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April 13, 2020 46 mins

All around the world, people are now living in isolation. Many of us are confronting this experience alone. Physical interaction is now a liability. What does this mean for one of humanity’s most important forms of connection — sex? And how can we continue to meet our fundamental need for intimacy during these times? Laurie looks at what all this on-screen interaction will mean for the future of sex. Could tech eventually replace human touch? Will people develop relationships with machines? From teledildonics to virtual girlfriends, sextech expert Bryony Cole talks sex in isolation and the future of love.


Show Notes


End of Life Care Machine

Wheel Of Foreplay

Sex Hacker Kenneth Play

Esther Perel


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Roman (chatbot)


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
First Contact with Lorie Siegel is a production of Dot
Dot Dot Media and I Heart Radio. When it comes
to the future of intimacy, there's so much fear I
think now around physical touch. Will we see technology built
specifically to replace human touch gate boxes kind of this

virtual assistant similar to Syria or Google Home. It turns
on the lights in your home, controls the temperature, but
also sends emotional text messages saying I miss you and
I can't wait for you to get home. And this
businessman returns home and explains how you know, it's such
a relief to come home to someone, insinuating that this

technology is actually someone. So it does enter this really
great area where technology is once sort of this thing
to support us, and now it's like, yeah, we're going
to completely just replace it. Yeah. It's April and much

of the world's population is now locked down in their
homes to avoid spreading coronavirus. We are living in isolation,
many of us confronting this alone. And that's because maybe
one of the hardest parts of this is physical interaction
is actually a liability. So what does this mean for

one of humanity's most important forms of expression sex, Physical
intimacy is a form of communication. It's a human need
that goes beyond sexual desire. It's about human connection. So
how can we continue to meet that desire and need
for intimacy during these times? Could there be tech that

helps us combat loneliness and strengthens intimacy. But we've also
got to be careful. Remember we've already developed these intimate
relationships with our devices, and now we're relying on them
even more for human connection. Could we go too far?
And where will we draw the line? My guest Briany Cole,

has been talking about how sexuality and technology are changing
intimacy in relationships for a long time. She's been asking
questions like, could immersive technology enable you to really feel
your partner even if they're not close by? What if
virtual reality could teach you about consent? Could a virtual
assistant become a replacement for a boyfriend or girlfriend sending

you emotional messages throughout the day? I know it sounds strange,
but let's be honest, it's and I've heard weirder. So
ask yourself what platforms will be built in this era
around intimacy. Will these innovations become mainstream? Change the fabric
of our society or what it means to be human.

So let's talk about sex. I'm Laurie Siegal and this
is first contact Brianie Cole. You are a leading voice
when it comes to the future of technology and sex,
and you're the host of the Future of Sex podcast,
which is super fascinating and I think everyone should listen

to it. And you're also the founder of the International
Sex Tech Hackathon, which we are most certainly going to
talk about. But I want to start with like a
basic question, how are you doing? What's the right thing
to say these days? You know, I think there's a
bomb that could be let off with any anyone saying
how they're doing in such circumstances. For me, I'm waking

up in Australia where things are pretty great. Um, So
I don't really have that much to complain about if
the mandate is to stay home and watch Netflix. Everyone
here is healthy and well on my side. Um. You
know I was interested before and a lot of your
work and talking about tech and not just like you know,
we'll get into what like sex tech is, um, but

you know, talking about the future of technology and intimacy,
which I think is such an interesting topic, but I
think it's even more relevant now, Like we're all sitting
here and self isolation and our means of human connection
is through a computer, through a device, So technology is
enabling intimacy and all these different types of ways. So

I feel like your work is so interesting. It was
always interesting, and it's now it's it's super relevant, and
that maybe the rest of the world caught up to
the conversation that you were having about sex and technology
for a really long time. So to start it, just
what is it about sex and technology that fascinates you? Well,
technology fascinates me in general, just in the way it's

impacted human behavior and how much it's changed my own
life and growing up and you know, growing up pre
internet to having Internet. So I've always been so fascinated
by the way technology sort of changes human behavior, maybe
with a little bit of lag, a little bit of
cultural lag, and how that all intersex together. And that's
sort of my background, being at tech companies and working

for governments and doing all sorts of different things, always
tech related, but with that sort of sociology angle. And
so for me, the biggest one that we weren't talking
about was sex. You know, sex is still so taboo
and such a stigmatized topic because it's often relegated to
this like dark, sleazy corner of the Internet or the

side of a highway or somewhere you know, in our
in our minds. But in fact, you know, we all
got here presumably by someone having sex, and we all
are sexual. You know, the way we walk in the world,
the way we go about in the world is our sexuality.
So I really was fascinated by the way these two
forces in our life intersect. And I think you're so right,

