Kyle Machulis (@qDot): Adventures in Open-Source Teledildonics


Kyle Machulis has been called the world’s leading authority on open-source teledildonics. He has worked as both designer and reverse-engineer on a wide range of interactive technologies including sex toys, erotic furniture, public health devices, self-driving cars, electro-stimulation systems, and biometric monitors. Machulis is the founder of Buttplug.io, a project to design develop and promote open source standards and software libraries for the control of intimate hardware. Kyle has presented extensively in workshops and
lectures at venues including Arse Electronica, Quantified Self conference, South by Southwest, GDC, SIGCHI, Vienna Art Week, and the University of Applied Sciences
Graz. His work has been featured in periodicals including Wired, Gizmodo, Motherboard, Make magazine, Vice, Fast Company, New Scientist, and the MIT Tech Review. He has held creative residencies at Autodesk Pier9 technology center, and the Museum Quartier Vienna, and is the
recipient of the Roboexotica interaction design award, and the Arse
Electronica Golden Kleene award. Please join me in having a warm welcome
to Kyle Machulis. Hey everybody! So let’s get this thing started, because I’ve got
a hundred slides and an hour to go! So first off, the big question, Who am I? I am
first off an engineer, I’ve worked in robotics and video games and
self-driving cars; these days I actually work on the Firefox web browser, so if
it’s breaking for any of you, I’m sorry, it’s my fault. I’m also an artist that
has worked in all sorts of mediums, like sound art, robotics, video games, but the
thing that most everyone knows me for is… teledildonics. And the thing about this
word is, I’ve found, I’ve been presenting on this for 14 years now, and
every single talk that I give, at least someone has not heard
this word. So I like getting this out of the way at the beginning of the talk, because it
also kind of wakes everyone up, let’s all say it together on the count of three:
one, two, three… TELEDILDONICS. Thank you, isn’t it your favorite word ever now? So in terms of
what I do in teledildonics I run a website called Metafetish, it has been
around since 2004, I cover sex and technology news, and how hardware works,
DIY projects, art projects, really whatever I can think of that ties into
the world of sex and technology. And in 2017, so a couple years ago now, I
started the Buttplug project. Buttplug is (as Geep said) a open-source standards
and software project for controlling intimate hardware, including sex toys,
fucking machines, electro-stimulation hardware and more. And believe me, that
more gets pretty crazy when it’s coming at the end of that list. Now in terms of
what I really do as an artist though I consider my medium to be interactive
haptics and touch, and the specific niche within that, intimate haptics and touch. And really what I’m looking to do is enable new haptic experiences and
provide tools for other people that want to make new haptic experiences. This is
not just my world, I’m not the only person that can feel touch. I would like
everyone to be able to explore this realm as much as the audio or visual or
smell or taste. And that’s really my goal. Now in terms of making the Buttplug
project, we actually have a mission statement. The mission statement is, and I
will just read it verbosely because I haven’t memorized it yet, Buttplug is
committed to the safety, autonomy, and human rights of people using it as a sex
technology standard, and stands in solidarity with the many intersectional
rights of individuals to be sex positive. As such, Buttplug encourages individual
empowerment through self-directed education and responsible behavior which are also respective of the needs and
choices available to everyone. And a good bit of this presentation is going to be
unpacking that statement into actual examples. So first off, let’s start with
some terms, because you may not have heard everything I’m gonna be covering
here. Most people have heard of dildos though. Now humans have always been a
species that has had an interest in sexuality, because we’re still here. So
these are the dildos that are in this image are actually 30,000 years old. And,
I mean maybe it was thirty thousand years old, but and before that who knows
what we did, but I feel like thirty thousand years I can just call ‘always’
and be okay with it. Now of course technology has moved on
from there. We can now 3d print our molds and create all sorts of new and
interesting devices and even in the past decade, things have really changed, where
we have companies like Bad Dragon making all sorts of fantasy toys in all sorts
of shapes and sizes (and I do mean all sorts of sizes), and even companies that
are more mainstream like Fleshlight, the alien down there that is actually a
alien Fleshlight. So that’s a company that’s considered to be kind of the most
mainstream, and yet they can still make new and interesting forms that are
considered to be okay without getting taken off the market or something like
that. So moving on to technology: now a lot of people have seen vibrators of the
past, and these things look pretty scary honestly. And they’re even worse when you
see them in real life if you go to something like the Center for Sex and
Culture in San Francisco they have tons of these, and they’re all scary.
But there has been this kind of progressing
narrative that, oh, they were used by women for treating hysteria and whatnot. And one of the interesting parts of this is we don’t even have this history
completely correct yet. There’s been some work lately by Dr. Hallie Lieberman
on the history of sex toys and how sex toys work within culture, and she
actually just published a paper at the end of last year debunking and giving
some counter examples to the myths that vibrators were just used for hysteria,
and just used for women, and brings up examples of them being used in the late
19th and early 20th century on both men and women. So we are still reforming and
figuring out our history of these things. Even though mass media has come along
and made movies and plays and everything else about how vibrators were for women
only and whatnot. It’s actually a far more integrated and diverse history than
we think and we’re still finding that out. Now there are the vibrators of the
present., and of course these are kind of the plastic baseball bats that we’ve all
seen, or like these horribly phallocentric devices that cost pennies
to make these days and yet can still be sold for tens if not hundreds of dollars
because we’re all scared of anyone knowing that we’re buying something that
looks like genitalia, therefore we’ll pay extra for it. Luckily we’re sort of
moving out of those forms these days and looking at more ergonomic forms, and
forms that may not look like an alien or a fantasy, and may not look like an
actual piece of human genitalia, but still work with our body pretty well. And
with that also comes computer control. And now we land in where I work.
