by Magnus Shaw.
I'm going to write about a new piece of technology, but it will involve some intimate body stuff. I'm pre-supposing you guys are broad-minded enough to handle references to sexy-time, but I'm a card-carrying, awkward, repressed Englishman - and this is a decent, upstanding website. So I'll need to deploy some hefty euphemism to get us through this column and if you're okay with that, then I am too. Anyone distressed by the whole physical functionality thing, look away now. Everyone else, hold on tight.
The rapid growth (you see, it's started already) in digital technology has certainly brought us all closer together. Want a video chat, for free, with family across the globe - here's Skype. Have something pithy to convey in a few characters? Twitter awaits your input. Cat done something bizarre while you filmed him? YouTube was created especially for you and Tibbles. Jump on a top-notch dating site and you could be marrying a stranger by the end of the week. All good clean fun. Move along, nothing to see here.
However, somebody is always going to grasp innovation and take the whole thing too far. In the same way as the ability to split an atom resulted in nuclear weapons, some boffin has adapted wireless, remote capabilities and built 'LovePalz'. And this is where it all gets a bit cringey.
'LovePalz' is a wi-fi enabled device which doesn't look unlike an expensive, designer pepper grinder. Which is actually rather appropriate as it breaks down into two parts which then simulate and convey movements in real-time, when separated by many miles. Two parties each hold one half of the device and it senses their actions, transmitting them so they are physically reflected on the other device. You don't need me to explain that the intention is not to enable the couple to clean each other's teeth.
The two sections are named "Zeus" and "Hera". 'Hera' resembles an oversized white lipstick; 'Zeus' a narrow, metallic toilet roll. When located in or on specific areas of the anatomy, the remote controller is able to determine the movements of the object - and hey presto, you're making love across vast distances.
Except you're not, are you? Forgive me if I'm being a little old-fashioned, but isn't the whole idea of sexual relations to experience the extremity of biological closeness to another human being, thereby enhancing one's relationship with that person - even if it's only a fleeting encounter? In this instance, what your actually doing is pleasuring yourself but making some other sap do all the work.
It seems the makers of 'LovePalz' have attempted to ... ahem ... overcome the distinct lack of proximity between the participants by launching an app to deliver video conferencing while the activity proceeds. So, in effect, one is being royally seen to by an autonomous piece of plastic at the same time as one gazes at one's loved one, undergoing the same rigmarole on the screen of one's iPhone. Unless one has a pretty expansive definition of 'dignity', it's probably a good idea not to catch a glimpse of oneself in the mirror while this is taking place.
As if this wasn't scary enough, let's read the fine detail from the manufacturer's press release:
The speed sensor in Zeus will detect the speed of male action and send to the Hera, the female toy. Hera will reflect and match Zeus's speed automatically. Hera on her part, will sense the pressure inside the toy based on the female's reaction and then send that information to Zeus. Zeus's air pump will configure its tightness automatically based on the received signal.
Agghhh!! I've seen Barbarella and feared this kind of thing would happen. I only hoped it wasn't in my lifetime. Who exactly is the target audience for this? People driven to share complicated, unsavoury, tech-based situations with folk they don't much want to be around? There is so much here to trouble me, I can hardly take it all in. So to speak.
For one thing, don't they have the names for the sections the wrong way round? Does the male party feel more or less comfortable being 'done' by a receptacle called 'Zeus'? Although once he has committed to the whole robotic rogering scenario, I suppose titles are the least of it. And the branding is extraordinarily horrible. 'LovePalz'? Good grief. Firstly, the notion of 'love' has almost no bearing on the service provided. If the desire is to express love for one's partner, a simple, analogue telephone call along the lines of 'Night, night darling, I'll be home tomorrow' would surely suffice. And 'Palz' - ignoring the horrific use of a 'z' - also appears irrelevant. If you're getting your rocks off via the medium of genitally shaped gadgets, and observing one another doing so over a 3G network, you've drifted way beyond the 'friendship' stage, I would think.
Ultimately, I predict 'LovePalz' won't succeed. It's just the sort of gizmo a few adventurous sorts will try once, find the connection fails at a crucial moment (or worse, leave half the device in a hotel bathroom) and give up on the entire escapade. Most couples have learnt to overcome the lack of intimacy dictated by distance in much more practical ways. One is patience - the others you can work out for yourself.
That said, if you feel this is the product for which you and your other half have been waiting, you can find out more here.
Just don't tell me how you get on. I'll only be as embarrassed as you ought to be.
Magnus Shaw is a shy copywriter, blogger and consultant.