Lauren that today we're facing even more this sort of
confronting part of technology being the gateway to connection and
intimacy and what does that mean? And for me in
terms of where that's led my work, I think what's
been really interesting is the questions I used to get
before about we're exhaustive on the topic of like robots

and virtual girlfriends, right, and we're gonna talk a lot
more about what sex tech is beyond that. But I
found that people were so hung up about are we
going to be replaced by virtual boyfriends and girlfriends? And
what an interesting time to be living through where many
people are stuck at home and their boyfriend or girlfriend
is somewhere else on the planet or even down the

street right now that they can't see. And also how
much we're realizing we need connection, Like we actually do
need human connection and it probably can't be replaced by
a robot and physical touch and all these things that
now we're we're kind of, you know, realizing if we
didn't have the ref search before, I think now where

we have the proof that intimacy is so important and
that probably can't be replaced. But the great thing about
technologies that can enhance and solve for these needs sometimes
and so kind of taking a step back, how do
you define sex tech? Like this is a term we
throw around, and I thought it was interesting what you

said about Like when people think of like sex tech,
I think like VR porn and robot sex, and um,
what your work does, which is really interesting is it
just kind of is like, Okay, there's so much more,
you know. So how do you define sex tech? Yeah?
So the definition I use is sex tech is any
technology designed to enhance intimacy. And when I talk about

sex tec in that way, what I'm really talking about
is not just sex the physical act, but sexuality. So
this big umbrella topic that encompasses everything that we think
about when we think about sexuality, education, health, crime and violence, reporting, medicine,
gender identity. These are things as well as of course
intimacy and relationships and actually having sex, that encompassed the

sex side of sex. Sex, and then on the technology side,
you know, all the sexy stuff like the robots and
virtual reality, but also um so the fairly mundane technology
that we already use that we don't even think is
technology that could be our hands. It could be the
you know, stone dildo that was found in a cave
thirty five thousand years ago in Germany, which was the

first discovery of a dildo. But yeah, just thinking about
this in a broader sense. So when we think about
technology and how that intersex with sexuality, then we start
to get some really interesting results, even if it's just
like apps or chatbots for sex education or interesting new
products for painful sex. I think we often go sex

is all about like pleasure and headonism, but sometimes there's
things like what about a sci problem globally or you know,
issues with painful sex or premature ejaculation, and those issues
can also benefit from interesting technologies that may be able
to help solve them. So I've been covering tech for

a minute, right, and we both know it's like a
predominantly male industry. It must have been interesting being you
and being in the rooms like you worked at places
like like Microsoft, right, like you worked in all these
different places, you know, with this point of view on
sex and technology and kind of the future. Yeah, I
mean I've always had an interest in technology. I find

it fascinating to be on the edge of things, and
had always sort of been that kid that was like
looking at the new thing, or if people like, well,
what's the new app coming out? They'd always be like
our brianing would know that. So that sort of is
the common I think theme in my work life was
always looking at future focused things really, But underneath all
of that, I think was this feeling that you know,

growing up having a fairly sort of average childhood, fantastic childhood,
the average shot in Australia. But we don't really talk
about sex um in much detail. Right, You go to
school and you get somewhat of an anatomy lesson sex education.
I think we can agree as pretty crappy everywhere in
the world anyway, So I didn't have any language to

describe my sexuality. And at the same time, I had
an experience where, again I think it's fairly common for
women is growing up. I remember beings just so excited.
I was in grade six, so it most have been
twelve eleven or twelve years old, and I was going
to Target with my mom to buy my first bra,
and I was so excited. I just had this sense

that something big was happening. You know, when you're a kid,
so you're not fully developed mentally, but I was physically developing,
and so I was just like, this is this big occasion.
And I came home and I was just elated. I
was like, Mom and dadd you have to take photos
of me and this bra. This is amazing. And to
their credit, they were like, yeah, this is great, Like

let's celebrate joining the woman who you know. And the
same thing happened when I got my period and they
cracked a bottle of champagne, like they've just been really
positive about that. And what I noticed was that was
the only positive message I got about being a woman.
In fact, when I went to school and then onto
university and work, a lot of the messages were more

