The Intimacy of Today’s Technology

Stephen Yagielowicz

“Intimacy” is an interesting subject, with many facets. Type the word into Google and you will learn that it is a noun defining close familiarity or friendship, with synonyms such as affinity, affection and warmth. The term also expresses “a private cozy atmosphere” or “an intimate act, especially sexual intercourse,” with further synonyms of intercourse, lovemaking and sex. Beyond sex, other intimate acts can include getting a haircut, a massage, a medical procedure and more.

When thinking about something as personal as intimacy, “technology” is not usually the first thing that comes to mind — but today, machine is invading upon man in a wide variety of ways, and changing our lives for the better (and sometimes for the worse), but in every case, redefining the bounds of intimacy.

Put it all together and the “personal” component may no longer be needed for “personal intimacy” — and “warmth” may be provided by a heating coil.

I’ll share an intimate story as an example: I recently enjoyed a nice meal with my lovely wife, after which she brought me across the street to the new candy shop in town, “just to look ...” A few moments later, we exited this cornucopia of confectionery delight, with a $40 bag of goodies in tow — including one of my favorites, English toffee crunch. It was an amazing looking piece of candy, sending electricity through my taste buds as I bit into it. I was ecstatic — until I noticed an odd texture in the candy I was chewing — and then promptly spit out a big old chunk of tooth. Sigh.

Thus I found myself laying flat on my back in the dentist’s office, a glaring light shining in my face and a couple of people probing my open mouth with metallic implements of pain and other foreign objects. This is about as intimate as it gets, and I lay there anticipating the conclusion of this procedure and the final cost of that piece of candy, as the dentist told me that I would need a crown to repair my tooth.

Then technology intruded most intimately upon me, as a technician inserted into my open mouth what appeared to be a magic wand, with a brightly glowing blue light on its tip. It was a scanner, which in a matter of a few moments, digitally mapped the contours of my broken tooth and its surrounding teeth.

The resulting data file was input into a 3D printer the dentist has on site, and in the time it took for me to walk the dog around the block, a perfectly fitting, color matched replacement for my broken tooth was created. A bit of epoxy and I was good to go. Previously, a temporary crown and waiting while an outside lab service created a “close enough” tooth replacement was part of the game — today, intimate technology makes it a better experience for consumers, and a more profitable path for dentists that can now cut out the middle man.

I was impressed, and started thinking about the highly skilled craftsmen that once produced customized teeth by hand, and whose livelihoods are now being replaced by automation. This of course led me to consider how sex (and skilled sex partners — the middlemen and women in a sexual relationship) are also being replaced by automation — including by a nifty little oral automaton.

Seventy-five years ago, when Isaac Asimov began relating his fictional history of robotics, which would culminate in the classic “I, Robot,” he may have privately envisioned a sexual component to the future interaction of man and machine, but it is unlikely that his science-fictional visions from yesteryear ever approached the reality of today’s science fact.

Calling itself a “blowjob robot,” the Autoblow 2 automates the male masturbatory experience, providing a “hands free” user experience in a cylindrical form factor that delivers a new level of sexual satisfaction on demand. It is even wheelchair mountable, further democratizing sexual stimulation. Previously, users of male masturbators such as the popular Fleshlight had to provide the stroking action — a task that the Autoblow 2 automates through its four-inch range of motion.

According to its manufacturer, the Autoblow 2 is safe to use, despite its being an intermediary between the user’s penis and an electrical outlet — no batteries required. The device’s interchangeable sleeves come in sizes that will fit all users, are re-useable, and easily cleaned using soapy water or a toy cleaner.

“[The Autoblow 2 is] the first truly realistic alternative to traditional pleasure products for men [and is] perfect for couples, too,” explains a company rep. “Just hold the Autoblow 2 in place, and it will do all the hard work for you. You control the speed and intensity of the motorized up/down stroking motion.”

Spring-loaded beaded bands ensure a tight, “two-fingered” grip while the device’s industrial strength all-metal motor is good for more than 500 hours of use. That’s a lot of virtual blowjobs for around $150.

But for all the fun that the Autoblow 2 offers, it is primarily a mechanical “dumb device,” which relies on the user to select desired variances in speed and intensity or other interactivity; so as advanced as it is, it is still primarily a solo sport (unless your mate is along for the fun and there with you).

Contrast this to “smart devices,” which interact with other devices and services, where remote users or pre-programmed “experiences” are able to control the user’s device — and their resulting sensations — providing the next step in realistic man-machine sex. Smart toys also open up possibilities for couples in different locations — or couples that have never met in the real world, such as live cam site patrons and performers, as well as casual dating or swinger site fans.

Kiiroo, demonstrated at the XBIZ 360 Digital Media Conference, highlights the next step in this evolution by bridging intimacy between two people with technology. There are a variety of haptic, immersive and other technologies that will also redefine what it means to be intimate, including gizmos such as Oculus Rift and programmable sex toys such as offered by Comingle.

Put it all together and the “personal” component may no longer be needed for “personal intimacy” — and “warmth” may be provided by a heating coil. However you look at the sexual and social implications of these devices, it’s clear that we have yet to hear the last word on the intimacy of technology today.