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The Adult Entertainment Expo is at the forefront of sex tech

Woman Wearing Oculus Rift

What does the future of masturbatory technology hold? We took a trip to the expo in Las Vegas to find out firsthand.

This article contains graphic content that may be NSFW.

The AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, the porn world’s annual convention in Las Vegas, is a time for many things. It is a time for the adult industry’s hoi polloi to rub elbows, as well as other surgically augmented body parts. It is a time for married construction workers from New Jersey to get drunk and gawk at silicone models of reality TV stars’ vaginas. But it is also a time for novelty companies to debut the latest in sex technology. At the AVN expo, the Daily Dot had the opportunity to peruse some of these products.

Virtual insanity 

As my Daily Dot colleague Rae Votta reported when she visited the Xbiz 360 conference in Los Angeles, virtual reality is at the cutting edge of sex technology. The adult virtual reality company Red Light Center showcased its own Oculus Rift multi-user VR demo at a booth at the Adult Entertainment Expo. Available as both a heterosexual and same-sex pornographic fantasy (I opted for the latter), the demo portrays various erotic scenarios, from an orgy in a backyard to an all-male strip club.

Ej Dickson

Ej Dickson

Red Light Center CEO Brian Shuster told me the all-immersive, multi-player XXX virtual world gives users a chance to experience hot sex without the messy emotional attachments IRL. “We’ve already seen in studies out of Japan that among youth aged 18 to 24, real sex is repulsive to them,” he told me at the Red Light Center Expo booth. “You have to ask, why is that so? It’s because real relationships and real sex involve so many negative factors… it’s expensive, it’s dangerous, there’s entanglement. But Internet porn is freely available… [with Red Light Center’s technology], you can have a great relationship with someone on the opposite side of the world.”

“How do we get there? What’s the path? It starts with virtual worlds.”

The demo consisted of a brief, 120-second scene of hard-bodied, elephantine-donged men dancing in a strip club and having an orgy in a backyard. If I looked to the right, there was a couple entangled in a loving embrace; to the left, there were two men having sex doggy-style. Their facial expressions were warped in a frozen grimace, and their movements resembled the awkward brittleness of those of Disney animatronics; but I had to admit, it was at least kind of hot.

In the future, Shuster hopes to integrate Red Light Center’s program with the Oculus Rift platform, which will likely be released before Christmas 2015. (Although he refrains to elaborate on conversations he’s had with Oculus and Facebook about whether they’ll allow Red Light Center on their platform, he says they “haven’t been opposed, let’s say, to adult entertainment.”) Shuster is very confident this super-seamy virtual reality world is the next step in the evolution of adult entertainment.

“We’re eventually gonna get to the holodecks, or the Matrix, from the Web,” he predicts, which will provide, “not just sex, but everything and sex,” including foreplay, making out, massaging, etc. “How do we get there? What’s the path? It starts with virtual worlds.”

Reach out and touch someone

Teledildonics, or remote-controlled sex toys, and haptic, or tactile-feedback (touch-based) technology, are out in droves at the expo. “The biggest trend in sex tech right now is developing interactive experiences between sex toys between two people over an Internet connection,” says Jeff Dillon, the vice president of business development at the adult website GameLink.

Some camming websites, like Flirt4Free, planned to incorporate long-distance sex technology into their business models. As Miguel Arriaga, the senior account executive of Flirt4Free, explained to me, the site has teamed up with the sex toy machine company Shockspot (essentially a motorized dildo machine that calls itself the “Rolls Royce of fuck machines”) to stimulate cam models.

Ej Dickson

Ej Dickson

“Customers go on the site and take the models into a private show,” he explained. “When they’re using the machine, they can control how fast it goes and how slow” using a control system on their computer. They can simultaneously masturbate into their V-Strokers, a Fleshlight-like device, to coordinate the movement of the Shockspot with their thrusts, creating an experience akin to simulated sex. The custom clip site Customs4U is also developing a similar system with the V-Stroker and the Tenga egg, which it displayed with a very NSFW demo at its booth.

Ej Dickson

While Flirt4Free cam model Aspen Reign says the Shockspot can yield benefits for customers like military couples and couples in long-distance relationships, there are some drawbacks to the device on her end: Specifically, the fact that some sadistic customers might get too gung-ho about the device.

“In the cam business, there are certain people that like pain,” she says. “It turns them on more than anything to induce pain for someone else. And a lot of girls can’t get pound out for 13 minutes and be OK with it, but we set the limit.” While cam models are able to control the motions on the other side of the device with a covert desktop control system, the customer doesn’t know that. On their end, they think they have “complete control over everything we do,” Rain says.