about being small and you know, making my voice small,
but also being physically small. I always felt like I
didn't really understand, especially as a twelve year old, why
something was a bit wrong about what was happening to me.
But I always felt like I had to be smaller,
So that that was sort of the thread. I think

that really led me when I found sex tech and
I thought, hey, I know how to talk about technology
and sexuality has been such a silent influence in my
life in the way I've matured it as a woman.
I think this is really important. And if I could
go back in time and tell that twelve year old girl,
you know, being a woman, that's going to be part

of your strength and that's going to lead you on
to all these other things, I think I would have
gone a lot further in the work world and you know,
in studies and everything faster if I'd embraced my womanhood.
So I got involved in this through some research on
the Nightlife Project and found these guys talking about virtual reality,
you know, simulations with models in hot tubs and sort

of the cliche. You were working with absolute right, and
you had to go around and you wanted to look
at the future of like nightclubs. You went and actually
interviewed a bunch of different executives about it, and this
is what you heard. Yeah, And so I found I
guess what I thought what I thought I would find
about sex techies. I found, you know, these guys designing
virtual reality scent releases and you know, when what's the

craziest thing you're working on? They said, Oh, we're designing
scent releases so we can simulate being in a hot
tub with three supermodels on a Saturday night. And to
me that was kind of like, oh, man, no, no,
that can't be true. You know, that's every sci fi
film we've ever sayinge of like the dudes in their
garage making their virtual girlfriends um And it really prompted

me to think about how do I how do I
turn this research into something else that's much more focused
in on sex and with this this story underneath of like,
I think this is really important, like this is something
I've been missing, which evolved into the future of sex podcast.
And what I had found after the first few episodes
is there is a whole community of women working in

sex tech which I had no idea about, which is
super interesting, right because if you even look at like
products and a lot of like the sex stores, they
seem seedy and dark and this and that. And I
remember interviewing a woman named Polly from Unbound like years
ago who was saying, like, there's like a huge market
for sex toys that women actually want and um, you know,

and something that is created by women that feels different,
that has a different feel to it. So I think
it seems like an opportunity to some degree. Yeah, I
think it was, And you know, I think there's an
even bigger opportunity now, I think. And so since I
started the podcast, I've noticed this growing interest and excitement
with female entrepreneurs entering the space designing something for themselves

and designing something that aesthetically looks beautiful, that can live
on your bedside table and not hidden away and shameful
and also works for their bodies. When I think it's
interesting now looking to the future is I think there's
going to be a more inclusive wave where we're designing
for all different bodies, including men, right because male sex

toys that's still very taboo. But I think there's going
to be new opportunities opening up there after this sort
of wave of female Lead Innovation. Okay, we've got to
take a quick break to hear from our sponsors more
with my guest. After the break, I want to go

to this moment because this moment is so specific that
you know, we're in this moment where in many cases
it's actually dangerous to touch each other. Like what role
will technology play and redefining intimacy in the COVID era? Yeah,
so if we think about intimacy, touch is sort of

the first thing that comes to mind. It's such a
big dimension of intimacy. But I think what technology is
doing today and enabling outside of touch is these other
dimensions to intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, and like shared experiences,
whether that's spiritual or like share connections or doing things online.

So physical is a really tough one unless you've got
haptic technology or you've got tele deal donix, which you know,
I think that's becoming increasingly interesting. And for those that
have never heard of Telly deal donis before Telly deal
donis sex toys enabled by a WiFi or Bluetooth connection
so that you could, um say, have sex whatever your

definition of sexes, but use them with your partner wherever
they are in the world. So I think that's kind
of helping with the physical touch aspect of intimacy. But
really what technology is facilitating is conversations and connections, so
emotional connections and being able to understand that and also
understand yourself, you know, not only through zoom calls, but

through learning, right like Esther Parl is doing amazing webinars
at the moment um. There's so many resources online that
are coming to the fore now, whether that's oh dot
school which is kind of like your Netflix for sex education,
for adult sex education, or OMG yes or more um
sort of adult like Kenneth play dot com who has
his sex Hacker series. So there's all these ways. It's

opening up conversation, aations around sex, around how you're feeling,
and also these intellectual conversations. I think as well. I
think people are looking for guidance and they're also looking
for play. If they can't do that with the person
that's in the same room, how does that happen through
the Internet. I think people are going to be a
lot better at phone sex based time sex out of necessity.

