As far as seductive come-ons go, purring the words “OK Glass, it’s time” as you and your partner trip your way into the bedroom seems about as arousing as an impromptu rendition of The Internationale complete with flags. However, for a group of students from Central Saint Martins, this somewhat seedy-sounding phrase is the passcode to “make sex more awesome”.
In a one-day hackathon students Sherif Maktabi and Satara Achille created an app named Sex with Glass, a piece of software for Google’s wearable computer that offers users a roster of digital enhancements activated by those four magic words.
Owners of Glass can use the app to perform real-time searches for sex positions or use voice commands to control their lights and sound system (what’s more excruciating – watching someone conduct a YouTube search for Marvin Gaye to "set the mood" or listening to them Google it aloud?) but the feature that’s really got people talking is using Glass’s camera to swap view-points with your partner.
The app’s designers promise that this will bring “a completely new perspective” to the bedroom. “Experience sex like never before,” reads the Sex with Glass website. “Simply swipe to a new perspective and enjoy the new view. When you connect your phone, you can even see what it's like from any angle.” In a funny way it seems kind of logical. The ubiquity of smartphones and cameras has introduced elements of observation and performance into so many part of everyday life, why not bring them into the bedroom as well?
Well, encouraging an overbearing sense of narcissism is one answer – as is the destruction of innocence in the bedroom. This last point sounds a bit paradoxical but imagine introducing a camera and a screen into an environment where we should be at our most authentic. The self-consciousness it could enable would be terrible. Forget so-so Skype conversations where you spend half your time looking at yourself like a budgie in a cage, knowing your body was being pasted onto a screen, ready to be reviewed later would certainly kill the vibe for many couples.
But as ever with this sort of speculative technology the bigger problem is the sort of harmful behaviour it might enforce. Text on the app's site (now deleted) originally touted the inclusion of a self-deleting video feature “for all the ladies out there” - a shameful reminder that we live in the era of ‘revenge porn’ where although both men and women are likely to share private images indiscriminately, odds are it’s women that become the target of public shaming.
Tech site The Verge went further with this criticism, noting that in the promotional materials used for the app “every single viewpoint photo appears to be either men looking at women or women looking at themselves,” a detail that they read as an affirmation of John Berger’s depressing observation of 1979: “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.“
Thankfully, it’s way too early for the speculative think-pieces damning this new digital perversion (unless this counts). Even if you skip over the impractical nature of wearing a flimsy head-mounted camera during sex (pornstar James Deen found it tough and he’s a pro) the whole thing just seems too niche and too novelty. Some couples will enjoy it (and more power to them) but it hardly seems a cause for concern for society at large. The app’s creators seem fully aware of this element of triviality, even making the voice command used to stop filming the cringingly stupid “OK Glass, pull out”. It’s crass, sure, but some people will get a kick out of it – and that goes for Sex with Glass too.
James Vincent is Science and Technology Reporter for The Independent.