Snapchat in Bed
Have you ever thought about using Snapchat's face filters during sex? Try it, it could really up your role-playing game—now you can turn your partner into a Disney princess, a cat, or even a strawberry! As soon as this technology overcomes the obvious turn-off of holding a bulk piece of glass and rare-earth metals between you and your lover, augmented reality sex could become the next big kink thing.
Augmented reality (AR) uses a technological interface—such as a smartphone or Google Glass-ish goggles like Microsoft’s HoloLens—to overlay virtual images on top of your real vision, fusing a virtual world with your own. Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go have been the two breakout examples of a simplistic application of this tech, but Silicon Valley is only just getting started. This technology will soon saturate every part of our daily life, with brands using AR to display advertising everywhere you go.
But the implications of ubiquitous augmented reality will reach much further than new forms of advertising. Since AR allows us to apply whatever virtual images we want to the world around us it will release us from the permanence of our given biological features, allowing us to alter our appearance on the fly. Our Facebook Profile pictures will become our real life faces. The hardware might not be really there yet—although there is several interesting projects coming up, but the software is getting closer. Apple recently released their new AR sdk for iOS, expect a surge of new augmented reality apps in the coming future.
When we apply this tech to our most intimate moments it will also allow for the most quirkiest of our fantasies to become visually real.
This is an entirely different experience from virtual-reality sex. In VR sex, the totality of your real, intimate experience is replaced by a virtual one. In AR sex, however, your real, intimate experience is enriched and heightened through virtual overlays. The realness of the other is still there—the touch, the emotion, the energy—but you’ll be able to project whatever visuals you wish on top of them.
With photogrammetry software you can quickly create a 3D model of a person’s face from their photos. Coupled with today’s level of facial tracking, this technology could easily turn your partner into anyone: celebrities, fictional characters, your ex, or even your friend’s cute fiancé. Maybe Kanye’s ‘Famous’-video should be seen as less of a comment on the present and more a speculation of the future.
Netflix and chill 2.0
Ubiquitous AR will bring online dating to the next level. Visually, you could sleep with anyone. If you’re just looking for a hook-up, why worry about matching with the right person on Tinder when you could just apply whichever facial filter you want to the first person you swipe right on? Porn stars will sell access to detailed models of their faces and bodies, and new privacy laws will emerge to protect celebrities and citizens alike from their digitized forms being hacked and used as aphrodisiacs. “U up?” will become “I got a full-detail Kanye West fbx, 50k+ polygons. Come over?”
Forget facelifts, implants, or time-consuming make-up contouring: AR will be a cheaper, safer, non-permanent way to enhance your appearance—and your sex life. With this technology you will be able to overlay your fresh, tanned face from your last holiday for your next date—or why not have a program analyze your potential partner’s taste to determine the best possible cheekbone structure to make them fall for you? Professional dating experts and strategists can already assist you in creating a highly rated dating-app profile, so why not let them style your actual appearance, too?
We’ll become our own portraits of Dorian Gray, sparkly and vivid through the mask of layers of code, hollow and unrecognizable without it. Among excessive porn consumers sexuality is essentially rewired to be intrinsically linked to a hyper-polished screen-based experience, rendering actual intimacy and real bodies weird and disgusting. In the same way, will we get so used to augmentation that we one day are creeped out and put-off by our real faces? When the battery dies and you see your partner’s face for the first time in weeks, gloomy, bleak, and incongruously human.
You might not need to date a real human at all. Japan has already seen a surge in girlfriend bots that replace the uncomfortable compromises of a real-life relationship with the safe, predictable companionship of an AI, tirelessly supporting you through long work nights, always giving you a love when you need it the most.
If augmented audio follows the same trajectory as the rest of the technology anyone can be the mannequin upon which you craft your partner-bot, and you can be theirs. A relationship between two strangers, a loving couple sharing the same life as seen from the outside, but their own experiences of the relationship being completely different. You don’t even need to know each other’s real names, the only role you’ll fill for each other is to add what cannot be artificially created; the touch, the emotion, the energy of something human.
The end of the face as the ultimate signifier of who we are
There will inevitably be a backlash to the AR revolution. A counter-movement will arise, cherishing our biological bodies and arguing that these technologies are just another mask obstructing us from some fabled “true self.”
But, is this “true self” necessarily something desirable when it so often confines us to fixed societal positions tied to our physical appearance? Concepts like “natural” and “biological” are more often than not exploited as arguments for racism and sexism. For the most of humanity, the ability to change one’s gender, ethnicity, age and body on the fly would provide at least a temporary alleviation of discrimination in a deeply unfair world. This technology will of course not by itself remove any oppressive system, contrary to the view among certain techno-utopians. But what it will do is being used to circumvent inequality since it allow us much more control over first impressions and hence more control over how we are positioned within society. What if you could choose what face to use for your next job interview?
When this non-invasive and infinitely malleable control over ones appearance become available to all, we will be freed from our biological restraints and in real time be able to live up to the wicked beauty standards of the Photoshop era. This radically rewrites our visual conception of identity, making the flesh face obsolete as the ultimate signifier of who we are and allowing us to always be whoever we want; "Alienation is the labour of freedoms construction”, as Laboria Cuboniks writes in their Xenofeminist manifesto.
These technologies might initially produce a visually homogenous world as we all strive to look like the same idealized version of beauty, like in a Korean beauty contest. But they also carry the potential to produce a vastly more heterogeneous one if we allow ourselves to have some fun. It’s the 14th century Venice masquerade coming back in style; your morning subway ride a fancy-dress party with celebrities, superheroes, and surreal creatures, you’d buy your coffee from Skeletor on the corner, making small talk at the stoplights with a weird fusion of Amy Winehouse and Stephen Fry while dodging a dozen smiling Trumps beasts on the street. Second Life turned into First Life, but without the shitty interface.