It'll be interesting you talk about like haptic technology too, like,
do you think we'll see platforms built on this moment?
Like people have been talking about haptic technology for a
while because we can't physically be with each other, and
there's going to be a lot of fear for a while,
maybe until they find like a you know, a vaccine
for this, especially for folks who are a single. Will
we see tech companies and trying out new technology, more

haptic technology or that kind of thing. Yes, So haptic
technology essentially is transmitting the sense of touch, and I
think there's some really interesting players that are starting to
do it that probably as you're saying this, I'm thinking
they're definitely speeding up their innovation and time to market
to get these things out, whether that's gloves that you're

putting on that will be able to transmit the sense
of touch too, connected sex toys and sex toys that
have that haptic technology. So I do I think that
will happen. I haven't heard of anyone coming out yet,
but we're still very early saying we're going this direction.
What I do know is that people are buying sex
toys like they're buying food and alcohol right now, So

it's it's becoming a somewhat essential item. Well, it was
the New York Health Department. Their guidelines said the safest
sex is sex with yourself. So, I mean it's been written,
and it's interesting that you've talked a little bit about Kissinger.
Is that? What? Yeah? If that's a it's a good
example of haptic technology for folks who don't understand, right,

Like I always like to go a teeny bit black mirror,
but not too much black mirror, and like what could
the world look like? Um? But can you explain what
kissinger is? Is that? How you even say it? Is that? Right?
The right? Good? The Kissinger had left my mind. I
don't have one, but maybe I should get one right
now to like give my mom a kiss on the cheek.
So the Kissinger has developed in Singapore, I believe, and

it transmits your kiss. It looks very much like almost
like a phone charge, like a smartphone charge of dock
that you would like a little cot that you would
put your phone in, but instead it's sort of fitted
with these sensors around the phone that you can kiss.
Almost looks like it doesn't look like lips. It looks
like something you put your lips on, and that transmits

the kiss to the other person who you know, who
has the kissinger, who's holding it up to their mouth too.
So I thought that that it was such an interesting
product in that it wasn't also talking about intimacy, which
I think is true now of of intimacy between partners,
but intimacy between family members and also of course between

you know you and a celebrity or perhaps more like campsites,
those sorts of things where we're already seeing Telly docton
expend news. It's like, what would it mean to be
able to kiss? Right pit? Yeah, I mean, it's like
these technologies that we all thought were kind of weird
and a little bit strange. Um, something like this happens,
and there's a use case, right Like we're using haptic

technology that feels a little far out, But then you
think about the fact that maybe you have a boyfriend
somewhere else around the world, or you have your family
back in another place and you can't physically go be
around them. I mean, it actually creates an interesting um
use case for this type of stuff. I think it'll
be interesting to see. Yeah, I do. And they're the
other one that's less sexual, but it's kind of cute

is the heartbeat pillow where you know it's you have
the heartbeat. You have a little bracelet on that tracks
your heartbeat and it transmits it to um something you
can put under your pillow on the other end so
you can hear you love it's heartbeat, which just kind
of sounds soothing. Yeah, I mean, especially in these times. Right,
you've talked a little bit about teenagers losing their FaceTime virginity,

children accessing porn as young as something like five years old.
Loneliness on the rise the journalist and me looks at
this era of coronavirus and says, like, all of these
things that you've talked about could only be magnified, right
by increased usage of online activity being home, Loneliness, you know,
walk us through that, like and first of all, talk

to us little bit about you talk about teams losing
their FaceTime virginity. What are you talking about? And then also,
is this a moment do we need to be really
careful right now that as we've gone all in that
you know, we don't go too far. Yeah, I mean
to that last bit, I just feel so strongly that
people are really craving connection in a human sense now

that I feel like people are getting the sense that, oh, yeah,
like we don't want to just live on the internet
after this especially, that's my sense. But for FaceTime virginity,
when we're talking about that, that's something totally I had
no idea about until six months ago. But kids talk
about losing their FaceTime virginity the same way we used
to talk about our first kiss, and that is really like, oh,

who do you lose your face on virginity to? Meaning
who did you have FaceTime like sex on FaceTime or
masturbate on FaceTime with? And that seems to be a
trend in anecdotally who I talked to which are young
kids about sex and you know how they're using technology.

