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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Future of Cybersmut

From the Vault Dept.: How quickly the future rockets into the past! Here are some prognostications from 1997. Technology changed far more quickly than I could have imagined. And New Machine is no longer, so don't go looking for the website named below.


SO THE CITY that gave us radio and TV makes the national news once again--for strip clubs. Schenectady has a hard time choosing its battles. Technology and sex remain continual bedfellows, however, and there’s nothing like the come-on of erotica to inspire new and different uses for our gadgetry.

Isis Nile
Aren’t computers kind of expensive to be used as sex toys? Sure. So are strip clubs. Not long ago I made my way to one of the neighborhood’s clubs, a juice bar whose dancers suffer no state liquor authority restrictions. When the evening was over I’d spent five bucks to get in, nine on juice, ten on tips, and endured a particularly unexciting lap dance with a woman whose many piercings looked more painful than enticing. Forty-nine bucks.

And I was being parsimonious, which calls for a lot of sales resistance. These women are more persuasive than even the most aggressive time-share hawker, because they’re selling the promise of sex and they know how to customize it to your taste even as they deny you the actuality.

But for less than $49, you can now do it to a CD-ROM. NMP Interactive, creators of the immensely popular Seymore Butts series, is exploring the concept of sharing your fantasies with a machine-based porno star. Their best-selling disc, The Dream Machine, showed you a succession of spicy scenes, and Isis Nile put together a list of your likes and dislikes so that she could properly entertain you in a film clip at the end of your journey.

The recently-released sequel, Dream Machine II, uses a new technology the company calls “interactive cubed,” or I[superscript]3. This offers the interactive story more direction and gives you a lot more choice. Rather than the few simple branches characterizing programs like Seymore Butts, this goes off in many different directions based upon your style of interaction.

“It’s polymorphic interaction,” says NMP head Robert Neason. “It’s beautiful stuff. Your personality is charted and recorded, and each of the six models you encounter has a different personality. They range from ‘virgin’ and ‘girl next door’ to ‘dominatrix.’ The interface features what we call a ‘mood pizza,’ like a pie chart, with six possible responses for you to choose from. You say different things to different women, and they remember what you’ve said. Your responses help build number values in each scene, and when you hit the right number, the model takes off her clothes.

“Obviously, you’re not going to get the same response from the virgin as you will from the dominatrix, so you have to choose your responses carefully.”

NMP has added a busy Web site (at ) to its booming CD-ROM industry, and Neason promises that this level of intense interactiveness also will characterize the site as it develops.

“It’s already a great place, and we’re logging hundreds of thousands of hits every day, but this is going to make it even better. As we solve the bandwidth problem, we’ll be adding this kind of interactive fantasy to the site.”

Bandwidth refers to the amount of hardware – in this case, telephone and network wire--needed to comfortably carry information. Which, for a good erotic showcase, means full-motion video and good sound. “We’re looking for better compression algorithms,” says Neason. “The video has to look good.”

Computers continue to get smaller, faster, cheaper. Not cheap, of course – it seems like the ideal machine always costs between $3,000 and $5,000--but the hardware you’re buying is astonishingly powerful, capable now of running full-motion video that looks at least as good as broadcast television. Newer video cards have algorithms built in to speed up video decoding, but there’s no across-the-boards standardization yet.

At recent trade shows, I’ve inspected color palmtop computers, recordable CD-ROM devices, digital cameras, speedy cellular modems – all the gadgets you need to multimedia-ize yourself. And all of these are being aimed at the most formidable gadget of them all: the Internet. Plug in and you’re linked to vast network of other users and the various pages and programs they’ve posted. Including the wares of lots of sex emporia. From naughty photos to live video encounters with attractive models, you’ll never be lonely with a fast computer, a credit card, and the Internet.

But we’ll quickly move beyond that as television and the Internet continue to invade each other’s property. As better cable systems get into our houses, the face of delivered entertainment will change. Today’s live-action video exchange, for example, is a low-resolution foretaste of what’s to come. Typing back and forth with the woman you’re watching is pretty lame. You can’t talk right now because that’s too much information for current systems to carry. It won’t be long, though, before we finally get the long-promised picturephone service – whether it’s an Internet service or the phone company that finally gets the technology correct.

That means you’ll be able to phone your wife and/or girlfriend and striptease for one another, which means that the commercial services will have to provide something even better. I’m sure it won’t be cheap, and Schenectady will hate it.

We’ll start seeing the first high-definition television (HDTV) sets in this country by the middle of next year, and broadcasters will slowly switch to the format – giving a much crisper picture on a wider screen. With cable services going interactive, you’ll be able to request movies of your choice, with providers suggesting titles according to your viewing habits.

CD-ROMs are changing. We’re now seeing the first titles in a higher-capacity format that will give clearer pictures and lots more information. If they’re expensive at first, don’t despair. Some cable services will be able to offer interactive CD-ROM titles, so you’ll get those fancy graphics piped in from elsewhere. Will you be watching it on a computer or a TV? The distinction will vanish. It’ll be “the screen.”

Other coming computer hardware changes seem to be uniquely porno-driven. Back in the good old days of movie theater porn, a bunch of titles were released in 3D. Once hoped to be the salvation of movies in general in the battle against television, it was only natural that the technique was tried out with X-rated movies. You wore the goofy red lens-blue lens glasses, of course, and were treated to the fuzzy spectacle of arms, legs, and breasts popping out at you. Not to mention the moment (the “money shot”) when the entire audience, as one man, ducked.

You had a sense of being right there, even if it also meant that you feared you were in the way. Don’t expect to watch 3D movies on your computer monitor--look for it on the virtual reality helmets that right now are being marketed for game-players. You’re surrounded by the playing environment. Look up and you see the sky. Look down at your feet. And with a separate, high-resolution display screen for each eye, 3D is easy to render.

The brain refuses to accept it at first, but the senses overwhelm the brain’s argument. What makes the reality so virtual is that imagination still has to kick in. The helmets are a little too expensive right now for an appreciable market presence, but already the pornomeisters are examining ways of producing new videos that take advantage of the technology.

Imagine pushing open the doors on the hottest strip club in town. You hear the music and see the dancers. Put your hand out – you’re wearing a special glove that indicates movement – and you’ll swear you’re touching her, which is generally farther than you can go in a strip club.

But imagine now that she’s talking to you. Asking you questions. Like any good interactive CD-ROM, your experience depends on how well you answer. What’s the payoff? With the right machinery, I’ll bet you can get a whole lot more than a striptease from her. Technological evolution seems to run in inverse proportion to social enlightenment, but at least we may no longer have to slug it out on the streets of Schenectady – or the Jerry Springer Show.

Metroland Magazine, 13 February 1997

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