So with computer control, we’ve been thinking about this for decades. Ted
Nelson came up with the term “dildonics” in 1976 as part of Computer
Liberation, and Howard Rheingold’s essay first coining the term “teledildonics”,
which all of you are now aware of, came out in 1989. So we’re 30 years out from
the coining of teledildonics. And we kind of continue to move at a glacial pace
from what the early imagining of these devices were. We are not that far
down the line from what was originally proposed. And like all of these are computer-controlled vibrators, which I’ll
talk more about in a bit, but all they do is control speed from a computer. And we
haven’t really made it as far as I think we could with these. So moving off of the
vibratory, vibrotactile paradigm to other ways of movement and stimulation, we have milking and stroking devices like the Venus 2000 and the Fleshlight Launch.
The Venus 2000 is actually a vacuum device. I wish I had
sound here, it is insanely, insanely loud. And it makes this — my problem is, I I’m
I’m wearing a noise shirt, I love industrial music, so I’m just like “Yeah! It sounds like there’s gears in that thing! That’s awesome!”
Most people don’t want that. Especially with the region that goes in. But it’s
still an interesting haptic paradigm to use. And then there’s the Fleshlight
Launch which has been one of the most popular sex toys in the past few years.
I’ve actually got one up here so that people can check it out after the talk.
It replaces the job your arm does, with a robot! So it moves
the Fleshlight for you, that is it. But it is controllable via Bluetooth, and so it
is basically a rudimentary form of a sex robot. There are fucking machines.
Fucking machines exist in sort of this weird area where you need to build them to be
large enough to push back against the human, like the human musculature and the
pelvis. It turns out our pelvises are really strong, so you need a decent motor
to go along with it, and the one I’m showing here is this is an early version
of the Open Fuck, which is an open-source fucking machine we’re working on. So this thing is, the technology behind it’s amazing, you can get sub-millimeter
accuracy or sub-centimeter accuracy in your movements and whatnot — not that
you’re gonna be able to notice. But there’s also, I mean, fucking machines
come as both toys that I mean that there are hardware that needs to be large
because we need to have motors in them, and then there are ones that are just
purposefully large, which you might have seen on websites like fuckingmachines.com, because fucking machines are also an aesthetic. Having a loud big machine
shows power. And showing someone using that machine, it’s supposed to be larger
and more powerful than them, and it actually displays a power dynamic. They don’t usually need to be that big and loud, so there are reasons that they
are built that way. Then there is electro-stimulation. So you may have
heard of TENS units, which are ways for a virtual medical devices used for muscle
relaxation or whatnot. This is basically a TENS unit, for sex. There are special
signals that they have in them that allow you to stimulate erogenous zones
of the body, in ways that are either pleasurable or painful. You may have also
seen artists already using these: Stelarc, Daito Manabe; quite a few artists
have used electrostimulation in the past for multiple reasons. And to give you an
idea of what that looks like this person actually has electrodes on their face,
and due to the fact that we all work through electricity, we are basically
a walking system like electrical system, we can manipulate parts of our
body with that. So this person is making facial gestures, but you can actually
manipulate genitalia or other body parts that way. So now that we’ve gone
through some of the different modalities of these toys and a little bit of the
history, I can talk about the current popular contexts of use, of which there
are not many. So first off we have camming, and you’re gonna notice here
that the model is blurred out. It is actually considered bad etiquette to
take pictures of cam models and cam model interfaces, because this is their
job, this is their labor, and that would would be
stealing that. So I have blurred out the cam model. But what normally
happens in this interface, this would be the interface that a user sees and
interacts with a cam model with. That cam model may have one of those sex toys
that I showed in the vibration page earlier, and that toy can be controlled
by a client paying the model. So the client will have a certain amount of
tokens that they can give to the model and as they give more tokens the toy
goes faster. That is probably the most popular paradigm for teledildonics these
days, and where you’ll see it used the most. Outside of that there is just
general teledildonics, which is not all that interesting, honestly. You give
someone some hardware and a Skype interface and they can control each
other, and that’s it. And there is this assumed freedom of UI where it’s like
“well they can see each other and they can talk to each other, and they’ve got
the toy; they’re good.” Have you ever tried to use your cell phone to keep your
camera on you, while also using a sex toy, and making sure, like, the sex toy stays
on, and your network still works, and everything else? No. Now one of the things
you’re probably going to notice missing from this presentation is sex robots. I
don’t talk about sex robots because I don’t really believe they exist. There
has been a lot of media about them now and if you are interested in sex robots,
and I shouldn’t say they don’t exist, there are companies like Realbotics that
are putting out things that are vaguely technically interesting, but no we’re not
getting Jude Law from AI any time soon, however, I am not the expert on this. The
expert is Dr. Kate Devlin, she wrote a book called Turned On that came out last
year, fantastic book, and I highly recommend checking that out if you’d
like a reference for that. So what do we consider the goal
of all of this hardware? Well obviously it’s to get the consumer off, right? Okay
well no one booed, which is good; actually I don’t know if that’s good or not, that
might be bad. Because that’s kind of a weird way to look at sex, isn’t it? “To get
the consumer off”. Now there have been actually some critical writing on this.
