Years ago, when my boyfriend left for the Marine Corps, 6,741 miles away in Japan, I was certain we’d persevere. It would be three years, sure, but plenty of other people have successfully pulled off long-distance relationships before us. We made sure to talk on the phone everyday and texted as often as he had an Internet connection, but upon seeing each other at the airport three years later, we could actually tell immediately: The spark had been extinguished.
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Other than my general lack of maturity, I believe what tore us apart was an inability to maintain intimacy from so far away. We were on different schedules, in different time zones and limited to just calls and texts. And while I’m not saying it would’ve saved our relationship, it probably would’ve at least helped if we’d had some of the tools to foster intimacy that people in long-distance relationships have today: video calling (Skype, FaceTime), yes, but also things like teledildonics, AI, and techonosexuality. These sorts of things are really changing the game—and only going to get more popular from here.
Teledildonics, AI, and techonosexuality are really changing the game—and only going to get more popular from here.
According to a recent report from Future of Sex, by 2020, it won’t just be a select few people engaging in virtual reality and haptic sex toys, it will be most people. And by the year 2050, reports The Telegraph, the sex toy industry will grow to over seven times what is it today, while robotic sex will likely begin to be even more frequent than interpersonal sexual experiences. Considering long-distance relationships are more common than ever before, it seems fitting that technology to aid those relationships would follow suit—and that the companies serving up these new technologies are often founded, in fact, by people looking to foster intimacy in their own long-distance relationships.
That’s the case with both OhMiBod and Mojowijo, which sell haptic sex toys that simulate touch from anywhere in the world. Mojowijo does this by turning your Wii remote into a vibrator for virtual sex that can be controlled via Skype or laptop, while OhMiBod offers a variety of toys, including one that allows you to connect to your partner’s vibrator from anywhere with an Internet connection. We-Vibe also has a new couple’s vibrator that allows one partner to use a vibrator on their significant other by remote control, again from anywhere in the world. “We saw an opportunity for couples to share an intimate experience together even when they could not be physically together,” says We-Vibe’s Global Passion Ambassador, Tristan Weedmark. “With our latest flagship vibrator, We-Vibe Sync, and the free We-Connect app, couples connect and play together no matter the distance. They can video chat within the app and at the same time share control of the vibrator.”
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There are also a number of vibrators for her that couple with masturbation sleeves for him, so it’s not just the person using the vibrator that gets the tactical pleasure. The Kiiroo’s Pearl vibrator and Onyx masturbation sleeve interact with each other through your computer and phone platforms, mimicking the feeling of physical movements during sex to create realistic simultaneous sensations for both partners. “It’s safe to say that quite a few long distance couples seek something to aide physical connection with one another,” says Maki Sugimura-Hirlinger, head of marketing for Kirroo.
Personally, my favorite new development is Vibease: You pair the toy with the Vibease app and can access a slew of erotic stories. The app then syncs to your vibe and moves along with the scene. This technology offers a platform to interact with long-distance partners: “If you have a partner, you can communicate over video chat and let them control the movements of your sex toys,” says Jenna Owsianik, sex-tech researcher, writer and editor of FutureofSex.org.
But beyond devices designed for more explicit sexual connection, there are also toys centered around basic intimacy, such as handholding and kissing. Take the aptly named Kissenger, a long distance kissing device designed to send your lips across miles (just pecks, no tongue-action). By using a little, microphone-like device, you can send your kiss to your partner’s Kissenger from anywhere; it’ll mimic the pressure and sensation and transmit it to your partner’s silicone receiver, for them to press up against their cheek or lips.
There are also things to simulate the feel and sound of your heartbeat, too. Try Little Riot’s Pillow Talk wristbands, intended to mimic your partner’s presence at bedtime. The band picks up the sound of your heartbeat and transfers it to a small receiver on your partner’s side which replicates the sound and feel of your heart rhythm in real time (they can keep the receiver on or under their pillow, for example). “I love it. It feels so human… like I’m lying with my head on his chest,” writes one testimonial on their website. Or there’s digital jewelry that connects through an app on your phone to let you feel your partner’s heartbeat through the jewelry all day long.
Clearly, long gone are the days of just myopic Skype calls and late night sexts. Obviously those still exist, but there are now so many more tools to foster intimacy between couples. And though AI and the burgeoning field of teledildonics may never be able to bridge the long-distance gap entirely, through technology, we may finally been offered a chance to make long-distance relationships sustainable in a reasonable—or at least more interesting—way.