A first-hand quest for the future of sex, Part 2: Mission diverted

I’d just returned from CES, where it was obvious that sex and tech were finally coming together. Despite my rather unfortunate experiences weeks prior, I was feeling inspired.

That’s when Kiiroo came into my life. Like a serendipitous orgasm harbinger, it promised to take my “sex life to new heights” through teledildonics. Teledildonics is the sex industry’s contribution to the Internet of Things, allowing users to remote control vibrators and sex sleeves, sync those toys to VR videos, interact with an adult cam star in real-time, “feel” a long-distance lover and, as I’d come to discover, bring new meaning to one of my favorite internet initialisms: GFY.

Kiiroo’s platform includes Pearl, a multi-speed vibrator, and Onyx, a male masturbator similar in form but not function to the Autoblow. Both devices connect to your phone or PC via Bluetooth and to each other via the Internet. Once synced, long-distance lovers can connect in a private video chat. As the company’s site puts it:

“Our revolutionary online communication system enables you and a partner to do more than just see and hear each other. It allows you to feel each other’s touch, from anywhere in the world.”

Basically, the Onyx and Pearl act like a pair of sexually charged Apple Watches. In much the same way you can use the timepiece’s Digital Touch feature to send your heartbeat to a friend, Kiirroo allows you to send strokes, thrusts and squeezes. Whatever your partner does with Pearl you’ll feel inside Onyx. In theory, this is as close as we’ve come to the holodeck of sex.

My Kiiroo review units arrived on a Wednesday, but I wouldn’t reach the apex of my quest until the following Friday. I didn’t spend a week-and-a-half stroking and probing myself with Internet connected sex aids. Instead I repeatedly found myself struggling with Bluetooth connections, firmware updates and APKs, just to give in half way through and revert to manual stimulation. As it turns out, sexual frustration is just as real when your partner has a motor instead of a heart.

If Autoblow is the Kia of male masturbators, Onyx is the Tesla

In order to avoid the impending logistical headaches, I started off with Kiiroo’s most straight-forward function: plain old, disconnected sex sleeve masturbation. That said, I was still required to register the Onyx and charge it via USB before going to town.

The Onyx is a far more sophisticated gadget than its wired counterpart, the Autoblow 2. In addition to ditching the cord, it has a universal button to toggle between two stroke-and-pump variations and a connected mode that allows you to access other compatible devices. It also gives a better blow job than the Autoblow thanks to a pair of air channels that create suction as the device works your shaft. Oh, and it has a trackpad for manual control. That’s not particularly useful for those of us who can get a solid grip on our dicks, but it does have implications for the disabled.

Like Autoblow, it’s still quite large and loud, but with its sleek, streamlined design, it actually looks like something you’d see in a space-age pleasure chest. If Autoblow is the Kia of male masturbators, Onyx is the Tesla. Ultimately, though, I wasn’t in the market for a Kia or a Tesla; I was looking for the self-driving car of sex devices. It was time to see what Kiiroo really had to offer.

The platform allows for a series of different interactions, many of which require a partner. Considering I’d split with my boyfriend of nearly a decade a few months prior, and, because all the hype around sex robots and VR porn seems to point to a future devoid of human partners, I decided the combination of teledildonics and virtual reality was about as close as I would get to the future of sex.

To that end, Kiirroo recently struck a partnership with VirtualRealPorn, the immersive sex scene clearing house, to sync the Onyx with specific VR videos. Having already registered my device, I set out to find a compatible film. I started at VirtualRealGay (you might remember it from such boner-killing disappointments as The Agency Boy) as it was, to my knowledge, the only studio creating man-on-man VR experiences. Having come up short there, I did a cursory Google search for “Kiiroo gay.” While I didn’t find what I was looking for, what I did find would change my perception of the future entirely.

“Man Fucks Himself with Teledildonic Toys,” was the number one search result. I assumed this was little more than a thinly veiled clickbait beginners guide to this new form of mixed media. I was so wrong. The YouTube video, as you can see for yourself above, shows Dale Cooper (aka The Homosexual Overlord), a lightly tattooed, bearded gay porn star, demonstrating Kiiroo’s killer feature. When Kiirroo designed its toys to facilitate long distance love making between a man and a woman, it inadvertently created an entirely new sexual experience for people with penises who aren’t shy about butt stuff.

With Kiiroo’s help, I’d come closer to fucking myself than I’d ever imagined. It took nearly two hours to download the Kiirroo chat app on two separate laptops, register and download firmware updates for both devices (yes, your vibrator has a day-one patch problem too), establish Bluetooth connections and finally set up a private chat room. In theory couples can use the chat room to create a greater sensory connection. But I was there for one reason and one reason only and it had absolutely nothing to do with anyone else.