Dave Parisi in “Archaeologies of Touch” had a most of a chapter on this device
here, which was a part of a chapter on this device here, which is called the
Real Touch. This was a toy that was put out for men between 2009 and 2012 or 13,
very very popular toy. And he wrote a history and sort of a media archaeology
of teledildonics and remote touch. And he had some really really astute things to
say about the development of the Real Touch and its impact on society, and I’m
just going to once again quote him here verbatim in his summary of the analysis
of the Real Touch, “Above all, the Real Touch represented the absorption of
teledildonics into a system of capitalist exploitation and value
extraction. In spite of its technical sophistication the device ultimately
functioned as an economic machine. One that generated value for the company
that produced it through the labor of the coders and cam workers tasked with
producing the cyber-sexual real while also expressing in the configuration of
the technology itself a set of gendered power relations. Cutting through the
marketing hype and moral panic the real touch appears in retrospect neither
dystopian nor utopian but instead merely mundane and mechanistic: a one-way
masturbation tool that required an immense amount of labour to engineer
enact and sustain.” So I highly recommend his book if you’re interested in talking
about the critique of haptics, and the history of haptics, and partially how we
got to where I like where I can be giving this talk today. But the real
answer here is No, it’s not to get the customer off. Or I mean it is for
capitalist companies that are popular today —
that’s why I’m not working at one of them. Um, what is MY goal with sex tech,
which is really more of what this talk is about? My goal is to provide the
participant with new and/or interesting intimate experiences, and give them the
ability to create these experiences for themselves, while staying as out of the
way as possible. I don’t want people having to think about the technology
they use, I really don’t want people having to think about my software at all,
except if they don’t think about it at all then they’re not gonna use it, so
there’s kind of a catch-22 there. But hopefully they can use it, write their
own applications, and I can get out of out of their way so they can create
their own interesting experiences and I’m not getting in the way of that. Now
to give you an idea of what it looks like you actually have to design a sex
toy, though, let’s run through a quick engineering and design review of a toy.
Sex toy design is really difficult and I would actually argue that, er sex tech
design I should say; sex toy design and sex tech design are different — so sex
tech design in terms of how do we make these work with computers and other
digital interfaces, is difficult and no one (and I would include myself in this)
really knows how to do it well. Because we’re all up against this: the Magic Wand.
The toy so popular Hitachi had to spin off a company because Hitachi was known
as the Magic Wand company, even though they make TVs, and kitchen appliances, and
all sorts of other things — they were the magic wand company. Now, the
Magic Wand Company is the Magic Wand company. And that’s all they make and
they do just fine. But, let’s look at the Magic Wand. It has a switch with two
settings and a plug. We’re done! That’s it. So… now we move on to the modern sex
toy with its own app. So if we look at this, okay, so we have
this is the Lovense Hush, so you might see, I didn’t get a great picture of this,
but there’s a button on the bottom of it that you can kind of see protruding and
then we’ve got this application where you can put your thumb on your phone,
assuming you have a phone, and can run the app, and talk to the toy, and you can move
your your thumb around, and it will change the speed of the toy. So let’s
break this down a little bit. When I look at this interface the first thing that I
look at is the mechanical actuation, and that means: what is this toy doing
mechanically? This has a vibration motor in it it’s going to vibrate. But I have
to look at how many, like, settings of vibration are there. Is it on and
off? Are there a hundred different settings? Because it kind of matters;
sometimes there are hundreds of different settings which doesn’t really
matter because you can’t tell THAT much down there. Then there’s hardware
interaction. So, how does the user or the participant actually interact with the
hardware? Because it might be in a place you can’t see, and if you can’t see it
and you can’t tell where the buttons are, you may not be able to turn it off of
your phone crashes. That’s a problem. Um — installation and system support. When you
want to use sex toys, you usually don’t want to have to think about which app
store you need to go to, and all the security that’s going to be running in
the app, and everything else. You just kind of want to use it. So the boot time
of these things, of how long from, I opened the box for the first time
until I’m using it for the first time, is there — that is a massive thing that you
need to optimize for. The UI — what kind of UI does it have? Is it touch based? Is it button based? Am I going to get lube all over my phone when I use it?