The other thing I've noticed, because my partner is a
teacher and it is doing all his classes remotely now
is that kids are really sad. But kids really miss
their friends. So I wonder if they will also realize
that physical touch is actually really much more important than
sex on FaceTime. I got back to there's like a

group of people in Japan, I know you've heard of them,
that millions of them have like socially withdrawings called Hickamori
and they live a full on digital existence. This was
all before coronavirus, and um, they've been linked to depression
and psychiatric conditions and all sorts of star and the
cure for them is physical connection and being around people
and whatnot. And so I worry that we're going all

in digitally, Um, you know, do like what do we
need to keep in mind? I think about that too.
I mean, I think there's going to be three types
of people that emerge from this. The people that are
just ready to get out as soon as you know,
things are lifted and life sort of seems to return
to being able to go outside and socialize. Then there'll

be the people that are a little bit hesitant that
won't be going to the football game. Still everything is good,
and that delayed like that longer pause. And then as
you say, will there be people where think I'm not
coming out of isolation, I'm thriving in isolation. And we think,
whatever happened to Melissa, Where'd you go? Which is also

an interesting setting for a sci fi book, But it's
our life right now, and I think it's so it's
so early to to know. We see a lot of
stuff now, you know, on the internet, saying, you know,
make sure you turn off the screens and move for
thirty minutes, and all these sort of recipes for success
in isolation. But the truth is, I don't think anyone

really knows yet, right What do you think intimacy will
look like in the virtual world. You've done a lot
of work on VROR, what the future will look like.
I don't know if we all have headsets by the
time this is over, But but what do you think
it will look like in the VR world? Um, you know,
it still feels in the sex space kind of clunky.

I have so many hopes and aspirations for VR because
it's such an intimate and interactive, immersive experience. When it's great,
like when you've done amazing things in VR, it's sort
of like your brains changing. You're just like I can
imagine all the possibilities, And for me, they came out
of thinking about education because it is such a global issue,

such a problem. I think, such an opportunity right now
as well, especially with rents at home being able to
kind of monitor their kids somewhat or understand how how
much they're using technology. I think, Wow, wouldn't it be
amazing if we had VR sex education. I think that
will come soon, as it has for like other subjects
like history and science in VR. Why not have something

like education and because it's so personal to you know,
going back to the version of yourself that's twelve or
thirteen years old and all these things happening to your body,
being able to ask someone in the privacy of VR,
but also that immersive experience or you know, talk to
someone about s t s and really have that practice
even you know, we talked previously about these sex education

apps in VR that being trialed, you know, games that
allow you to go through nightclubs and practice saying no.
That's so interesting, like what does that even look like?
I mean, by the way, like may everyone learn more
about consent? But this idea of consent and VR as
such an interesting concept. Yeah, I think you know, people

are really trying to crack the consent code, Like how
do we teach something that is always ongoing, you know,
like it's always ongoing and so it's so nuanced. And
people have tried sex tech before for consent in the blockchain.
I don't know if you saw that at all, but
didn't work right because it's not like you can sign
a contract and you've got consent. But the idea of

practically learning about consent by going through scenarios in VR
to allow you to practice saying no or asking for
consent is actually really great idea. And so there's been
a couple of games developed. We had one developed at
the last hackathon in Melbourne. There's a couple of years ago.
There was one developed in the States as well. That

one was really interesting. It was geared towards college age
women going through a nightclub and practicing saying no. The
idea being once you get out into the real world,
it's a lot easier if you've practiced being in a
comfortable situation to go there again, just like your practice
for like a job interview. UM So, I thought that
was really neat and it's inevitable right that these sort

of educational practical learnings should appear in VR as soon
as we all catch up, which maybe is now, Okay,
we've got to take a quick break to hear from
our sponsors more with my guest after the break. God,

I remember doing an interview with a woman. We did
it in the virtual world like n VR. We did
the interview about um she said she was sexually harassed
in the virtual world. Someone kept touching her and it
was his real voice since she could hear him, but
she couldn't there was no button in the game for
her to push him away. And it was such a
fascinating concept, and she said she had been sexually harassed

in the real world and it gave it gave her
the same feeling because the idea of VRS, it's supposed
to make you feel like it's real, um, and then
we'll add haptics one day and it will feel real, right,
So like, it was this really interesting ethical conversation around
like what does even consent to actually look like in
the virtual world? And gaming too, and a lot of
it is you know, these these games weren't necessarily built

