availability of new technologies may lead the body to acquire new physical, psychological, and intellectual capabilities — thereby exceeding its biological potential. It’s an incredible concept. But, for the most part, depictions of the union between human and machine, especially in horror and sci-fi, imply an eventual dissatisfaction and disgust with transhuman or bionic bodies. Nevertheless, the field of bionics has made great contributions in medicine, particularly with regard to amputee rehabilitation. It is also beginning to pervade our sex lives.
In Denver, a small group of sex toy innovators collectively known as Orgasmatronics have invented the world’s first bionic strap-on: the Ambrosia Vibe. The silicone strap-on has a unique Ambrosia Pressure Sense Technology that senses applied motion or pressure and transfers that sensation to the wearer through a vibrator at the base of the strap-on. This allows the wearer to feel, by proxy, any applied sexual stimulation from any part of the human body. Kind of like having a phantom dick.
The concept of a strap-on vibrator is hardly new, but the Ambrosia Vibe is the first of its kind to respond to the wearer’s and a partner’s real-time touch. According to their mission statement, Orgasmatronics invented the Ambrosia Vibe as a way of expanding and increasing the “diversity of sexual experience” for all people.
The Ambrosia Vibe is also not the first scientific attempt to marry bionics with sexuality: Earlier this month, New York University (NYU) graduate student Xuedi Chen and her collaborator Pedro Oliveira revealed an innovative creation of their own at NYU’s Thesis Week called “x.pose,” a 3D-printed dress with 20 hand-cut electro-chromic panels built into a black, flexible mesh that increase in transparency as more data about the wearer is shared online. So, basically: a technologically-enhanced version of something tweaked-out club kids might have worn to 285 Kent Ave before it closed. As stated on Chen’s website,
x.pose is a wearable data-driven sculpture that exposes a person’s skin as a real-time reflection of the data that the wearer is producing. In the physical realm we can deliberately control which portions our bodies are exposed to the world by covering it with clothing. In the digital realm, we have much less control of what personal aspects we share with the services that connect us. In the digital realm we are naked and vulnerable.
Considering how open we, as a society, have become about our sexual and romantic desires — the popularity and candidness of our use of online dating websites like Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid, and CollarMe (pre-mortem) are proof of that — it isn’t all that surprising that the next step should be a wearable manifestation of our sexual desires. However, by publicizing what many deem private – sexual desire, the breasts, one’s personal Internet data – the x.pose may run the risk of visibility-shaming — in layman’s terms: making us feel like sexual deviants for our sexual desires and the openness thereof.
The Ambrosia Vibe, on the other hand, encourages a positive attitude toward sex and sexuality and attempts to expand the range of sexual experience and expression beyond the individual’s biological or genetic limitations. As the inventor of the strap-on vibrator, Dr. X. Treme, says:
One of the most liberating uses for technology in general is to free individuals from the constraints of their bodies, whether it’s letting us see things hundreds of miles away, fly, or live underwater. Our technology lets people not born with a biological penis have a richer experience as they play with sensation of their new ‘organ.’ We hope that this improves people’s lives and makes them happier with whatever their sexual and gender identity are.
That the Ambrosia Vibe is being funded by Indiegogo is especially telling of the need for an invention of this kind. In fact, it is just the beginning of what Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory called “the crowd-funded sex toy revolution.” Though the sex toy industry is worth more than $15 billion dollars, investors don’t want to put their money where their mouths – or other sexual orifices – are. Apparently, sex toys require too much capital. Go figure. As a result, Orgasmatronics and other sex toy innovators have had to rely on a more grassroots approach to funding by reaching out to the public. Because even the wildly popular crowd-funded campaign website Kickstarter has proven to be unsupportive of projects related to sex toys, many sex toy innovators have resorted to sites like Indiegogo.
If you’re wondering why such projects matter, the Ambrosia Vibe’s public release will be groundbreaking in terms of sexual experience – particularly for trans* men and people with female genitalia. More than that, though, the Ambrosia Vibe validates what genderqueer and trans activists and advocates have been saying for years: that a person’s biological body, especially with regard to genitalia, needs not be a limitation upon the individual’s self-expression.
For more information on the Ambrosia Vibe campaign fund, click here.
For more on x.pose, check out this article about it from CNET.