Accessibility — what if I can’t use a phone? What if I can’t hit the buttons? Is
there still a way to use this at all? And, a massive portion of the time the answer
to that is no, sadly. The network — and for this one I used a little hotel emoji,
that I don’t know if you can see or not. But what I consider to be the
worst environment possible, is the place where these are used the most: hotel
Wi-Fi networks. Imagine trying to have sex over a hotel Wi-Fi network. You can’t
get your email, you can barely get a webpage through, you definitely aren’t
getting Netflix through — and you want to have sex over this. Okay…?? So, trying to
figure out how to deal with network connectivity is so difficult in those
terms. Radio communication — so, most of these toys are wireless and the toys,
they’ll use Bluetooth or something like that. Bluetooth is a radio, and it
turns out radios hate meat and water. Guess what we are? So we are putting the
radio in meat and water of various shapes and sizes, and it’s not very happy
about it. This is actually one of the biggest complaints about this sort of
hardware is how how do we make it communicate? Control systems — is it just
one button to move things around or does it actually look like some sort of
airplane control panel? I’ve seen both. And then finally okay, start up time I
already brought up. Like when you open that box, how long till you use it
because usually people get that box and they are super-excited. And when I do
workshops something I have attendees do is I will just put a box out on the
center of the table, and as a group because I usually do smallish workshops
so like have 10 or 12 people all working together to figure out how to get this
one toy in the middle of the table to move around. And it usually takes on the
matter of tens of minutes. It’s painful for everyone involved and really
after that no one’s really interested in using it anymore. So how do I solve this
problem? Well I have come up with Buttplug! Buttplug, as has been repeated multiple times now, is an open-source standard and software
project. So the idea is that you can write all sorts of software for all
sorts of sex toys using the same library on many different operating systems. And
one of the things you might be asking is, “Hey Kyle, why did you name it ‘Buttplug’?”
Because it’s gonna be kind of a difficult life to sell this, which, well,
okay, it’s open-source so I won’t be selling it, but even to give it away! It
becomes a little difficult. And so there was there’s a few reasons behind this.
First off, I’ve been working on this for 14 years, or working in sex tech
for 14 years, and you get sick of saying well okay, sex toy or sex hardware or
intimate hardware or fucking machines. And there was a point where I just
started calling everything a ‘buttplug’. And that’s because buttplugs are
genderless, so I can mostly vaguely assume everyone has a butt of some kind.
Um, it’s funny, it kind of breaks up the sort of iciness of just randomly talking
about sex toys, which I don’t do, but people I know will come in and talk
to me about it and then I have to include other people in the conversation that
might not have known that, and that’s a really interesting conversational gambit
right there. It’s subversive, and by that I mean I distribute this as open
source software that anyone can download and use. And it’s built a community
around itself so there are all of these heteronormative forums of Buttplug
users, and I’ve so I’ve changed all of these forums that are that are mostly cishet males that may be talking about porn
and stuff; ow they’re all talking about Buttplug! So whenever a new user comes
in and there’s all these guys talking about Buttplug! Like, what? So there
was a bit of an intervention there that was just kind of fun to watch happen. And
finally, it brings a little bit of filth into technology which now more than ever
is a really big problem. Every bit of tech is so
sterilized that there is almost a lack of humanity to it. And getting this on
the App Store is going to be a problem, I’ve actually had to come up with
different brands for different software. Because I can’t just — I mean this is a
library anyways, it wouldn’t go on an app store — but if I called an application
‘Buttplug’ it’s not going to show up on an app store. It’s not gonna show up on
the iPhone. I might be able to get it on Android but it would be a
fight. And so it’s trying to break down this sterility of tech and add a little
bit of humanity back in via our own filthiness. So what does interaction with
this look like? Well so let’s say you create an application that has a slider
to change controls, or to change speed of a toy. Usually when you download
something for a, when you download something for a toy you just bought, it’s
only going to control that toy, that’s it. Period, the end. What my software
does is you can connect your client application to my software, and then
suddenly you can connect to that toy, or this toy, or this toy, or this toy, or this
toy, or a gamepad. Because this is the vibrator most people have. Or even, as
long as it vibrates we don’t care. And yes, there are Bluetooth toothbrushes out
there. None of them I can actually control vibration through yet, but I am
waiting for the day and I know it is coming. So what do we think an open
source solution fixes here? Why do this? Well, you can do whatever you want
with what you buy, finally…assuming you have the correct programming skills,
proper hardware, and development environment! Yeah, it really helped there. But
the nice thing is there’s a community! So if you don’t have those
programming skills, or if you have one piece of hardware but another person has
another piece of hardware you can’t afford yet but you’re planning on
getting it at some point… and we have ways of keeping people anonymous
and whatnot too so they can work together — there is a community that
you can work with. We’re looking to provide a new landscape. Really,
everything has been commercially driven so far. So if there is a type of hardware
or a type of content that is not going to work commercially, it doesn’t really
exist. And we are hoping to open up that, so that anyone can create whatever they
want. Preservation and distribution of software — So, I’m not the first person to
have come up with a sex software. But a lot of it has been lost to the ages
because people are not really wanting to be known as sex software authors. I’m
kind of alone in that. But there’s been all of this interesting software that’s
come out, and interestingly enough, just a side note for those of you that are that
are programmers, a lot of this software is written in Visual Basic or Java, because
most sex software writers are Enterprise programmers that take their skills home
and implement their own software with it. Which is a really interesting sort of
software ethnography thing I’ve picked up. But none of these people want to be
known, they’ll post it to a forum somewhere, and then the software will die.