The sex toy company Fleshlight is also teaming up with the Dutch sex toy company Kiiroo to create a similar teledildonics system. The Bluetooth-enabled Onyx and Pearl devices allow couples to be intimate from miles away. “You can be halfway around the world and whatever the woman is doing” to the phallic-shaped Peal device–for instance, if she puts it in her mouth, her vagina, or pretends to masturbate it—“the man will feel within .2 seconds,” says Trish O’Grady, a representative from Fleshlight.

Basically, here’s how it works: There are 10 rings inside the Fleshlight, which constrict and restrict according to how your partner is stroking their device. (The rings make a wheezing noise when they move back and forth, possibly the most significant drawback of the device.)  So the faster someone user masturbates the dildo, the more pressure the other user will feel around his penis in the Fleshlight.  

Fleshlight is primarily marketing this system, which costs $149 for the Peal and $249 for the Onyx, to long-distance couples. “Nowadays, people live where their jobs are,” says O’Grady, citing oil drillers and members of the military as examples. “So a lot of relationships are long-distance. [These toys] give you the opportunity to connect from far away, rather than playing by yourself.”

Ej Dickson

In the future, such technology will likely be integrated with virtual reality systems to create a totally immersive XXX experience. “We’ll be using headbands like in Demolition Man,” Andrew Ortega, another Fleshlight rep, joked.

Jem and the Holograms

As much as it sounds like an episode of The Jetsons, some adult industry professionals are projecting that holograms will be the future of pornography. Dillon, the CEO of GameLink, says he has been in talks with the special effects firm that produced the hologram of Tupac Shakur at Coachella, to produce holograms of adult performers, which he plans to bring to consumers’ living rooms.

“You can make out, and massage, and do the foreplay… you’re gonna be able to feel hot breath.”

The concept of pornographic virtual worlds, he says, is “interesting, but it doesn’t touch that sensual, erotic part of my brain.” Prerecorded erotic holograms of adult stars or cam performers, however “look so fucking real when you see them in person.”

Shuster also says one of the goals of sex tech is to bring life-size versions of your favorite naked and willing adult performer—or even your long-distance sex partner—into your bedroom. This technology will provide “not just sex, but everything leading up” to sex: “You can make out, and massage, and do the foreplay… you’re gonna be able to feel hot breath.”

Going mobile 

According to a 2014 poll by Pornhub, 45 percent of the site’s content was viewed on mobile phones, a 12 percent jump from last year. In the future, Dillon predicts this number will only grow. Porn, he says, will become totally mobile. “If you look at Japan, the personal computer is almost obsolete outside the marketplace,” he says. “Every year, our mobile audience is increasingly huge. We have to make sure our site can deliver content to our phones.” But don’t expect the notoriously stringent Apple and Google stores to follow suit: These tech behemoths don’t allow pornographic content, so most of it will be browser-based.

We’ll also be able to control our partners’ sex toys via our mobile phones, predicts Preston Garland, head of marketing at sex toy distributor El Dorado Trading Company. Products like WeVibe’s 4Plus, OhMiBod’s blueMotion, and the smart mini vibe Magic Motion “are really exploding,” he says. Such apps allow users to long-distance control their partners’ toys from anywhere in the world, as long as they’re Bluetooth-enabled. He also says we’ll see “more social network tie-ins with these apps,” which will appeal to a more sexually adventurous market, in the event that you want your Facebook friends to control the speed of your vibrator.

Back to basics?

As much promise as many believe the future of sex tech holds, some think there’s not much more innovators can do to improve on the standard hand-on-genitals, “analog” masturbatory experience. “Here’s the thing: I’m not a big believer in sex tech,” says Brian Sloan, the creator of the hugely successful blowjob machine the Autoblow 2.

“It’s all about [improving] sensation. That’s where the real growth will happen.” 

Although he’s been approached about giving the Autoblow 2 Wi-Fi connectivity, so that users can watch adult movies while they masturbate, Sloan believes people who use sex toys aren’t all that interested in technology. 

“People wanna just masturbate quickly and efficiently. They don’t wanna power up, or configure, or navigate, or troubleshoot. They just wanna do their thing and that’s it.”

In the end, Sloan says, the only real innovations in sex tech will be “things that enhance the physical sensation that they experience from the toy,”  citing robotics such as a hypothetical sensor-embedded sex toy for women with a robotic arm that stimulates the clitoris as an example. “The mass market doesn’t want things that connect to the Internet,” he says. “They don’t want contraptions that’ll help you interact over long distances… it’s all about [improving] sensation. That’s where the real growth will happen.” 

Photo via Ej Dickson

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.