AI avatar app Lensa ‘Pornifies’ Asian Women
A female Asian journalist has complained that the popular avatar creation app ‘Lensa’ undressed her without her consent. She attributes this to a tendency of the app to ‘pornify’ Asian women, and to do so more than it does both Asian men, and other female ethnicities. This is blamed by her and an AI expert on the fact that there is so much fetishisation material of Asian females online. AI generators are really only holding up a mirror to the face(s) of the Internet.
The fact that my results are so hypersexualized isn’t surprising, says Aylin Caliskan, an assistant professor at the University of Washington who studies biases and representation in AI systems.
Lensa generates its avatars using Stable Diffusion, an open-source AI model that generates images based on text prompts. Stable Diffusion is built using LAION-5B, a massive open-source data set that has been compiled by scraping images off the internet.
And because the internet is overflowing with images of naked or barely dressed women, and pictures reflecting sexist, racist stereotypes, the data set is also skewed toward these kinds of images.
This leads to AI models that sexualize women regardless of whether they want to be depicted that way, Caliskan says—especially women with identities that have been historically disadvantaged.
Others go even further in claiming that there are serious problems inherent in any AI software, such as avatar apps, that create content through the mining of millions of datasets scraped from the Internet.
AI training data is filled with racist stereotypes, pornography, and explicit images of rape, researchers Abeba Birhane, Vinay Uday Prabhu, and Emmanuel Kahembwe found after analyzing a data set similar to the one used to build Stable Diffusion. It’s notable that their findings were only possible because the LAION data set is open source. Most other popular image-making AIs, such as Google’s Imagen and OpenAI’s DALL-E, are not open but are built in a similar way, using similar sorts of training data, which suggests that this is a sector-wide problem.
As I reported in September when the first version of Stable Diffusion had just been launched, searching the model’s data set for keywords such as “Asian” brought back almost exclusively porn.
Haptic hydrogel “skin” simulates touch in VR and AR
Being able to realistically touch objects, or rather bodies, in virtual reality, would clearly turn adult VR into something that would likely cause many millions of men to never leave their bedrooms again. It may have become a step closer recently as a team of researchers announced that they had developed a haptic hydrogel electronic ‘skin’ that can simulate a variety of touch sensations, and in a simpler way than existing methods.
While technology is making major strides in absorbing our eyes and ears in virtual worlds, it’s harder to engage senses like touch. Engineers at the City University of Hong Kong have now developed WeTac, a thin, wearable electronic “skin” that provides tactile feedback to users in VR and AR.
There’s no shortage of wearable devices designed to let users manipulate virtual objects and receive haptic feedback from them. But most of the time these devices are big and bulky, and require complex setups and tangles of wires.
The WeTac system looks like one of the neatest iterations of the idea we’ve seen so far. It’s made of a rubbery hydrogel that sticks to the palm and front of the fingers, connected to a small battery and Bluetooth communication system located in a 5-cm2 (0.8-sq-in) patch on the forearm. That battery can be recharged wirelessly.
Five Insights From Sex Tech Author Samantha Cole
Sex tech writer Samantha Cole shared five insights from her exciting new book – ‘How Sex Changed the Internet and the Internet Changed Sex: An Unexpected History‘.
1. The Internet Was Built On Sex.
Early modes of internet communication were predicated on, and popularized by, a desire for sex and romance. Bulletin Board Systems, the digital equivalent of public cork boards, were quickly popularized as places to access porn online. With names like SleazeNet, ThrobNet, and Pleasure Dome, many subscription-based bulletin boards were for trading images scanned from porn magazines or photos uploaded by amateurs.
But they weren’t all just for smut; they were also hubs of harm reduction, especially during the AIDs crisis and as a way for queer and marginalized people to find community and care in a time when coming out was even more dangerous than it is today.
On Usenet, a decentralized messaging system, people debated concepts of safe spaces and moderation. They fought over whether men should be permitted in women’s-only threads, and kept long-running threads about everything from politics to how have sex on a scuba dive.
In text-based multi-user domains, or MUDs people roleplayed as fantasy versions of themselves, and found love and loss. In one classic MUD legend, someone playing as an evil clown sexually assaulted other members of the chat, which threw the entire community into chaos.
In these systems, people grappled with how to define consent, abuse, and harassment. People fell deeply in love within these online spaces, met in person, got married, or got their hearts broken. Ex-lovers emailed administrators to ask to be removed from the chats, since seeing their former partners even through a screen was too emotionally charged. The desire to be seen and understood permeated these earliest predecessors of social media, and naturally, they often turned to the sexual.
Lovehoney Predicts The Biggest Sex Trends For 2023
Online sex toy company Lovehoney have predicted the sex trends you can expect in 2023. Not sure if these kind of predictions from adult toy companies are anything other than meaningless marketing exercises, but occasionally they might spot a trend that is likely to take shape in the coming years, and so may be worth two minutes of your reading time.
- Sexual mindfulness – Most of us are constantly distracted and overstimulated as we’re glued to our phones and computer screens all the time. Mindfulness apps, books and experts are increasingly popular as people try to be fully present and focus on what they’re doing and that can apply to the bedroom as well. According to Lovehoney, with sex, the journey – not the destination – is becoming the center of attention. Sexual mindfulness is all about focusing on really being in the moment.
- Open intimacy – Lovehoney says that taboo will get the boot next year as open conversations about periods and female sexuality will become more a part of our sex lives. This is happening thanks to people who are speaking out loudly about those topics, as well as easier access to information online. Lovehoney’s research finds that sex ed content on Instagram and TikTok has increased significantly and that Gen Z, in particular, is turning to those sources for information and education.
- Smart sex tech and the Metaverse – Sex toys are getting smarter, with some offering app connectivity and others come with heating functions or can adapt vibration patterns to music automatically. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and the Metaverse will be a growing trend with sex in the coming year, according to Lovehoney, who opened a pop-up store in Decentraland to “offer an anonymous place for people to explore sexual wellness products and content.” Bryony Cole, Lovehoney’s global sextech expert explains, “The combined anonymity and intimacy of the Metaverse, allows people to engage with this topic further, where they perhaps don’t feel comfortable in real life, allowing more people to educate.”
- Intentional dating and sexual fantasies – Singles are more interested in “slow love,” where they prioritize emotional connection while making sure they’re sexually compatible, according to these experts. Lovehoney says that talking about fantasies and acting on them is all part of the overall trend toward destigmatizing sexuality.