And the problem is there are a lot of people that get really hooked on these
pieces of software, and we would like to we would like them to last longer. So one
of the goals of the project is, not only setting up code and libraries for
this sort of thing, but setting up methods and strategies to continue the
software — to teach people how to do things in open-source and still be
anonymous if they want. Preservation of devices — So every device on this screen
is dead; it’s no longer sold. And much like that software, people find hardware
that they love, and they never want to let it go. Like especially with the RealTouch there? That stopped selling in 2013 due to an IP lawsuit. They are still for
sale today, and sell for over $1500 …used.
(Audience laughter.) They’re a popular machine no matter what
way you cut it, and at some point we’ll be able to 3d print that, we can
reverse-engineer that, but until then, we want to at least keep it running. And the
software that I build, like, can make it work with VR and whatnot. So we want
people to be able to use what they are comfortable with, and we don’t want
either the good or the bad technology lost to the ages, because we can learn
from it when we are creating new things So, what problems does this solution
cause? Well, first off, maybe I was a little bit too engineer about that, because let’s go
back and look at that slide where I was like, “What does an open source solution
fix?” You know I mean the usage of the word ‘solution’ there, is there a
‘solution’ for sex? I mean like really as much as like with Gödel and mathematics,
I think people would definitely have some things to say about the
completeness for a ‘solution of sex’. And what does this “solution” fix? That’s some
incredibly masculine, ableist language there, to imply that I can “fix sex”. No, no,
we can’t. That’s why this platform is an experiment. It is made to be sort of a
safe space to work inside. And so really what I have to constantly do with this
project is consider and change my wording, as an engineer, back to a human.
And so I would change that slide to “What does an open-source strategy facilitate?”
Because coming in with an engineering term like open-source, we can refer to it as a strategy to facilitate interactions
versus “this problem that needs to be solved”, which is what Silicon Valley
loves to do. And if we use this term of open source, “what does an open source
strategy facilitate?” then Silicon Valley is allowed to go fuck itself, with
whatever definition it wants. So, going on, what is this technology, do we
even need this? No one really asked, it was just like, well, “We’re gonna fuck
computers! Yay!!” And and we’ve seen where that kind of techno-optimism gets us now
haven’t we? So it’s a valid question, but it’s kind of
a difficult one to ask, because if I say no, then I might as well pack up and
leave, but part of me kind of works with the idea that we may or may
not need this, and I may actually find out that no this was all just a bad idea. And it could be that I also find out that it was a good idea. But I’ve got to
keep a constant critique going there. And I will not lie, there’s part of me that works from a sense of panic. Where if we don’t take what has been
given, and apply it to ourselves, and queer it up if we need to and everything
else, we’re not gonna have a choice at some point. And so I want to get it out
there and I want to get it in the hands of people as soon as possible. And a
little bit of a diagram on this here, this image in this slide is from a sex
toy from 2006 called JeJoue. This was a full-on programming language for sex
toys, or for a specific sex toy, where you could like drag these squares and it was
made by SoDa design, a fantastic design firm. The toy filled within three
months because they learned no one wants to program their sex toy. So I am
fighting an uphill battle here. Um the next question is what, or is there such a
thing as not-safe-for-work code? Because most coding sites don’t really think
about, “is this code filthy?” or “is this code age-restricted?” or anything else.
It’s instructions for a computer and they kind of forget that you’re the
person that’s giving the instruction to the computer is a human. And I found this
out multiple times when I like start uploading Buttplug code to some sort of
open-source site and suddenly, either, I… I’ve actually had to work with a few
services to implement search delisting because I would upload something that’s
open source and all of a sudden I would like appear in like this database code
or whatever else to and people would be like, Why is that there? Is someone
trolling the system? It’s like no, it’s actual code, but their engineering is
not really equipped to deal with the humanity of this code. Finally how do you
even regulate technology like this, can you regulate technology like this? And
there’s multiple issues with this where first off there’s content. Later I’ll be
showing a movie synchronization interface that can be used to
synchronized sex toys with movies. Imagine applying that to literally any
YouTube video you could. And this is not a speculative problem, we’ve already seen
Deep Fakes, which was a way of using machine learning to overlay anyone’s
face onto the face of a porn model, to make it look like anyone was in that
porn. This is not an “if”, this isn’t even a “when”, this is the past, and now we have to
deal with it. And I have to deal with it with in releasing my software because it
is something that I could possibly enable. And also there’s safety. We want
people to be safe, we want people to do things in a safe way. We put that in our
mission statement. But we do have to worry about unsafe practices. There are
people for instance, the thing at the top up there is known as a vacuum bed or a
vacbed. People have built interfaces for vacbeds, to solo vacbed, with no
one else around, and have died due to suffocation. There are safe ways of
doing a lot of edge play and other things, but people trust technology.
