Sex goes high-tech

By Li Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-26 19:58:01

Advances in virtual reality and automated technology set to boost the global adult entertainment industry

A 3D virtual reality sex toy with handheld controllers and a smartphone app exhibited at the 3rd annual Asia Adult Expo 2015 in Hong Kong on August 27. Photo: IC


Doing it with a robot may be just a weird sexual fantasy, especially for young geeks. But with the fast-paced development of science and technology, sex with a robot might very well become a reality in the not too distant future.

According to a January 6 report published in The Mirror, Helen Driscoll, a sex psychologist and senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland in the UK, said sex tech is advancing at such a speed that within the next half a century, with the development of "robotic, interactive, motion-sensing technology," having a sexual relationship with a robot might become fairly commonplace.

"[Sex tech advancement] could really start to enable mannequin partners to 'come to life,'" The Mirror quoted Dr Driscoll as saying.

Her words are not without merit as some developed countries such as the US and Japan have already started creating high-tech adult products such as robots and virtual reality (VR) equipment to cater to the growing market. However, in China, people who want to have a domestically made sex robot might have to wait a while.

Peng Xiaohui, a sexologist at Central China Normal University in Hubei Province, said China's adult entertainment industry is still in its early stages of development, and though it benefits from high-tech trends, many difficulties are hampering the application of advanced technology locally.

A man "hangs out" with robot Roxxxy. Developed by the US-based True Companion LLC in 2010, Roxxxy is purported to be the world's first sex robot. Photo: IC


Tech crush

Fang Hong (pseudonym), a 23-year-old postgraduate Chinese student studying in Japan, attended Pink Tokyo, an international trade fair for adult entertainment products in Tokyo last July.

He went to meet his two "goddesses in dream" Yui Hatano and Akiho Yoshizawa, two Japanese adult movie stars who were special guests at the expo. Taking pictures and shaking hands with them, Fang thought it was the greatest moment in his life, that was until he met another special "girl" - a robot who can talk and respond to touch.

"Since I am a student majoring in machinery, I am extremely interested in robots and doing it with a robot has been one of my greatest fantasies."

He said he knew Japan had advanced techniques that make their silica sex dolls closely resemble real women, but he had never seen a highly intelligent sex robot.

The robot Fang saw is called Roxxxy, a full-sized interactive sex doll that has been in high-demand since hitting the adult entertainment market in 2010.

Roxxxy's maker Douglas Hines, founder of the US-based True Companion LLC, said his aim was to create something that went beyond simple sexual enjoyment, a 2010 Huffington Post report said.

He wanted to make the doll someone the owner can relate to, and even fall in love with.

Hines is not alone. Matt McMullen, the CEO of the US-based "love doll" manufacturer RealDoll, plans to design a new intelligent sex doll that will be able to blink, open its mouth, carry out simple conversation, and behave as if "she" enjoys the act of sex.

"We might very well be launching a new company devoted solely to the development of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) with realistic sex toys, as well as potential virtual reality applications," McMullen posted on US-based social networking site Reddit in June.

Many of Fang's friends and classmates in China have asked him about the adult entertainment products in Japan, and some of them often ask him to buy one for them. "Japanese adult products are exquisite, high-tech and not that expensive," said Fang.

"Almost all of my single male friends, including myself, want a sex doll that resembles a real girl as much as possible, but we are also afraid being found out by our families and viewed as perverts."

A man plays with a 3D virtual reality sex toy at the expo. Photo: IC


'Virtual' interaction

Besides sex dolls, there's one other thing which cannot be ignored when talking about adult entertainment products - adult movies.

Technological advancement has also spurred adult movie making in many countries like the US and Japan where porn videos are legal.

Adult film producers there make special movies for wearable VR equipment and put them on their websites from which they can be downloaded for a fee.

According to a 2015 report by, a Chinese Internet industry website, many start-up companies in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, hope they will be able to apply VR technology to adult movie making.

Li Jin, founder of DepthVR, a start-up technology enterprise, said he is very interested in the field. "Now young people look forward to watching VR adult movies and playing VR adult video games to improve their experience," said Li in the report.

Japanese video game companies have been transforming their adult games into VR mode, and two Chinese start-up companies, Useus and IMTOY, have followed in their footsteps. They plan to integrate VR with sex toys to create simulated actions, such as a blue tooth controlled masturbation cup that allows the user to feel sensations as they watch VR movies, according to the report.

However, China's research and development for this VR technique is lagging.

And while VR technology is not exactly new to China, there remains no definite law for its regulation. Many people think it will very possibly be forbidden by the Chinese government if it is used to create adult content.

"Designing and producing adult entertainment products, such as sex dolls, is legal in China, but when it comes to adult audiovisual products, it is illegal," said Weng Dongdong, a research fellow studying VR technology at the Beijing Institute of Technology, in a January 20 report by news portal

"There aren't any legal provisions for this kind of product so far, but in common sense, it is quite possible that VR technology will be categorized as an audiovisual product  in the future."

Developing the industry

Zhou Xuanyi, a 53-year-old manager at a Beijing-based e-commerce platform for domestic adult entertainment producers, said people's "old ideas" hamper the incorporation of high-tech into the industry.

Zhou has recently been recruiting peers online to develop a new AI product. He returned to China from Japan in 2008 after working in IT there for more than 10 years.

"Japan and the US are two of the most developed countries in the adult entertainment industry with numerous exquisite and advanced products," Zhou said.

"I was shocked at how shabby the Chinese domestic products were when I first returned home."

As a result, he began to work in the industry and has been trying to apply new technology to it, but things have not gone smoothly.

"I have visited many enterprises in scientifically developed cities such as Shenzhen that make very advanced and intelligent robots for high-end toys and education. But when I asked them if they want to use the technology in the adult entertainment industry, they all said no."

According to the findings of a study on China's adult entertainment industry conducted by Peng last year, in 2014, only about 6 percent of adults have used sex toys.

Conversely, in Britain, 32 percent of the population have had a sex toy experience, and the figure in the whole North European region is 35 percent.

"I think young people, especially the post-90 generation, will be using more sex toys due to a more open sexual attitude than their parents and grandparents," said Peng.

He said the younger generation's appetite for high-tech things might also cover adult products which would help remove the barriers to high-tech adult product development in China.

According to Peng, having sex with dolls and even robots is not seen as unhealthy in sexual psychology as long as it does not become addictive or replace human interaction. But he cautioned that even though there might be sex robots and VR porn in China one day, they should not replace interpersonal and sexual relationships.

"High-tech cannot solve everything, and I do not encourage people seeking comfort exclusively from their robot or virtual partners," said Peng.

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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