Remote sex has been a fantasy for over 20 years
In 1993, a report in the Chicago Tribune entitled “Today’s tune-in to a 3d-animated one-night stand may turn into tomorrow’s tactile exchange from opposite ends of the earth” suggested that teledildonics was “the virtual-reality technology that may one day allow people wearing special bodysuits, headgear and gloves to engage in tactile sexual relations from separate, remote locations via computers connected to phone lines.”
Since the Chicago Tribune article Virtual reality has moved a long way. Whilst it’s possible to see or hear the virtual world, feeling the virtual world remains aloof, distant. Technological advances have prompted attempts to create virtual sensations through the likes of haptic perception: “The sensibility of an individual to the world adjacent to his body by use of his body.” (J.J. Gibson, 1966). Where are these nuances that describe a sensation in the virtual world? If skin is our interface to the world, our protector to pathogens, regular of temperature and provider of sensory information about our surrounding environment, nature’s core communicator, why is it not considered more closely for the virtual?
What if the skin was our interface to the virtual world?
Those are the questions that Ka Hei Suen, Charlotte Furet, George Wright and Andre McQueen, the team behind Skinterface, have explored over the last two years during their final year project at the Royal College of Art, London.
Skinterface opens the door to remote pleasure
Skinterface is a skin beyond skin, a passport to alternate realities that enables full immersion into the virtual world. A matrix of individual addressable actuators cover the body, creating a high fidelity interface with the skin. Designed for diversity of touch, each moving magnet node is independent and has several modes of communication.
Skinterface is a skinsuit which allows you to go from the physical world into the virtual world. Once there, Skinterface will enable two-way physical interactions with computer simulated objects and environments, creating a fully immersive experience. Located and tracked through 3D space, Skinterface is equipped with sophisticated actuators which convey subtle sensations, effectively converting virtual interaction into physical feeling.
To go from being an observer to an active participant, a person must be able to feel the world they are entering and feel the transition into it.
Beyond this transition, the suit would also be capable of facilitating two way interactions with virtual objects or people—be that for entertainment, communication, virtual prototyping or one of the many other potential applications.
In its current version Skinterface is a one way communication tool – the sensory experience is delivered according to the location of the skinterface garment within a 3D mapped space by tracking its coloured surface details and delivering the sensory experience accordingly. An extension of this is a dual tool using the same tech, but allowing pressure on one part of the tool to effect the sensation delivered by the other. The implications of this are potentially to touch someone in another location, even in another country.
Andre sees an opportunity to translate the sensation of wearing a multitude of different fabrics into a sensory ‘digital library’ that can be felt by wearing Skinterface. Wonder what your cotton trench coat would feel like in felted wool? Skinterface can give you that sensation. There is as much scope here for customer-led retail experiences as for fashion designers considering the weight and drape of various fabrics when designing garments.
The students believe that developers could create open source libraries of sounds or physical erotic pleasures to induce all manner of sensory experiences remotely through the Skinterface suit. This will pave the way for the advent of teledildonics.
How does it work?
The set of garments created by the team deliver sensory pressure by essentially using a speaker in reverse, so that sounds create a varying electromagnetic field, which in turn is calibrated to produce varying sensations on the skin. These sensations are delivered via a coil and magnets encased in 3D printed caps, created at Imperial College London and adhered to the garments, which require close skin contact to accurately deliver the sensation.
Skinterface seems like a superior solution than the Tesla Suit, a failed Kickstarter product.
kinterface is a project by RCA students Ka Hei Suen (Kitchen Product Designer), Charlotte Furet (Architect), George Wright (Engineer) and Andre McQueen (Footwear designer) who embarked on their MSc / MA Innovation Engineering Design course out of curiosity and a desire for collaboration outside of their immediate professional realms. They will expose their Skinterface device at the RCA annual graduate show that will open to the public 26 June to 3 July, 12 midday to 8pm (closed Friday 1 July) at the Kensington campus.