A Brief History of Teledildonics
Tele-dildonics is currently defined as: "Sex in a computer simulated virtual reality, especially computer-mediated sexual interaction between the presences of two humans."
Teledildonics was a term originally coined in the 1980s by Ted Nelson, however, the term is best associated with Howard Rheingold's 1991 book Virtual Reality. In a chapter entitled "Teledildonics," Rheingold describes his fantasies of having virtual reality sex over the Internet, but wisely mentions the difficulties in making a virtual reality sex suit.
The roots of tele-dildonics sexual communications began via text and early BBS MUD environments, moved to pictures, early video games, and finally the video conferencing of today.
One of the first generation of sexual computer games, "Leisure Suit Larry," published by Sierra On-Line, Inc. in 1988, featured the adventures of a nerd wearing the Travolta style white suit cruising around hoping to meet and date women. Around the same time Chicago cartoonist Mike Saenz designed "MacPlaymate." This was a program by which the user used the mouse to control a virtual vibrator that massaged an onscreen woman until she squealed in ecstasy. Saenz soon followed with "Virtual Valerie," generally the same cartoon of passive but with color graphics delivered upon CD-ROM, which soon became the biggest-selling CD-ROM for the Macintosh around that time.
Let's fast forward to the '90s. The 1990s will prove to be about redirecting multi-media stimulated bacchanalian sexual entertainment to the next level of technology. In early 1997 the online trade journal Inter@ctive Week estimated the approximately 10,000 adult sites then online were generating about $1 billion in revenue per year, mostly through credit card transactions. Some large sites were bringing in more than $1 million per month.
Today there are hundreds of thousands of websites and we are involved in a multi-billion dollar industry. As sexual content was the marketable application that drove the VCR and camcorder markets, online sex has proven to be the "sticky app" that has driven interactive Web technology to the next level.
The first teledildonic demonstration to my knowledge dates back to 1993 where a Norwegian media artist named Stahl Stenslie presented his cyberSM project. The cyberSM project was an attempt to create a real time, visual, auditory, and tactile communication in the world of cyberspace. Stahl Senslie built full body cyber suits and did a media event connecting a participant in Paris with a participant in Colonge. This was 1993 over what I presume to be 14.4kbs modems. He is currently a professor of media arts at the School for Media in Colonge and is currently working on interface technologies.
The Future of Teledildonics
The future of Teledildonics' hope lies in the ability to make toys that play well with each other’s technologies and interfacing them to the users using these devices. As far as commercial teledildonic technologies go there are a handful of commercial providers.
On the consumer side of things there are Highjoy and Sinulate (RIP). An open source project exists called the SeXBox project. SeXBox is a open source platform that allows hobbiests to quickly and easily implement interfaces for software controlled sexual interaction through a computer.
The teledildonic industry on the whole is in it’s infancy and from a strictly business stand point there are many challenges that are being overcome daily. Many challenges need to be overcome as this sector continues to grow in an e-commerce environment.