The speed with which the SexTech market is moving forward is nothing short of amazing. In such a short space of time, the key SexTech proponents, cheerleaders and innovators have come on in leaps and bounds to provide consumers with products and concepts that would have boggled the mind some time ago. Now they’re the norm. Viva progress, right?
And so we land on the dial marked FriXion this time. FriXion is the latest in haptic technology designed to help you get your rocks off. It’s effectively a social sex network wherein participants can touch, be touched, kiss hold hands and even engage in full penetrative sex regardless of whether your partner is across the room or the other side of the world.
But there’s a lot more to it than that, of course. BaDoink caught up with one of FriXion’s founders, Seth, to see just what all the fuss was about!
FriXion really is a vision of the future a lot of people have held for a long time. It’s very ambitious and more than impressive. Tell us a little about how the idea was born. What led you to come up with something so unique and creative?
“I don’t necessarily consider FriXion to be a new or difficult idea. Teledildonics has been discussed since the 70s; as early as there was a global network capable of exchanging move data for a remote game of chess. There was even a number of primitive attempts at implementation in that time as well.
The work we are doing now came out of an effort to bring a new channel of information exchange to human interaction online: touch. Originally, it wasn’t necessarily about sex. The experience of shared haptic feedback devices are quite compelling even if you’re using your hand to feel a teddy bear a thousand miles away, and quickly becomes uncanny when ‘holding hands’ with real people.
When we were pitching our efforts in the context of remote touch people were impressed, but so many instinctively acted out “naughty” actions when they realized they were making physical contact with each other – and the questions about sex immediately followed. This became such a distraction from our more “mainstream” efforts that we decided to pivot and embrace sex as a core application. The technology has already existed for a long time, but the will hasn’t been there to stack it all together in a way that is useful until now.”
What, for you, is the single most enticing and exciting feature of FriXion?
“I’m excited to see reactions to the virtual glory hole, where users are connected randomly and blindly similar to omegle or chat roulette with other online users that are using compatible devices. Users know they’re pushing up against a real person, but they don’t know anything about them whether they’re male, female, attractive or not unless both parties decide to expose their webcams. This kind of risk free instant contact is extremely novel and will challenge many of our existing constructs about our sexuality.”
Some people may find it hard to believe that the things FriXion will be doing are even possible. Have you dealt with many people who struggled to understand just what it is you’re trying to do?
“I think the act of remote sex has been pretty clear, however where people get confused is the role of remote intimacy can play in theirs and others lives. So many people think that these experiences are meant to compete with having real sex, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Humans are hard wired to seek out real skin-to-skin intimacy, chasing pheromones, smells, sweat, and risk — that won’t change with our work. Instead, it’s important for people to imagine the kind of sex they have through FriXion as an alternative to no sex at all. For when their partner is far away or unavailable, or they’re single looking for no-risk no-commitment casual encounters, or as a way to escalate intimacy in any situation online short of meeting in person. In this context the technology makes a lot of sense, since many of us have been in the position to be video chatting with someone we’re attracted to and wish we could be physical, but the best we can do is flash at each other combined with whatever passes for cybersex these days, even if they’re only across town.”
Was there a particular group/demographic you had in mind while working on FriXion?
Obvious demographics would be those in long-distance relationships looking to stay in touch physically, as well as sex workers from escorts to webcam models and their audiences. Also we imagine online dating getting a big kick out of ‘try before you fly’ cybersex before choosing to meet that person. Those who don’t have so much luck with dating can find an outlet through this technology in finding real partners online, but also virtual partners that can provide a kind of intimacy they may be unable or too shy to pursue with people in person.”
Will there be room for FriXion’s users to start creating their own toys/devices and hook them up to the API? Would/do you encourage this play-and-learn approach to FriXion?
“Absolutely! We see FriXion as a catalyst for development of novel and exciting new experiences both through software as well as prototype hardware built by community members and vendors that wish to take advantage of the platform. It’s entirely possible for a user to create their own toys from simple Arduino based vibrators up to the most complex robotics and create a simple plugin for the FriXion API to interact physically with other users with more commercial toys. It’s entirely reasonable to imagine future kickstarter projects for sensational new devices that wholly depend on the FriXion ecosystem.”