by women who will be experiencing some of this. Yeah,
it is often an afterthought. And um, I thought her
experience was so fascinating and kind of mirrors what we
would think about today with revenge porn and other ways
that technology is being used to harass people and how
terrible it even feels. If you've ever received a creepy

email or a creepy d M or dick pics, all
those sorts of things are often an afterthought or just
the unintended consequence of developing this technology. And so yeah,
an ethical committee for sex tech globally is that what
we need? You head it here first. I mean, especially

as the world goes I think more digital and even
I think this moment will be interesting because people will
be experimenting more with intimacy over zoom. I mean, my god,
don't take your clothes off on zoom. Like. There's so
many hacking issues, you know, I mean things that people
I don't even think this could lead to a rise
and revenge porn. I don't think people even have really
thought too far ahead. So it's just things you begin

to think about when we're looking at through this current
lens of this pandemic. Absolutely, I think there's a whole
story there to be to be told around safe sex virtually.
You know, what does that even look like that we
haven't even touched yet? Yeah, what does that look like?
You're you're my sex expert? What is safe sex in
the virtual pandemic era? Look like? We know that they

said the safest sex is with yourself, but what is
safe sex in the virtual pandemic hacking world? Look like? Yeah,
maybe like turn off zoom, you know, removing all the
metadata from your six photo. You know, there's so many
different things that we're the majority of us are not
aware of how to sex safely or have sex safely

online to your point about zoom or like what what
platform is really safe? I think the safest thing is
not to be on video online, but that's not realistic,
especially in this time. So yeah, it's realizing. Yeah, well,
if you do that, maybe you want to remove your
head completely from that experience so that you know you're

not doing it. Maybe you're comfortable, maybe you're using another tool,
But I don't have the knowledge to know which is
the safest one. But I actually think it's a great
idea for someone, for an entrepreneur that's out there to
think about creating a a comprehensive education program around how
to do this all safely. You know, we have such
troubles even like with online predators with children now as well. Sorry,

I don't have a more comprehensive answer for no, but
I think I think it's interesting though, and even speaking
of entrepreneurs, when it comes to the future of intimacy,
there's so much fear I think now around physical touch.
Will we see technology built specifically to replace human touch.
Don't break my heart. I hope it could happen. I know,

I just really hope not. I mean, I saw this
interesting art installation, thank goodness. It wasn't a like a
real product yet. But it's called the end of Life Machine.
Have you seen this? So it's it was developed in Asia,
and it's a soothing, calming robot for when your family

can't be there at the end of your life, which
in these days is so sad that that's a reality.
And the robot strokes you, so strokes you on the
arm or wherever you want to be touched, and speaks
to in a coming voice and tells you it's going
to be okay, and that your family love you and
that you know you're going to be fine. I'll send

you the video. Anyone can look it up on YouTube,
the end of Life care Machine. And then once the
person has passed, all the life support equipment is turned
off and then the robot tells someone, yeah, well they've
gone now, and you know it's done. This person is
dead at this time. So those sorts of things are

replacing touch at a time when you know is that
is such an intimate, critical moment, if not the most
right at your time of death, when you want to
be comforted. Perhaps it will become more than an art project.
Perhaps that is something that will need to be developed. Yeah, God,
I can't even I mean it just that feels so

raw right now with you know, one of the most
visceral things about this moment is people who have loved
ones who are dying and they're not able to be
there with them. The idea of dying alone without physically
being around people, it's just heartbreaking. Um, I wonder if
this is a weird one, but I promise I'm going

to go somewhere with this. You know, we're all spending
more and more time at home, and we were already
attached to our devices and and technology was already getting
more human. Do you worry that people will start developing
relationships with machines? Or maybe put it this, do you

worry that people will start developing feelings for machines. There's
a lot of memes going around where people are and
they're relating to it, right, you know, like Day and
Quarantine and they're talking back to Syria, or you know,
getting into a relationship with machines. Perhaps you know, our
tendencies to anthropomorphize things that almost look like it and

behave like humans but aren't quite humans. I don't worry
about it right now, but you know, talk to me
in a month and maybe I will. But right now
what I'm seeing is people going, I need so much
more than than this. Like I'm realizing that technology is
not the answer to everything. And you know, there's zoom
fatigue and hangovers using technology and people going, yeah, well,

