Using multisensory tech to create intimacy: Angelina Aleksandrovich’s Raspberry Dream Labs

[Sexual intimacy is a very logical application area for presence-evoking technology that scholars too often ignore, but it’s the focus of this Business Insider report about the work of Angelina Aleksandrovich. Coverage by Reuters includes these additional details:

“In an industrial unit in North London two volunteers demonstrate her prototype experience combining virtual reality (VR), augmented reality and even smell, delivered through a collar worn around the neck, a head set, and hand-held sensors.

The volunteers see each other as outline human forms through their headsets and can caress each other without ever actually touching.

The experience involves haptic stimulators positioned over erogenous zones, something that could eventually be incorporated into soft robotic ‘underwearables’, said Aleksandrovich.

She argues that as we are happy to allow technology into many aspects of daily life, such as health or finance, we should include the bedroom.

A report in 2019 by US market research firm Arizton said the global market for sexual wellness products is expected to reach around $39 billion by 2024.”

A 2:38 minute Reuters video is also available in some regions; in North America see Yahoo! News in Canada. For more on Ms. Aleksandrovich there’s a July 2020 story in HerStory. And for a scholarly article on this topic see “Sexual Presence: A qEEG Analysis of Sexual Arousal to Synthetic Pornography” by Patrice Renaud, Sarah Michelle Neveu, Joanne-L. Rouleau and Christian Joyal in the International Journal of Telepresence. –Matthew]

As virtual reality’s popularity grows, sex-tech companies are making plans for increased online intimacy

By Kevin Shalvey
Mar 28, 2021

Has COVID-19 changed the way the world will hook up?

It seems that way, according to Angelina Aleksandrovich, founder and creative director of Raspberry Dream Labs. Her company’s been busy building a rig and software so people who are apart can still enjoy intimacy. The time is right, she told Insider.

Companies like Aleksandrovich’s are positioning themselves for a future with rising remote intimacy, even with the end of lockdowns visible on the horizon. It’s one of a few competing visions of the post-vaccine future. Suitsupply, for example, launched an ad campaign this year featuring zero social distancing, with the tagline “The new normal is coming.”

In the future envisioned by Raspberry Dream Labs, some people may still be skittish about meeting new partners in person, even as the pandemic fades. The company’s rig is meant to give users who are apart a sense of being intimate, with immersive sounds, visuals, and scents. It also places haptic pulses on their bodies, giving them the sense of being touched. It’s still a prototype but eventually, users will be able to wear the rig and enter the company’s virtual platform, Raspberry Dream Land, to meet others, Aleksandrovich said.

The London-based company recently demoed the experience, hosting a weeklong event that celebrated sexuality, identity, gender, body, technology and futurism. It included talks given by artists and sex-tech proponents, who attempted to demystify cybersex, said its founder.

Now, Aleksandrovich said the company’s prepping for a public launch of Raspberry Dream’s platform. The company tested virtual reality hosting sites, but “faced enormous oppression” and censorship from the companies that ran them, Aleksandrovich said. So it’s building its own platform instead.

Aleksandrovich continued: “As in what the future hold for us: It holds total independence from censoring corporations and freedom of radical expression as we build our own social webXR platform — Raspberry Dream Land — where people can meet in the virtual world, go on the dates, attend events that would be censored elsewhere online, get playful and build meaning connections over the distance.”

Aleksandrovich said Raspberry Dream Labs was created as a hybrid of her formal training as an artist and her work at creative agencies, where she pitched VR experiences to big brands.

She hadn’t intended to start a company; her plan for the rig was just to create it as a one-off project. But she quickly found that she felt “better about myself doing something meaningful.”

“I’ve been interested in sex since my early childhood. But the lack of early age sex education and growing up in post-soviet eastern Ukraine didn’t help my curiosity,” Aleksandrovich told Insider.

After graduating from the Chelsea College of Art and Design, she built VR and immersive productions for brands. She mostly followed creative briefs, but also started pitching ideas about multisensory experiences, including scents and temperature control.

“But something that would’ve sounded like a great career was actually eating me from the inside,” she said. “I wasn’t feeling happy creating ‘brand experiences’ for brands I didn’t care for, just for the sake of being able to keep up with that life.”

In 2018, she was poking around through files on her computer, when she found a folder filled with stuff she’d made at art school. It was then that Raspberry Dream Labs was born.

“They made me feel very nostalgic and reminded me that I already found my passion, the subject of human sexuality,” she said. “All I had to do was act upon it.”

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