I shut off the camera and microphone on both devices, navigating to my go-to tumblr and lubed up my two companions. I took it slow at first, running my hand down the length of Pearl, gently squeezing and letting go. The touch-sensitive vibrations created by the silicone shaft connecting with my hand transmitted to the walls of Onyx and delivered a corresponding stroke and squeeze. It was an unusual sensation and a clever trick but nothing compared to what followed. I’ll save you the details, but being fully engaged with both Onyx and Pearl was like the anal sex equivalent of a snake eating its own tail. I was the pitcher and the catcher, the giver and the receiver, both active and passive.

I was feeling myself. Like, really feeling myself. I was experiencing something my mind couldn’t fully comprehend. I could feel every subtle movement, every vigorous thrust. I was in a sexual feedback loop that made me question what it really meant to know my body. In the moment I thought, “This could be the future of sex,” albeit one limited to men like myself, who have way too much time on their hands and propensity for ass play. But as I stood over my bathroom sink, rinsing out of the silicone sleeve, I felt a wave of emptiness come over me. Something was missing.

I’d yet to experience fully mechanized sex. I was looking for an experience that could, as the dooms dayers say, replace a flesh-and-blood lover. It would have to move beyond the tactile and engage my other senses. Sex is, after all, a full-body undertaking.

It was time to experience the ultimate coupling of VR and teledildonics. At this point it should come as no surprise that it took me hours to get the thing set up. I had to sideload not only a film, but also an APK. I registered even more accounts, recharged the headset, smartphone and sex sleeve and after multiple attempts finally got the Kiiroo-compatible film to play. And all for a lousy hetero blowjob.

My thought process: Vaginas aren’t my thing, but I do love a Cobb Salad.

I thought I’d given up on women in college until I found adult film star Hannah Shaw between my legs. Unfortunately, adding teledildonics to the experience severely limits the selection of VR films one can download. My search for anything even remotely arousing came up short, so I downloaded the one film I found that had any sort of appeal for me: The Lunch. My thought process: Vaginas aren’t my thing, but I do love a Cobb Salad.

The Lunch puts your disembodied torso, arms and legs in a nondescript apartment, sharing vapid conversation at the dining room table with Hannah and three other porn stars. It’s not clear what was on the menu aside from man meat, but Hannah wasted no time sliding under the table to slide my sausage in her mouth. Like The Agency Boy, The Lunch is shot from the user’s POV, and like that film it also suffers from a warped perspective.

Hannah’s head should have been just a couple of feet away from mine. Instead, it felt like she and my penis were yards away. As if that, and the fact that it was a woman blowing me, weren’t enough to combat my virility, I found myself fumbling to find the Onyx and slide myself inside.

Gear VR, like most of its competitors, doesn’t allow you to see the real world when you’re immersed in a virtual one. This is no doubt being worked on, and features like HTC’s Chaperone promise to allow some level of interaction with your surroundings in the future, but for the time being, believe me when I say you’d better stay put. At one point, I realized I’d need a towel to clean up after lunch. Instead of taking the headset off, I jumped up, erection in hand, and ran straight into my closet door. A hard, but no less important lesson learned.

That clumsiness defined my entire experience. The setup was time-consuming, the devices were restrictive and clunky and the videos were poorly shot. Try as I might to suspend my disbelief, I kept picturing myself holding a giant black box between my legs, another strapped to my face, the combined sounds of mechanics at work and canned moaning emitting from each respectively. This was the farthest thing from sexy.

When Google introduced the ill-fated Glass, it repeatedly drove home one message: in order for wearables to work, they had to get out of the way. Nowhere is this more true than in the bedroom. At its best, sex is a spontaneous, sometimes frantic undertaking. When you subtract that element of impulsiveness, things fall flat.

Over the past two months, I’ve experienced some of the clumsiest UXs I’ve ever been all up in. Despite promising some truly crazy — even futuristic — shit, and, at times delivering on that promise, I spent hours preparing for a few seconds of ecstasy. Even my sexual epiphany was barely worth the hours spent tinkering. To borrow a phrase from Google: In order for technology to change how we get off, it will have to get out of the way.

I may have reached the apex of my mission over a week ago, but I didn’t find what I was looking for. Yes, I failed to find the future of sex. But I guess that’s why they call it the future.

This article first appeared at Engadget.com 02/03/2016. Illustration by D. Thomas Magee