Adventures and Inventions from the 2017 Sex Tech Hackathon
A multisensory experience, foreplay to finish.
On a mission to destigmatize sex tech, Goldsmiths University of London held its second annual hackathon last month.
Focused on themes of intimacy, accessibility, and personalization, it attracted participants competing to create tech prototypes that open up sexual possibilities. It brought together engineers, computer scientists, coders, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, social researchers, feminists, students, product designers, graphic designers, artists, sculptors…all with one thing in common: an enthusiasm for sex.
You may well ask what is a hackathon? As was I, before discovering it to be a hybrid of “hack” and “marathon.” The 2017 Sex Tech Hackathon was a roller coaster ride of both software and hardware development. Think virtual reality, web design, app programming, and interactive sex toys.
“Sex tech is a new window into old human behavior” – Lisa Evelyn
Event co-organizer and computer scientist Dr. Kate Devlin has been proactively advocating that the sex tech industry be “something for everyone, not just for men.” Something less gynoid, more abstract, more empowering, more queer, more inclusive, more safe, and more sensual. Multi-sensual to be precise.
Fantasies and eroticisms shared, boundaries pushed, at the hackathon were an array of people defining what sexuality means to them—for women, gender-non-binary folks, the LGBTQ community, as well as polyamorous and consensually sexual people.
Beginning with a day of discussion, psychologist/neuroscientist Andy Woods inspired us to use particular sensory techniques to create immersive Multisensory Sex. The plasticity of the brain can trick you into believing or feeling things that aren’t real (ie. the Rubber Hand Illusion and McGurk Effect).
Using technology to play with our five (plus) senses got many of us thinking…
Participants presented ideas and workshop groups teamed up scientists with artists and sociologists. As a social researcher, I found myself in a project with one of last year’s winners, a cognitive scientist named Lisa (PeaCock) and a graphic designer named Miki. The venue, a church, buzzed with passionate discussion and the 17 groups set to work.
Frantically tapping out code, heads were buried in laptops. Wires connecting to machines and the sounds of whoops and gasps at the first sounds of vibrating motors. These were overpowered by the loud moans of audible pornography echoing through the church, which displayed a rainbow of crayons and post-it notes beneath large hand-made silicone dildos.
The electric atmosphere charged up to Sunday’s climactic “Show and Tell,” and looking at the many varied inventions it appeared Christmas had come early:
- Fake It ‘Till You Make It: a personalized vibrator that gets stronger the louder you moan, generating a Pavlovian conditioning to feel pleasure at the sound of your own voice
- SEXME: also used sound as a technological tool. A blow-up BDSM mattress that full-body groped you the louder you became
- Touch Pairing: According to cognitive science and AI Ph.D. candidate Lisa Evelyn, this invention is “a connected touch app where you could see another person's fingertips tracing the screen. You put your own finger against theirs. A really elegant and simple solution to establish an embodied connection between people”
- Vibroverse: a web-game using a headset to visually locate your fetish and receive positive feedback on your vibrator
- The “Nose” Stroker 3000: uses Augmented Reality (AR) to help couples communicate how they like to be touched non-verbally
- Gyroknob: a pretty in pink yet (“arousingly”) loud thrusting machine
- Tentacle Tongue: a rim job simulator with a flickering inflatable tongue
- Wiggle: a Bluetooth programmed app that vibrates any toy, including butt-plugs, when you shake your phone
- #Pé: using cryptocurrencies as way of paying for adult entertainment, fixing the damaging “culture of free” into a “culture of paying”
Squiggly Dockers was presented with twinkling music and a poetic sales pitch. Multiple dockers for multiple partners. Each toy suctions to any part of the body and has a different pleasure technology inside, which could be a feather or a vibrator. With one Squiggle Docker sucked onto Ahreum’s palm, Jack dramatically enters the stage with one stuck on his face. They connect. The insides activate, encouraging foreplay intimacy between partners.
The second winner under this category was sucCUMb, “an amazing multisensory masturbatory experience”. Designed by my group, we aimed to create a more intimate and wholly immersive sexual experience with oneself. In a soft scarf hid seven vibrating motors. One on each nipple, each inner elbow, on the lower stomach, over the groin, and most importantly on the throat. Using AR with an Xbox Kinect to mirror your body on a screen and vibrations were turned on as rose petals fall on you (think American Beauty). The throat one, however, vibrates in time to the audio of a woman moaning. This multisensory (s)experience is wholly felt when you open your mouth and the moans feel like they are yours.
VR Sexperiments, designed by Oded, were three VR games coded for us all to (s)explore. The first saw Amy from Github demonstrate a (s)excellent (s)example of the sensory dominance techniques. Through the Oculus Rift headset, a VR dildo stroked her arm as Oded stroked her arm with what she thought was a plastic dildo. Although it was just his finger, she described it as feeling plastic and not at all skin like.
The second game (a weekend favorite) was Whack Off a Mole. Self-explanatory, right? Instead of “moles” you have VR penises you “whack off” and are timed to get them all to “jizz” on you. You can use your hands, mouth, even eyes. “Try a softer touch on that one,” commanded Oded, as Amy aggressively tossed the air. The final game was made for virtual sex with a virtual robot with your own virtual penis. An exciting venture into creating spaces for people who want to explore sex using a different body.
For FTM/transmen and people without penises who would like one, the winner of this category sought to fill a gap in the packer market. Softdongs provided a unique web design software to create a penis to suit you.
That way “you don’t awkwardly end up in bed with someone who has the same packer as you.” Color, length, width, scrotum size, and even a randomize setting are all features to help you personalize your very own packer. Using the incredible 3D printers, we were shown the future of sex literally in the making.
— Kara a.k.a Chrismukkah Mum™ ? (@KiraArghy) November 25, 2017
After a climactic weekend, we left the church with a tingling sensation that next year’s Sex Tech Hackathon will be even bigger and even better. More speakers, more tech, more design, and more sex! A chance for everyone to take control of their own sexuality and demand more intimate, accessible and personalized sex tech.
Will you be there?
Image sources: Paul Clarke, Oli Lipski, Lisa Evelyn, Alice Stewart