When I was 13, I picked up the first issue of a new Australian games magazine called Hyper. Inside was a story—predicting the ways we’d all “soon” be having virtual sex—that has lived with me to this day.
Partly because of the bold predictions being made. That due to advances being made in the initial VR boom of the early 90s, we’d all soon be putting on suits that allowed for “Teledildonics”.
Teledildonics calls not for sex with robots, but for...suits that will allow teleprocessing to create virtual bodies for their wearers. Couples...will meet at a location in cyberspace, where the host computers will transmit the suit’s data in both directions, and cause the appropriate sensation in the suits of each participant.
Partly because, in true (and beautifully naive) early-90s “cyber” style, ambition had ridden roughshod over practicality, and people’s imaginations were running wild:
It may even be possible, before clambering into one’s virtual sex suit, to paw through one’s collection of sex CDs and select the option of meeting Elle McPherson on a beach in Bali, and having her be a lesbian for the evening. Or perhaps you’d like to divest Luke Perry of his virginity?
Mostly, though, it has stuck with me for decades because of this image.
When you’re 13, and you open up a video games magazine and see that shit, it leaves a mark. Because...well, because of everything about it.
What’s funny now, though, looking at them in a world where virtual reality has finally made it from the arcade into the living room, is that...the mock-up wasn’t that far off. The headset, the cables...that’s how both the Oculus Rift and Vive work, and it’s about the same scale, too.
Only...well, yeah, neither of those come with giant dick machines or boob-grabbing robot hands.
To be fair to the article and its star-gazing, it does devote an entire section to the roadblocks standing in the way of our bright future of virtual boots-knocking. Stuff like:
Computers capable of the blazing speed and power necessary to drive a realistic VR of the kind sex will require do not as yet exist.
Even today’s fastest graphics computers, the new Indigo series manufactured by Silicon Graphics, which can produce video and audio input in real time, have no chance of producing VR alone. Machines capable of doing so may require experimental microprocessors which use light instead of electricity.
There was also the matter of those teledildonic suits costing $750,000 (and those are 1993 dollars). And even if you had that money, they couldn’t do everything that was being asked of them.
To bring people back to reality, the last page of the feature introduces us to “Virtual Valerie”, who was “as close as we get to virtual sex at the moment.”
She was not very close.
It’s funny looking at the wildest 1993 predictions for virtual sex and the 2016 reality. The technology got where it needed to get without the need for light processors, but at the same time, our expectations for VR scaled back significantly. In 1993, we wanted dick suits and Elle Macpherson! In 2016, we’re happy with goggles and jerking off.
If you want to read the feature yourself, there’s a scan of it over on Old Game Mags.
UPDATE: Thanks to Kyle Machulis for pointing out that the teledildonic images actually originate from issue #2 of Future Sex magazine, which has also been scanned, and which you can check out here (NSFW warning).