The term mind control might still make you think wistfully of Jedi tricks, but it's fast becoming reality within wearable tech. A highly experimental field, we've seen the likes of the Netflix controlling Mindflix band, the drone piloting Emotiv Epoc headset and a brain reading cap to let locked-in syndrome patients communicate with their families.
Now sex toy maker Lovense and French developers, AurÃ©lien Fache and Gille de Bast, have succeeded in remote controlling a connected sex toy, the Lovense Lush vibrator, using only brain waves. While it might seem initially like a quirky novelty, its potential for helping long distance couples reconnect, as well as people with physical disabilities, could be huge.
An instrument for change
Lovense is one of the few sex toy companies that provides an API making it ripe for experimentation. Fache and de Bast saw the potential and ran with it. Keen to experiment with mind control as well as sex toy technology, they combined Lovense's API with OpenBCI. More than just a confusing sounding acronym, OpenBCI is an open-source brain-computer interface platform, meaning its boards can be used to measure and record electrical activity produced by the brain, muscles, and heart.
In the context of connected sex toys, this means the platform can be paired up with a 3D printed headset allowing for manipulation of things via brain waves. Conceived via a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, it's essentially a DIY kit for mind control.
Over the past two years, de Bast has been working on how OpenBCI can become mainstream, which is what led him to the idea of mind controlled sex toys. "We integrated BCI with certain protocols such as a simple brain command," he explained. Set up only takes about five minutes in which a new user learns what a 'brain command' is and how to perform one.
Currently, the technology requires high levels of concentration. As you can see in its demo video, it's not perfect either and it takes longer than sliding buttons and controls in the app as Lovense users are already doing. It's the kind of concentration that's unlikely to be possible to maintain while using such a pleasure device, but the potential is still clear.
This tech could allow users to be sexually connected to the web
"It hasn't been extensively tested yet," notes de Bast, but the plan is to "reproduce and duplicate this experiment," meaning it will eventually be adapted for regular users. Through a combination of OpenBCI and Lovense's API, the duo's plans include working to "connect the sex toy to visual imagery and ask people to think of someone to make the toy vibrate rather than concentrate on making the toy actually vibrate." Essentially, working much like a conventional sex toy in the long term - requiring stimulus and an imagination to get the desired result.
Sex on the brain
The eventual plan is to market it to the public but that's a long way off. During the discussion, Lovense's marketing manager Eddy Olivares predicts that this kind of activity is around five to fifteen years out from widespread use. That's plenty of time for De Bast and Fache to iron out the kinks in their extensive ambitions.
"We want to use machine learning to simplify the set up phase. By making these algorithms more simple, we can imagine a benefit to the disabled, but their sexuality is still a bit taboo in France," says de Bast. With concerns of how accepted it would be in society, marketing won't be happening in the near future, but that still isn't stopping the pair entirely. "We're also imagining this technology to allow users to be sexually connected to the web and to the brain itself," he explains.
That's already been partly envisaged in one of their past experiments. With access to the Lovense API, the developers were able to connect it to different Twitter hashtags, allowing tweets to control a sex toy. While it sounds risky for the general public given the chance of abuse, we're sure the world of interactive porn is very interested indeed. An even quirkier use of the API had the toy vibrate every time the International Space Station passed over Earth.
It's the use of electrodes and brain waves that holds the most promise, though. Through a few simple external connections to the visual cortex, it could open up experiences to those who have suffered from past restrictions. Those with mobility issues would still be able to interact with their partners, simply through thinking about what they'd like to do. Refinement of the technology, market research and changing social attitudes will all be required first. The question now is - are you ready?
Would you want to get busy with a mind controlled, connected sex toy? Let us know in the comments below.
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