They’re like well this person looks like they knew what they were doing when they
wrote this code, and they don’t have me standing there going “no I didn’t know
your computer, I didn’t know what operating system you were running, I
didn’t know what else you were running with
the software, this is not real time guaranteed medical software running on a
specific piece of hardware this is whatever you installed it on.” And I have
to figure out how to communicate that to people while they are super excited to
have sex with my software. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do. And
what does sex tech consent, a privacy model for the stuff look like? Because we
have this problem with a lot of connection mechanisms, where there’s
security issues. So there’s this thing called screwdriving which is not
actually a hack, it is just a way these toys work. Golan, can you hand me that one,
actually? I just realized I can use this. Now okay so assuming this turns on, which
please turn on please turn on please turn on… it turned on! Okay so as you can
see this is running, and it’s on, and everything and now I’ll turn it off. Don’t worry I washed it. No, it’s it’s new
out-of-the-box. But that toy is on and sitting there right now, and if any of
you were to turn on your phones and do a Bluetooth scan, you could see it. And if
you had the Lovense app, which some of you may be running to download right now for
all I know, you could sit there and control it. There’s no security! So as
long as you are within Bluetooth range of the toy and someone else is not
hooked up to it, and that’s just kind of the way manufacturers do things. It’s a
problem. I mean, it’s not a huge problem because there’s not usually
people wandering around on the street that have deep knowledge of Bluetooth
and scanning and devices and everything else that are going to find this, but it
is a problem. And it’s going to make people feel uncomfortable, and if they feel
uncomfortable they will never approach this kind of hardware. Luckily there are
people that are working on this. Sarah Jamie Lewis is a fantastic privacy and
security researcher who’s worked on a platform called Oniondildonics. This
was a way of doing metadata-proofed communication for sex toys. And what that
means is not only does the persons controlling your toy not know who you
are, not know what toy you have, you may not know who they are, or what toy they
have — the every hop in-between does not know, not even the server knows. So it
keeps complete privacy across all levels of the system. And she’s done a lot of
work specifically in queer privacy; she wrote a book called Queer Privacy. A
lot of what she does and what her organization Open Privacy (which the URL
is right there) does is taken from the queer lived experience of others, to
create these systems. And then there is Render Man, who runs the Internet of
Dongs project. A funny name, important project! He works with commercial
companies to figure out what are good systems to implement for security so
that users don’t lose information, so that people aren’t blackmailed with
things, or that someone doesn’t try to usurp control of their toys. And he sets
up security best practices with these companies, because most companies
that build sex toys are not super experienced in either sex or tech. And that’s
as bad as it sounds. So there’s a lot of us that are having to come in from these
communities and kind of educate them, because otherwise there’s many, many many worst-case scenarios. So now let’s actually talk a little bit about
application instead of theory. So how these toys are controlled, this is a lot
of where my work happens. First we’ll talk about movie sync. So synchronizing
sex toys with movies has been going on since 1998 at least. That’s the earliest
I know of; this is the Safe Sex Plus, it didn’t connect with USB because USB
barely existed, it didn’t connect with serial, it connected by sticking a little
sticky box on your monitor that had a photodiode in it, and so what that means
is, you put this little window up and it would change colors from black to white that would synchronize with a movie, so the
lighter it got the faster the toy would go, and the darker it got the slower the
toy would go. Hacky… it worked! It was actually used as one of the
original webcam teledildonics interfaces in 1998. John Halcyon Styn was doing life
camming at the time and actually had sex online with some of the viewers using
this interface. So here’s what modern movie sync looks like. This is actually
run in a completely in a browser. I wrote this player, it’s called Synky Dink.
And so it’s a little choppy because OBS was not happy when I took this video, but it will run at 60fps. But what’s going on there, is so there’s the movie;
on the bottom is a mapping of a file that we have matched that movie. And then
you can see up in the simulator panel there if we had like the Fleshlight
Launch hooked up to it, that’s how it would be moving the Fleshlight. So we can
talk a little bit about the production mechanism for this because that’s also,
it’s free, it’s not open source. I don’t believe that’s for any specific reason
other than the author didn’t want to deal with open source, which,
understandable. But you can still download this for free.
This is called Joy Fun Scripter, it is an amazing program that allows you to
basically make the mapping files to go along with the movie. And it has many,
many interfaces to do that that are really interesting. I’m doing it with a
mouse, and unfortunately on the machine that I was using for this, I only had
nipple related porn, so this is someone that’s actually twisting someone’s
nipples, and the interface was not made to encode that, but it worked as a demo. So talking about, I was using a mouse there, that’s a horrible
interface, but the things the community have come up with — oh my god. So this is my favorite one. It’s not the most efficient
one, but it’s my favorite one. so this is what they called the
string method. So you would tie one end of a string to a Fleshlight, and the
other end to a joystick, and you would use that to move things along with the
with the motion. So basically you would masturbate to the motion of the movie.
