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Swiping right on virtual relationships

There’s an episode in the latest season of the Hulu original series Casual, where the main character, Alex, tries his hand at dating in virtual reality. He quickly meets a woman and develops a big, adrenaline-inducing crush only to realize she’s a scammer out for his credit card information.

The season takes place around 2021 or 2022, when technological advances have made dating in VR both possible and socially acceptable. We’re not there yet, and we probably won’t be there as soon as the writers of the show think, but it’s time to imagine and plan for a future when entire relationships exist in and as a result of virtual reality.

Sextech entrepreneur and advocate Bryony Cole has built a career around the assumption that a full pivot to VR will happen in our lifetimes.

She’s the chief executive officer of Future of Sex, a podcast-turned-media company and sextech accelerator. Future of Sex has just released its inaugural report on virtual intimacy and plans to produce content on other topics at the intersection of technology and sex. 

Today, most people are more interested in Magic Leap’s new Angry Birds VR game than the ways in which VR can aid struggling relationships, but the report is full of interesting nuggets on how tech, like teledildonics (Internet-connected sex toys), is transforming intimacy.

There’s a whole class of startups named in the report embracing the notion that human experiences can be improved when powered by apps and devices. No, they aren’t advocating for you to bring your smartphone to the bedroom, but rather claiming that customizable tech can heighten the senses or create new avenues for exploration.

Kissenger, for example, has a mobile app that lets you exchange a kiss over the Internet. Fleshlight and Lovense sell Bluetooth-connected vibrators. And CamasutraVR streams virtual versions of real-life porn stars.

VR is the future of couples therapy

VR, Cole says, is a the forefront of the sextech industry’s transformation and if used correctly, can bolster relationships.

“It’s a new way for couples or thruples, or whatever relationship you’re in, to bond,” Cole told TechCrunch. “The ability to empathize with another person is enriched in this context, which is great, especially for understanding a lover.”

VR can facilitate more meaningful interactions for couples in long-distance relationships. If used right, it can fill the “intimacy gap,” or the space between a couple’s shared happiness and an individual’s personal happiness that, when too big, leads to many couple’s demise. 

As a safe space for experimentation, two people can explore fantasies, engage with educational content and even visit a couple’s therapist in VR. 

The release of the report is hot off the heels of Future of Sex’s fourth sextech hackathon. In New York, the company asked participants to create tech-enabled solutions to reinvent sex education for teenage boys, among other prompts. 

Women in sextech

Future of Sex partnered with porn site YouPorn to co-host the event and asked hackers to come up with ways to leverage YouPorn’s content, which includes VR porn, to improve the sex lives of viewers. VR porn is not a new phenomenon and while it can allow for more personal sexual experiences, researchers have warned that blurring the line between the real and the virtual could lead to ethical issues. How, for example, do you give consent in VR?

Women, who are often exploited for the purposes of sexual entertainment, need to be at the table while this content and other sextech are in development. Fortunately, Cole says, women are entering the sextech community in droves.

“[It’s] exploding at the moment and more and more women entrepreneurs are having a go at building a company,” she said. “It’s Important to highlight why women are getting involved in sextech especially in the current climate of #MeToo.”

On stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF this year, Unbound, which makes fashion-forward vibrators and other sex toys for women, took home the second-place prize.

“Our dream at Unbound is for female sexual health to be viewed through the same lens as male sexuality — as a part of our overall health that deserves a conversation, platform, and shopping experience that doesn’t feel like a flaming pile of garbage,” Unbound founder Polly Rodriguez told TechCrunch’s John Biggs.

Rodriguez is a close friend of Cole’s — the community is still small — and she’s appeared on the Future of Sex podcast.

The podcast, hackathons and the 12-week accelerator program for sextech startups are part of Cole’s effort to expand the dialogue around VR & sextech, invite new voices into the movement and remove the stigma around having open and honest conversations about sex and intimacy.

“There has to be a way to invite more people into this conversation,” she said. “If we can normalize the conversation, we can raise the standards around talking about sex.”

Facebook’s Oculus Venues streams its first VR concert. Was it any good?

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When Australian artist Vance Joy performed at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Wednesday, there wasn’t a smartphone in sight. 

It wasn’t quite physically possible for audience members using Facebook’s Oculus Venues, a live VR concert experience that saw its debut run worldwide at 7:30 p.m. PST.

