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

Raspberry Dream Labs Haptic Cyber Sex
People wearing Raspberry Dream Labs prototypes in London.
  • The founder of sex-tech company Raspberry Dream Labs said the pandemic may lead to a cybersex boom.
  • "The time is so ripe for it," Angelina Aleksandrovich told Insider in an interview.
  • Her company is testing a VR cybersex experience with immersive sounds, scents, and haptic pulses.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

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."

Raspberry Dream Labs Founder Angelina Aleksandrovich.JPG
Raspberry Dream Labs founder Angelina Aleksandrovich wearing a VR headset she gives volunteers for her cyber-sex experience using XR, a combination of virtual and augmented reality, haptic stimulators, sounds and scent.

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."

Raspberry Dream Labs colored prototype
A Raspberry Dream Labs prototype.

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.

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A woman wearing Raspberry Dream Labs haptic rig.

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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