For $4,000, she can
be yours... and you
don't even have to
Virtual Love Doll
by D. Trull
Notice:This special PG-13 Fortean Slip has been reviewed by independent experts who found that the material has scientific value and does not appeal to the prurient interests of the average adult American. It is intended for reading by adults only, for use in the privacy of the customer's home. Scram, kiddies.
Regardless of our finer aspirations of intellectual and scientific advancement, there's no denying that technology and pornography have always gone hand in hand. Or maybe that should be "in one hand." After all, some of the first photographs ever taken were nudie shots. Porn videos were responsible for clinching the saturation of VCRs in American households. Smut, sleaze and X-rated spam overrun easily half the Internet's bandwidth like electronic kudzu. It's almost as if the ultimate objective propelling the progress of civilization is the desperate quest to simulate sex as closely as possible without actually doing it.
The popular notion of the futuristic cybersex involves virtual reality headsets and attachments that conjure realistic fantasies in the mind. But some clever entrepreneurs have looked back to an old forgotten favorite in the pervert's pantheon, updating it into a startling new adult entertainment accessory that's not quite as high-tech as VR but has a lot more physical presence -- and it's here today. Welcome to the age of RealDoll, the world's first honestly lifelike love doll.
Spawned by the inevitable cross-pollination of Hollywood special effects, the sex-toy industry and the Internet, RealDoll is a thoroughly convincing silicone sculpture of a gorgeous woman. Forget about the horrifying blow-up dolls of yore, with their bug-eyed idiot stares and circular mouths agape, confined to the closets of tragically undiscriminating consorts. Judging from photographs of their expertly crafted faces and figures, RealDolls are nearly indistinguishable from models in Penthouse, and in some shots, they even look almost like real human beings, too. The only thing that's inflated is the price: a RealDoll can be yours to do (with) as you please for the hefty sum of $3,999.00.
The sexy simulacrum was not designed with its eventual indelicate usage in mind. Matt McMullen, a movie special-effects artist, initially created a silicone sculpture with movable joints as an art project, aiming only for visual appeal. After McMullen debuted his finished work on the World Wide Web, its other possible marketing applications quickly became apparent.
"When I posted this on the Internet these people crawled out of the woodwork and started wanting to buy it as a love doll," McMullen explained. He founded Abyss Creations to vend his mesmerizing mannequin as a sexual plaything, and struck up a deal with Reactor, the porn software developer known for "Virtual Valerie," which is the exclusive distributor of RealDoll -- sold only on the Internet. They report sales are moving at a slow but steady clip of about one order a day. And to think, people say it's impossible for a startup business to make it on the Web these days.
The RealDoll site (http://www.realdoll.com) is nearly as dramatic a quantum leap among sex-oriented web sites as its product is compared to other love dolls. Sharply designed, straightforward, and free of porn-shop smarminess and bad spelling, it lets you know you've entered a whole new realm of erotic appliances.
"Realistic, life-size and beautiful. Elastic flesh, an articulated skeleton and sexy features like no other adult love doll in this world," boasts the home page. "If you've dreamed of a love doll like this, you know exactly what we're talking about. Most love dolls are made of cheap, inflatable vinyl. They look pathetic and laughable -- not loveable [sic]. Don't expect to see those goofy beach toys on this site. RealDoll is the REAL DEAL."
The site introduces you to the various models of RealDolls available for ordering, including "Leah," "Stacy" and "Natasha." These are actually not uniquely individual dolls, but codenames for configurations of standardized RealDoll components; Leah, for example, is composed of Head 4 and Body 2. Once a buyer selects the "girl" that's right for him, he can choose her hair color, skin color and a number of other sensitive specifications. Made of solid silicone over a sturdy skeleton, the dolls have a full human weight of 110 pounds and are flexible through a natural range of movement. A deluxe model whose joints are more posable is available for an extra $500, but none of them is rigid enough to stand upright -- not that they'd have much need to.
For those who can break away from the avalanche of JPEGs and animated GIFs long enough to actually read something, the real heart and soul of the RealDoll site is its illuminating FAQ file. A voluminous preemptive strike targeting a depraved kaleidoscope of consumer concerns, the FAQ outlines the parameters of treatment a RealDoll can reliably withstand, addresses the hydraulics of the requisite "suction effect," and helpfully suggests presoaking your RealDoll in a hot tub to impart lifelike body heat. Here we also learn that a male version of the doll is under development, and are sternly advised all sales are final. "We do not sell our rejects and we do not accept returns. Even if we did, we would never sell used dolls." (God help us, that means somebody must have asked.)
There's only one obvious question left conspicuously absent, and you know it's got to be frequent one: "Is this for real?"
"A common response is, 'This is a very well-done prank,'" said Nick Black, Reactor's special projects coordinator. "We think RealDoll is something that catches people unaware -- they weren't ready for the leap from vinyl doll to Hollywood prop."
Yes, you've come a long way, baby. And the next leap to a walking, talking animatronic sex buddy isn't far away. For now, RealDoll's makers pose as purists about its silicone simplicity: "RealDoll does not have electronic features such as vibrators. There's a good reason for that: vibrators are not lifelike." Yet they're already talking about implementing cybernetics and artificial intelligence in future product lines, mass-producing a fully interactive freak-a-zoid worthy of Pimpbot 5000's stable of fine fillies. No one has the capability to make it happen yet, but to paraphrase those futuristic AT&T commercials: Geeks Will. As it always was and ever will be, the foundations of the 21st century are being laid by guys who can't get laid.
Even a dummy can tell you that.
Sources: RealDoll web site (http://www.realdoll.com); Wired News.
(c) Copyright 1997 ParaScope, Inc.