And it would use the joystick as a sensor to encode that. Now since then
they’ve gotten technology together where you can just basically duct tape a Vive
VR sensor to a Fleshlight, and it will track that, and that is far, far
better for what it is. But one of the one of the things that I find super
interesting about this interface is that it’s kind of a method of accidental
queering, in that, if we were just like when I had my mouse up there, all I was
doing was moving my mouse, right? But it’s actually mapping the motion on-screen.
Now, this method uses an actual
masturbation session, and people are sharing their masturbation sessions with
each other. So it’s a, are you actually recording the motion of the
movie? Or are you recording the motion of your masturbation, and if I play that
back on me, am I playing the movie on me? or am i playing your masturbation on me?
There’s all of these really amazing questions that come out of these
community-centric solutions that haven’t really been addressed and answered yet,
and they’re just taken as the most useful and quick way to do things. So stuff like this pops up all over the place.
We can also recontextualize the vibration, the stroking, so it doesn’t have to be stroking. For instance, here, same
interface, the same movie interface and everything, except now it’s actually
hooked to an electrostimulation box. So we can turn that stroking into
electrostimulation, which means if you are not compatible with some toy, or you
just like electro-stimulation more, or something like that, we can actually
recontextualize how the the movie affects you in a way
that will affect you that you want. It makes the media and the methodology more accessible. What I’m really interested in though, and I will warn you the
slide is going to have flashing lights here in just a second, so if you’re
susceptible to flashing you might want to put your head down for just a sec, I’m
super interested in encoding things like abstract art and music videos. This is
Autechre’s “Gantz Graf” video. I desperately want to encode this. It works
so well along with the music and everything else, and I’m far more interested
in like creating new synesthetic experiences, than I am just some porn. And
that’s the fun part about this software, is you can basically use it anywhere. As
I said earlier it’s also the scary part. But it does work with VR. I couldn’t
actually find a good VR picture because it’s really hard to portray the art in a
presentation. So I’m just gonna say it works with VR. Next up: video games. So how can we do, what can we do with video games? So I started by working with video games. My
first big sex tech project was a thing called the Sex Box that I made in 2005. I
pulled the force-feedback motors out of an XBox controller and replaced it with
wires that went out to a dildo, er a vibrator, so that any time a
game vibrated, it would also make the sex toy vibrate. Now this was a really
interesting thing for 2005, it’s also I gave a presentation with it on stage at
GDC 2006 where I used the game Burnout with this. And the reason I used Burnout,
Burnout’s a racing game, but usually racing games you’re supposed to get the
car in one piece to the finish line? Burnout is: make the biggest crash
possible on the way there. Like, you really want to fuck stuff up. And so with
Burnout driving a sex toy instead of a vibrating game pad, I created the first
video game version of JG Ballard’s “Crash”. And then I presented that at GDC 2006,
and that is how I got into the game industry. Don’t follow that
advice. So the game vibration router is a piece of software that I created in 2017
after I started Buttplug to do that as a software only solution. So you don’t
need to modify a controller anymore, now we can just hook the game similar to how
a game sheet works. So this is a demo of me doing this with the game Rocket
League. Rocket League is a game where you’re a car with a hat playing soccer!
And what you’ll see here, I pick up the controller and any time you hit the ball
or hit boost on the car or score a goal, things vibrate. So it recontextualizes
the game into a sexual environment. Instead of the goal being “get the most
points” or “to score” (okay, that one took a minute), it’s now “how can I provide
pleasure to the player on the other end” because this is an online game through
this possibly weird, not all that sexy interface. Though, not to kink shame, if
people are into cars with hats… It’s not the easiest interface to have sex with I will say that. So I actually use this ,I
work a lot with cam models directly because I’m super interested in making
making sex work interfaces, especially digital sex works interfaces, more human.
And I find the camroom system to be incredibly inhuman. You just have all of
these random names coming through yelling, “take your clothes off” or “turn
around” or whatever else. Like I can’t actually deal with being in a cam room.
So I work with, one of the models I work with is Riley Scarlett, she’s fantastic
she’s a psychology student who’s actually working on sex work and
disability. Because you will find out that a lot of cam workers are actually disabled. Because it allows them to set their own
schedule. And they can do it from home. It’s a fantastic way for some of them to
make money. And that’s really cool. And I want to help that out. So the problem is
they’re provided these inhuman interfaces by the cam companies that do
the streaming and stuff for them. So we used the game vibration router here,
so that she could play Rocket League while actually using a toy, with her fan
club, which is a set of subscribers that get pictures from her and whatnot.
And it became this really interesting fun interface where instead of it was
just her on sort of this weird digital pedestal, and all of these people yelling
at her, it was an actual interactive experience, where everyone was having fun,
laughing sometimes forgetting that there was a cam model using a toy, because they
were like oh I need I need to score and I need to move the ball around and stuff,
and it’s like “do you really?” And there’s some problems with this interface too
where we have issues with people like not understanding it and whatnot. So it’s
a very new thing but it’s something where we’ve been working on and she’s
been fantastic to work with. Another game and this one’s really weird for this,
this is called Crimson Land, it’s a top-down shooter where you shoot
bugs and zombies and things like that and not the sexiest thing in the world
except there’s 30 guns which is, okay also not sexy, but each gun comes with
its own vibration pattern. So, okay it’s really hard to defend this as a sex
interface. But it recontextualizes play so that you might
want to pick up like the gun with the most interesting pattern, versus the gun
that works the best. So what about text though? We’ve talked about a lot of
audio-visual things, but text is not, it’s not something people think about other
than like sexting and whatever else. So I work with
Twine which is a basically you think of it like an interactive fiction or choose
your own adventure game engine for the web. It’s really popular for LGBTQIA+
stories and experiences and interactions as well as just all sorts of other stuff
like horsemaster which is one of my favorites, I definitely say play
horsemaster and I can usually tell in the audience who has played horse master
when I say that. It’s amazing, it’s not sexy.