Announced in October last year, Oculus Venues, now available for Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR, is a new feature that allows you to watch live events with your friends in VR. To kick things off, Facebook offered up a free concert by Australian artist Vance Joy broadcast live from the iconic Red Rocks venue on May 30. Read more…

More about Facebook, Music, Vr, Live Concert, and Concerts

Crunch Report | Benchmark vs Kalanick Goes Sour

Reddit is rolling out its own video platform, VR adtech company Immersv raises $10.5 million and Benchmark versus Kalanick goes sour. All this on Crunch Report Read More

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Apple ARKit user puts a color changing Tesla Model 3 in his driveway before the car's release

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Elon Musk is working hard to make Tesla vehicles everyone can afford, but the only available versions of the tech-centric electric vehicle are still too pricey for some of us — but not in augmented reality! 

That’s what one Norway-based 3D designer decided when he used Apple’s new ARKit to create his own augmented reality version of the upcoming Tesla Model 3. 

Posting a video of the ARKit-created app on Twitter on Saturday, creator Jelmer Verhoog show off how it allows you to choose the color of your Model 3 while seeing how it looks in your own driveway.  Read more…

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Arcades of the future are going to be amazing, if StarVR is any indication

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For many of us, thinking about the arcade brings back memories of old school shooter games. But kids of the future may have a very different experiences.

StarVR — from IMAX, Taiwanese PC maker Acer, and Swedish games studio Starbreeze — is deluxe VR like you wouldn’t get at home.

The system promises 5K resolution, with a wide 210 degree field of view, for an extra immersive experience.

At the Computex show in Taipei, I had the chance to test this immersion with first-person shooter game John Wick Chronicles, based on Keanu Reeves’ shooter movie franchise. Read more…

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Crunch Report | Rumors: Amazon’s New Echo Device

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Uber’s use of Greyballing, we get the first look at the rumored Amazon Echo device and Facebook shuts down its VR filmmaking division. All this on Crunch Report. Read More

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Yes, mobile VR is possible without strapping a smartphone to your face

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No, I don’t like strapping a smartphone to my face to enjoy virtual reality. And I don’t blame you if you don’t want to either.  

But if you look at the reported sales numbers for mobile headsets like the Samsung Gear VR over the past year, you might think people prefer them.

Um, I don’t think so. 

Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, in my own experience, the most dedicated VR users in the growing community tend to use high-end headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. 

That’s why it’s frustrating to see so many VR developers and content companies focusing on mobile VR over stationary, high-end VR systems. But I digress …  Read more…

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OceanGate plans an expedition to 3D scan the Titanic

 Seattle-based OceanGate Inc. this week announced plans for a manned expedition to study the R.M.S. Titanic, the world’s most famous shipwreck. Fewer than 200 people have ever visited the Titanic since it sank in April 1912 according to historians’ estimates. To put that in perspective, more people have scaled the summit of Mt. Everest, or flown in space. The new expedition,… Read More

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Confirmed: Magic Leap acquires 3D division of Dacuda in Zurich

magicleap-shutterstock_344631905 Magic Leap, the augmented reality startup that has raised $1.4 billion in funding but has yet to release a product, has made an acquisition to expand its work in computer vision and deep learning, and to build out its operations into Europe.
The company has acquired the 3D division of Dacuda, a computer vision startup based out of Zurich. One of Dacuda’s focuses had been… Read More

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Hugo Barra joins Facebook to lead its VR efforts, including Oculus

16265529_10103456684228891_2797602321406032996_n Hugo Barra, who previously held a positions as a key VP for Android at Google, and led Xiaomi’s international efforts in a VP role at the Chinese company, is now joining Facebook. Barra announced his departure from Xiaomi on January 22, after a three-and-a-half year stint at the company. Barra will lead all of Facebook’s VR efforts, including Oculus, according to Facebook CEO… Read More

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Father-to-be uses VR to ‘meet’ his daughter before she’s born

animated_vrbaby Of all the potential use-cases for VR, Samuli Cantell has arguably come up with the most unusual after persuading his pregnant girlfriend to undergo 4D ultrasound scanning of their unborn child in order to generate a 3D model that could then be placed in a Unity environment and viewed in VR. Read More

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VirZOOM mashes up VR, Fitbit and exercise bikes to bring vSports to the masses

file-jan-04-14-43-59 Strapping a VR headset to my face and taking a seat on an exercise bike isn’t my idea of fun, but fun was exactly what was served up when I tried out VirZOOM’s platform. A cycling game was obvious, given the input mechanism, but a flying pegasus and a tank game were not. The games were both eye-openers in terms of taking exercise and VR, making it more than the sum of its parts. Read More

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