VR Can Trick the Brain to Feel Sexual Touch
Manipulating light in VR glasses can generate sexual emotions and sensations.
Posted March 25, 2023 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- Sex tech is compelling because it offers sensual stimulation more intense than most human partners can provide
- Cutting-edge virtual reality programs are taking not only sexual sensations but also sexual emotions to a heightened level of intensity.
- There will be benefits as well as challenges for individuals and couples as sex tech advances.
If you and I had dinner tonight, you’d likely hear me exclaim, “You wouldn’t believe what I read today!” I’ve regularly said this to my husband, friends, and even my Pilates instructor. That’s because my mind gets routinely blown as I explore advancing sex tech and the future of intimacy. But talking to Kais Latiri, Founder and CEO of BrainWavesXR and Meta Spa VR, truly took my astonishment to the next level.
I don’t recall the first time I heard about Meta Spa VR, a business in Alberta, Canada pairing sex dolls with virtual reality for futuristic sex. It sounds trippy, to say the least. But my prior experiences in virtual reality led me to underestimate what’s really going on with those Canadians.
Virtual reality can be shockingly powerful and realistic, for sure. I’ve hung out with pandas in China, white water rafted on a treacherous river, and floated peacefully in outer space. Yet what Kais is offering at Meta Spa VR struck me as a niche market, especially since surveys indicate that people aren’t knocking down the doors to experience sex with life-sized Barbie doll look-alikes. Nonetheless, I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to interview Kais. Being a self-proclaimed futurist with a particular interest in intimacy, I figured he’s offering among the more futuristic versions of sex available in 2023. And my assumption was correct.
I’m learning that the future of VR is significantly more sophisticated and powerful than my current virtual reality glasses reveal. Apparently, I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. AI experts like Kais have collaborated with neuroscientists to develop programs that trick the brain into experiencing powerful emotions and sensations. Many of us will eventually have the opportunity to feel things that we otherwise never would – for example, what it’s like to climb the side of Mt. Kilimanjaro – or have mind-blowing, ecstatic intercourse without a human partner.
But since we all have different opinions of what mind-blowing sex looks and feels like, Meta Spa VR offers a buffet of emotional and sensual experiences sure to tempt everyone’s fancy. Just like choosing between a romance, a thriller, or a comedian’s evocative stand-up routine when watching TV, at Meta Spa VR, you are essentially choosing what you want to feel emotionally during your sexual experience (admiration, lust, or sexual empowerment for example).
This next generation of sex tech allows you to choose an emotional experience while your mind is tricked into thinking you are having a sexual experience. This technology is based on the phantom sense in VR and achieves its goal by manipulating light projected from the two screens of the VR headset.
Most of us have an immediate emotional reaction to advancing technologies – we want to characterize it as healthy or unhealthy, natural or unnatural, good or bad for humanity. But the truth is probably much more nuanced, and only time will tell. After all, people had a similar range of reactions to smartphones, and now they are just part of our lives. Ultimately, some people will likely feel that this advanced level of sex tech enhances their lives and sexual experiences, while others will feel it detracts from their intimate connections. Hopefully, the majority of us will find advancing sex tech mostly beneficial.
The challenge of all sex tech, in my opinion, is that it offers versions of sexual stimulation more intense than that which typical human partners can provide. But this phenomenon isn’t new. Vibrators can manipulate skin faster than a human hand or tongue. Porn amplifies and exaggerates visual stimulation. Yet virtual reality intensifies a more complex sensory experience. As researchers like Kais further develop phantom touch, you and I will no longer require human partners to experience the sensation of skin-on-skin contact.
These extraordinary developments aren’t limited to sexual sensations. Just as porn drove technical advancements on the world wide web, so too will today’s sex tech drive advancements in such diverse specialties as mental health and elder care. Just as Kais can facilitate specific emotional experiences in his patrons by adjusting the lighting and sound in their VR glasses, so will future medical treatments utilize this same technology to manipulate people’s emotional experiences – for example, as a treatment for depression.
Similarly, just as Kais is able to generate sensations of touch that aren’t actually occurring, so will the future lonely nursing home residents feel the soothing yet phantom caress of another. The possible uses of these technologies are probably impossible for us to grasp while they are still in their infancy. And just as with most, if not all, new technology, we can expect both positive and negative impacts.
Positive impacts will likely be numerous – providing creative sexual experiences to individuals, couples, and folks without partners. People struggling with monogamy may choose these non-human sex partners as alternatives to infidelity. Yet to this list of positives, there is the potential for negatives – including the potential disruption to human intimacy.
Intimate relationships are challenging. Most people report that as romances age, sex becomes less exciting. Whether sex tech will become the ultimate elixir for these challenges, or the ultimate replacement, only time will tell.
Rubin, P. (2018). Future Presence: How virtual reality is changing human connection, intimacy, and the limits of ordinary life. HarperOne.
Spiegel, N. (2020). VRx: How virtual therapeutics will revolutionize medicine. Basic Books.