Science gets sexy

The invention of the Internet changed intimate relationships forever. Long-distance relationships suddenly became a lot more feasible, especially after the creation of video-chat programs like Skype. Kids started stirring up trouble by emailing nude and semi-nude pictures. But the one thing the World Wide Web has not been able to challenge is the old-fashioned joy of tactile sensation – until now.

Everything is coming off the next time you are both online. Graphic by Olivia Aiken.

Your long-distance love life can now get a lot more physical, thanks to a device called LovePalz. LovePalz involves two separate pleasure devices (interestingly named “Zeus” for the male apparatus and “Hera” for the female) connected through WiFi – specifically through an iPhone app.

After the Zeus or Hera is positioned you-know-where, it will mimic hip motions by the partners in real time, allowing a simulation of intercourse. These bad boys – and bad girls – are driven by air pump motors and automatic pistons, and are (perhaps out of necessity?) waterproof.

The creator of LovePalz, 27-year-old Oni Chen, told he came up with the invention when briefly separated from his girlfriend, in hopes that it would bring back that indefinable something that gets lost with distance.

“When I was studying abroad, my girlfriend and I were apart and had a long-distance relationship, sex wasn’t something we could achieve. So I thought, why can’t we have something that can help us spike up our relationship when we are not around each other?” Chen said.

Not everyone is ready to jump on the bandwagon though. Joanne Cantor, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in the stresses created by the digital revolution, dismissed LovePalz as a novelty rather than a useful relationship tool.

“It’s probably just a novelty thing and you try it once. I can just visualize the person holding the phone in one hand and the device in the other. How sexy does that feel?” she said.

There’s also the dark underside to any Internet-based sex technology – it increases chances for cheating. The smartphone app used for LovePalz could make this kind of cyber-deception easy, since you can friend other LovePalz users and then choose one you want to connect with for the night (or whenever you prefer to get your moves on).

But all this is just speculation, at least for the moment. Chen admitted that Apple has yet to approve the app, and the physical device is not even in the manufacturing stage. Kickstarter, a popular fundraising site where users can donate to new projects, rejected LovePalz.

Despite that, Chen remains enthusiastic about his technological baby (or perhaps “baby-maker” would be more accurate in this case?), saying the device is functional and ready for production, and that his company has already received 2,432 orders worldwide.

Whether or not this device takes off, it reveals some telling things about the human condition: we are capable of forming strong attachments, even across distance, so long as we can communicate; we will inevitably use technology to make our lives easier; and perhaps, most of all, we really like sex.