Is She Live, Or Virtual?

Cheryl Cain
Cybersex: it means different things to different people. For some, it's the fulfillment of fantasy from a distance, across the reaches of cyberspace, usually in the form of live chat and video (webcam) images of the actual person you are interacting with. For others, it's the merging of man and machine in a way that the creators of the Internet likely never imagined possible.

The question of "who am I really interacting with?" is no longer as easy to answer as it once was, however. Sure, we've all seen message board entities that appear to be female but are in reality males adopting a persona for marketing or other reasons and vice versa. It happens all the time in the support departments of online operations as well. Customers think their chatting with or emailing "Sexy Sasha," but in reality, his name is "Ralph."

The same can be said for chat rooms. Many people adopt personas that reflect the person they wish to portray, rather than the person they are. This can be extended with images and other media that do not reflect reality. For example, "Studley Dooright" might want the girls to think he's a buff 20-something surfer dude, rather than a fat 50-ish dork and might post a picture from his college days to support that fantasy.

But when you add in the element of live video imagery, things become more complicated since you are now able to see the other party, responding to the messages you are sending - for example, a user in a video chat session telling the model to take her top off and then watching as she does so. This has always been an easy method of separating fact from fiction - until now, anyway, especially if the OMG-Ready Co. has its way.

The company announced its "Cyberlivechat" system yesterday, claiming that it is an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) engine that will replace traditional video chat operators.

According to a company release, "Cyberlivechat technology looks like a standard webcam with real people. It appears to be real human girls acting out on the webcams and communicating with the customer." This is enabled by tying a library of video clips featuring a live model performing a variety of 'typical video chat' acts with a seamlessly interactive A.I. engine to create "the realistic appearance of a live, real time interaction with the human model on the other end."

While we've all seen "interactive" DVDs that allow the viewer a limited degree of control over the action, bringing the technology to the "live" arena is a new twist. While there have been A.I. chat bots around for years, marrying them to video technology has been an unfulfilled promise to date. If the OMG-Ready claims are at all realistic, this new technology could change the face of live video chat forever.

The reason is simple: money. Consider the business model of the powerhouse live chat operators where a significant portion of revenues is paid out to the models. Models that may not be too reliable, or need a coffee break, or don't want to work 24/7. If you could do away with the models, you could do away with their expenses, with the added benefit of having a fuller stable of available hostesses when clients visit your site.

Once again, according to the company, "After the initial investment of shooting short video clips there is no additional payroll for those expensive models... there are no difficult staff issues, no time off, no insurance, no sick pay, no taxes, no weekly paycheck to the models. Every time you can replace a human with technology your profit margins soar."

Although the company offers a variety of specialized applications for the technology, the wider issue is the impact this evolution will have on the wider market. Indeed, forces within Hollywood such as the Screen Actors Guild have long watched the development of virtual characters and fear such a replacement of their own talent base - which is an especially attractive option for producers facing salary demands in the tens of millions of dollars for a single movie. While on a lower financial level, the incentives to adopt such systems are powerful for adult producers as well.

While single-model sites with dedicated fan bases will have little to fear from these new developments, independent cam models may face tough times ahead. Still, only time will tell how well and how quickly this technology will be embraced. But in the end, it is only a matter of time and technology. Keep this in mind the next time you chat with a pretty girl online. Is she real, or merely an artificially guided collection of pixels?