FriXion may well see a large number of people using such tech for the first time. Is it simple enough to ‘pick up and play’?
“It isn’t without a learning curve, at the moment our development is focused on support for toys that provide a relative motion – this stroking action is the core of what penetrative sex is and that is intuitive enough, though it is important to keep a clear line of communication with your partner over video chat which wouldn’t be so necessary if you were wrestling in the same room using body language to drive the encounter. As more and more non-stroking toys get supported it will take some amount of creativity for users to think about what they’re trying to do and the best way to accomplish it. Already people are looking at spanking devices that can be controlled remotely among other things. It is as complex, or as simple as the users choose it to be.”
Speaking with nerve.com, you stated that a number of other SexTech products are simply ‘gimmicks’ Do you see it as a personal mission to bring about a new and more defined age of SexTech in 2015?
“We are definitely driven by ideology here and want to make as few compromises as possible. Right now the gimmicks out there that exist look good on a box on a shelf to sell more hardware. FriXion has a big advantage being a hardware agnostic platform which really puts pressure on vendors to create compelling experiences that sync up with users real-world needs and not just rely on first-night novelty.”
Critics could argue that FriXion is aiding the isolation of people as technology becomes more advanced. How would you respond to that hypothetical criticism? Would it even bother you?
“Technology has made strides in the past 50 years to connect people in ways we could have never expected, and teledildonics is no different in that respect. Adding touch to online interaction doesn’t isolate, it connects viscerally – it brings a level of intimacy online that wasn’t possible before.
“Now with that said, if we explore the realm of virtual partners the narrative shifts. You can imagine real-world partners will have to step up their game and offer more than sex to their relationships if they’re going to make it work in a world where the access and availability of high quality virtual-sex means that real sex has lost much of its leverage. In my personal opinion, this is a good thing and can only lead to more fulfilling relationships that don’t depend on that lost leverage to survive.”
We are all well aware of the myriad problems SexTech/adult entertainment start ups have in getting investment, and trying to navigate the doors that the mainstream companies slam in our faces. Did you encounter such problems along the road? How did you deal with them?
“The stigma in the startup scene faced by adult projects is still very real. Much of the capital flowing is still coming from an older generation that would rather put their money into a trendy wifi pedometer than anything to do with sex, even if that same wifi pedometer is a perfectly good teledildonics input device! Still though, the world is changing rapidly and social values and taboos especially so. Those who beat the path are first in line, and with the right approach we’ve found a lot of support from more progressive groups that are eager to tackle sensational but real problems and appreciate the opportunity to act in a space where we can really operate on the cutting edge of what’s possible and offer practical solutions that people can use.”
How has the take up been from companies wanting to adapt their toys for FriXion’s API?
“During our testing we’re supporting five interaction methods: keyboard/mouse input, the F1 (Falcon) robot, accelerometer control, interactive fleshlight (a pressure cap that measures penetration of a fleshlight), and the Diltron interactive sex machine. We chose these devices because they focus on the relative motion I referenced earlier. Discussing support for broader experiences with other vendors it’s that clear many are afraid to open up their hardware to support something like FriXion – their business models are generally ‘hardware first’ and the software they make in-house is just to support the sales of that hardware (and it shows). They want to sell pairs of devices to couples, or make deals with webcam sites to put interactive fuck machines in cam studios and work in a b2b environment. In these configurations the users lose. The potential of the technology is limited and never really made accessible to a wide audience that could better benefit.
“What FriXion represents is quite challenging to this conventional approach, but we’re confident that opening things up is the key to achieving a critical mass of participation that makes remote intimacy a practical application in people’s lives, and will incentivize all vendors present and future to get their devices integrated with FriXion. With our API being released this year the barrier to entry is very low and we expect to see many vendors choose to participate. Everyone wins, more demand for hardware means more sales for vendors, and users get much more out of that hardware by mixing and matching strength to strength with their partners, and of course making use of the community and resources of the FriXion ecosystem itself.”