what else can I do? Well, it's interesting. I we
had a woman on UM who has a company called Replica,
which I don't know if you're part of. It's like
UM they do companion bots, so like bots on your
phone that are almost like your friend or could be uh,
you know, Replica for a relationship if you want UM
and you know they have many, many users. And I

was speaking to her today and people, can you know,
say anything they want to these bots. They can say, oh,
I'm afraid, I I love you. There are bots respond
with lots of empathy. They're trained by psychologists and so
obviously this is a very high stress moment um. And
she was telling me that something like people used to
send about fifty five messages or something per day, and

now they're sitting up to eighty messages per day since
coronavirus stuff, more and more people are paying for pre
me and bot features. I just you know, I I
it makes me wonder if, because you've talked a lot
about loneliness, if people will be looking to technology in
a way, you know, to try to fill a void. Um.

I know you've talked about I think gate Box, which
was an interesting example of this too. Yeah, it sounds
like people are looking for relief more than reliance after this,
you know, one would hope, but it's so interesting thinking.
We can chat about gate Box too, but just thinking
about the chat bots and the relief that they're providing

in this time is so interesting and that have been developed.
I'm not sure if we've talked or you've talked before
about Men, which was the chat bot for heartbreak. So
I think chat bots aren't doing interesting things like support
and relief in the sex tech world. Outside gate Box.
The other one is slat bot, which is the robot
that you can sext with so you can learn how

the sext using slat bot and she texts you back
or he texts you back depending on what you want.
So and teaches you how to sex does that, that's
what it does, which is great because like who really,
you know, not a lot of people know how to
sext well, I think, and like it's really fun, you know,
in terms of like finding new ideas, but also like
getting consent and doing it in a really fun way.

I think now we're more and more relying on all
this technology to date and to go through those early
stages of relationships where usually we'd be able to like
kiss or something. So now people, from what I've heard,
are turning to sexting really fast. My friends like, I'm
getting way too many dick pics for you know, having
just met this guy. So slap bots this chat bot

that you can practice sexting with and she'll sex back,
or you can make it a guy and he'll sex back.
So I thought that was really cool. And then gate
Box is kind of this further version down the line
which leans into less sex and more like intimacy. If
we think about intimacy, yes, there's the physical aspect, but

this emotional aspect is so interesting. And where you were
talking about with Replica and that idea that can can
that be replaced that emotional support and gate boxes similar
to Syria or Google Home. It's sort of this virtual
assistant turns on the lights in your home, controls the temperature,
but also sends emotional text messages saying I miss you

and I can't wait for you to get home. And
you know the ads if you google them for gate
boxer kind of eerie. You know this, this businessman returns
home and explains how, you know, it's such a relief
to come home to someone, insinuating that this technology is
actually someone and it's marketed as a replacement girlfriend. So

it does enter this really great area where technology is
once sort of this thing to support us, and now
it's like, yeah, we're going to completely just replace it,
which goes totally against what I just originally said. I'll,
in all fairness, I will say if like Alexa like, oh,
I don't want to say it too large, you'll hear. Ever,

if I forget, we're doing this from my home like everything,
you know, if she if she just made sure everything
was warm all the time and then sent me nice messages,
I'd probably like, oh, I'm down, I get it, You're amazing.
I love you. If she made sure I like, I
like the heat all the way up at my apartment,
so she just kept my place warm and said, like
really nice things to be over text messages. I don't know. Yeah,

that's for some reason, I've always thought that, but it's
not suree. We have cases where people are marrying gate box, right,
But it seems to me that role being fulfilled is
more like, yeah, an assistant, right, like a virtual assistant
rather than a virtual lover. Right. I just wonder what

gets lost there, right, and like what we have to
be so careful about, Like you know what gets lost
when you lose human connection? You know, Yeah, this is
what we're all finding out now, Yeah, I mean, and
and so take me to some of the hackathons you do,
because you have so much interesting innovation that comes out
of these. So tell us about these events that you

throw on them, some of the stuff that's come out
of them. Yeah. I think the sex Teir hackathons are
so interesting because you're not just get pulling together people
from the tech world, which typically is what hackathons do, right,
you know, you come together for a weekend and you
hack on a project. With the sex Seir hackathons, they're
largely geared towards people that don't have that much familiarity

with technology. So we'll see you know, educators come, moms, designers,
just people from all different parts of professions and backgrounds,
UM students usually between the ages of like twenty years
old and forty years old. Hundred people together under the
one roof, and we give them challenges associated with sexuality
to solve through technology. The other interesting thing about the