Um but then there’s other games like For Those Who Love Alive by Porpentine, which
is amazing interaction of text and body. So I went and created a plug-in for
Twine so that people that can use Twine (who usually aren’t like super
experienced programmers) can actually integrate haptics and text. Not only that
I integrated it as my tutorial for this the Buttplug
software itself. So gonna go really really quick here cuz I got four minutes
to go through: how does it look to actually make an interface out of this?
Because I’m super interested in this because I grew up with text roleplay and
furry and other end MUDs and BBS door games and everything else. So
text roleplay is a huge part of my identity, and the thing is, it’s dying.
This is the MUD stats website and if like it’s really cool because you look
at “year opened” and it’s like 1991, 1990. These are virtual worlds that have existed for
30 years, and are still going. But there’s [only] hundreds of players sometimes. It’s a
dying realm and there’s a reason for that. There’s virtual worlds
like Second Life which I’m partially responsible for, I worked there for a
couple of years (I’m that cube), and I also created the first sex toy interface for
Second Life, because once again, when you give people a virtual world where they
can be anything and do anything they will be anything and have sex. But
anyways what I’m really interested in here is Telegram. Telegram is an IM
service that has a really amazing sticker base on it. And
so this is like me and someone else just having, I was like “please just post some
random stickers, I need this for a slide”. But there are people that actually do
sexual roleplay completely through stickers. Which is a really kind of
interesting way to do things. I mean they may or may not own the characters or
personas or whatever else and the stickers which makes a little odd, but so
there’s some questions there, but otherwise it creates a media glyph
language for sexuality. Which is really interesting. So this is what a sticker
pack looks like, and this is like the UI for it, this is the one that I’ve been
using in this presentation too, and by the way if you wanted it’s at this URL
right here. And funny enough, I mean if you can like take this as like the
world’s most literal translation of Winterson’s “Semiotics of Sex”, but
what what I could do here is if I have a sticker, that sticker on the computer has
what we call a UUID, a unique universal identification. So this is like
a string that will never exist anywhere else in the universe and it’s kind of
mathematically proven that it won’t. So I know when we get that sticker, and we can
actually take that information when it’s posted and a chat that has a bot in it
or something, and translate that into a haptic movement or a haptic pattern. And
so this is a project I’m working on right now so that people that are
role-playing through these sticker interfaces can actually use this to
trigger haptic patterns with each other. And to have another level of immersion.
Because whenever you add an extra sense to an interactive form, you exponentially
increase the amount of immersion that happens. So to clear up in the last 30
seconds: open-source sex tech is not just me; there is definitely a community here.
For those of you that would like to hop a plane and get to Berlin tomorrow,
there is going to be the first workshop of touchy-feely tech; this is a
really new and cool set of workshops by Alice Stewart who’s an artist out of
Berlin on teaching people how to build their own vibrators. And these are like,
this is a basic electronics class but it ends in a more human way
than “well, the light blinked”. There’s Body Interaction which is by Jacob Cardano,
who is also I believe out of Germany. This is a little ESP8266 board which is
basically like an advanced Arduino that has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. He’s made a sex
toy board out of it as well as an app interface. It’s all open-source and it
cost like 40 bucks. um She-Bon, oh my god this this is this is so cool,
this is a project by Sarah Petkus out of Las Vegas, she is building what she’s
calling a “suit of amour” — not a suit of armor, a suit of amour. She’s building
different pieces to publicly display her arousal based on biometrics and other
things. So she’s got like a butt winch which actually kind of like winches her
butt cheeks up and stuff and she’ll have like nipple propellers and things and
it’s so it’s it sounds kind of funny right now once it’s it’s this amazing
personal expression of arousal, though, because she doesn’t know how to portray it in normal ways so
she’s built her own — and that is the pinnacle of sex tech to me. And then finally there’s companies like
Comingle which unfortunately no longer exists because they were sued out of
existence during the teledildonics patent that I didn’t talk about because it
doesn’t exist anymore as of August 19th of last year. There was a teledildonics
patent that regulated all remote sex toys, it doesn’t exist anymore,
yay! There’s a the small project which is a way to integrate motor control into
any vibrator that takes a battery, that’s on Github. There’s the noGasm which is a
auto-orgasm denial system that uses muscle based biofeedback for
starting and stopping toys. It’s really interesting, all this stuff’s open-source
and there’s a community around it and more people are showing up every day. So
with that, I’m done! [Applause]

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