VIRTUAL REALITY RAPE

The convergence of technologies such as virtual reality, haptic feedback and wireless connectivity raises the prospect of virtual sexual assault, two noted futurologists have warned.

These new forms of violation could arise by combining emerging devices, such as suits that provide wearers with physical sensations through haptic feedback, with existing virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift.

What is transhumanism?

Transhumanism is a movement that aims to use technology to enhance human intellectual, physical and psychological capabilities. This can be achieved through anything from brain implants and bionic eyes to stem cell technology and exoskeleton body suits.

The convergence of technologies such as virtual reality, haptic feedback and wireless connectivity raises the prospect of virtual sexual assault, two noted futurologists have warned.

These new forms of violation could arise by combining emerging devices, such as suits that provide wearers with physical sensations through haptic feedback, with existing virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift.

"If you have a haptic suit on, and someone tapped into it and made you do things you didn't want to do, I would consider that a violation and probably equivalent to assault," Zoltan Istvan, author and 2016 US presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party, told Australian publicationVertigo.

"This is one of the very strange issues with transhumanism.

Bristol-based start-up Ultrahaptics has developed tactile technology that allows users to "feel in mid-air" by using an array of ultrasound speakers capable of invisibly replicating textures.

"We'll never create this complete immersion without this physical feedback," Tom Carter, co-founder of Ultrahaptics, told IBTimes UK in February. "If you don't have the sense of touch it will really break down the virtual reality experience.

"My big hope is you'll be able to put on a VR headset and reach out and touch and feel. I think this is going to be one of the most useful things for virtual reality in the future."

If such technology was integrated into virtual reality systems capable of mapping experiences through sensors, it would conceivably pave the way for people to interact physically within a virtual environment.

At present there are no legal protections against such incidents as the technology does not yet exist, however Istvan believes that society should already begin to consider the implications of its development.

© Georgina Rowlands, all rights reserved