hackathons like what kind of challenges? UM? So, how do
you sex education more accessible for teenage boys, or how
do you make condoms cool, or how do you provide
more sexual expression for people living with disabilities or disabled persons,
depending on how you like to phrase that. So issue

these challenges around sexuality and then invite people to form
teams and build whatever you know they think is going
to be the solution. So at the end of that,
you're seeing things that maybe Telly del Doni X maybe
interesting vibrators. You know, we had a sex voice activated
vibrator for people in wheelchairs, which was really cool. Out

of the Sydney hackathon. We've also done them in Singapore,
New York, and we just most recently did one in
February in Melbourne and the winning team there developed a
game for kids. It was a team of mothers and
also entrepreneurs, but I think the mother part was relevant
because we're all struggling with talking to their kids. It
is about sex um and they developed this game. And

that's sort of the great you know, innovations that come
out of this as people come because they have an interest,
curious and they probably have a need already for something
in their life that they're really passionate about that they
want to change, whether that's a conversation with their kids,
a relationship issue, sexual health problem. And it's great to
see that sort of grassroots innovation when so much of

the industry has been driven by access to capital and
like like the tech industry mostly male. Um, it's interesting
to gather a lot of non males in a room
and see what comes of it. Right, So you've created
a game, talk a little bit about it and what's
the idea behind it. Yeah. So we created Will of

four play really to give people a space to play,
which wasn't so focused on technology, but we was focused
on themselves. And we started this with the intention of
it just being for couples, and now we're moving into
it being for singles and for people that are dating
as well, But if you go to will of four
play dot com you'll see it. It's basically a modern

version of a spin the wheel type game that offers
you different ideas and inspiration around what you might like
to do with your partner if you're at home with
your partner. Um, I think everyone's fearful of like is
my marriage going to last through this? Or like how
can we still have sex in a fun way? I
really just wanted to find a fun thing to do.
I think, other than all the guidance and the knowledge

and the tools that are out there dealing with this
emotional side of intimacy and everything that we're going, is
there a lighthearted way for us to be able to
connect with one another? And that is what will of
four play is. I mean, what, what do you think
the future of sex tech looks like? I think it's
for me. Whenever I asked this question to people on

the podcast, the resounding answer is something similar to what
I would say, and that it's a future that looks
more and more accessible, shame free, less judgment, probably non
gendered if we can go there. But that's all sort
of encapsulates this cultural social message or conversation rather than

an actual technology. You know, I think when I think
about the future, it's not actually all to do with
technology and the latest innovation. It's actually like how our
attitudes changing and how is technology changing our attitudes? And
that's what I hope for when I talk about the
future of sex is less focused on like this cool
technology is going to change the way we have sex,

but actually, like no, our attitudes are going to be
much more open to this, and sex and sexuality is
going to be normalized and from there amazing things will happen.
Do you think that this pandemic will be net positive
for technology and intimacy or net negative. I'm forever an optimist,
So for me, I really feel strongly that people are

going to find interesting ways to adapt in their relationships
and that will be a positive, whether that results in
end of some relationships that just weren't healthy, to know,
people finding love over the internet or in unexpected relationships.
For me, I think this is actually a great moment

for us to pause and adapt the way we think
about intimacy. Okay, guys, that's it for this week's show.
Now I know these are strange times. If you're sitting

at home and listening to this, I'd love to hear
from you. How are you doing? What do you want
to hear more of? Reach out to me. You can
text me zero three zero. Throughout the crisis, will be
hosting zoom town halls on a variety of issues like
mental health, love, sex, leadership, productivity with guests that I

think are interesting and relevant to this moment. So follow
along on our social media to join us for some
human ish contact. I'm at Lorie Siegel on Twitter and
Instagram and the show is at First Contact podcast on Instagram.
On Twitter, We're at First Contact pot. First Contact is
a production of Dot Dot Dot Media, executive produced by
Laurie Siegel and Derek Dodge. I will say we're being

creative and executive producing this from home at the moment.
This episode was produced and edited by Sabine Jansen and
Jack Reagan. The original theme music is by Xander Sing.
I'm sitting my thoughts to each and every one of you,
and so was our whole First Contact crew during this time.
I hope that everyone is staying home, staying healthy, and

staying human. First Contact is a production of Dot dot
dot Media and I heart Radio First Contact with Lori.
C Goal is a production of dot dot dot Media
and I heart Radio
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