Dezeen Magazine

Enigma by Summer Chen

Haptic lingerie uses AI to craft erotica based on the user's touch

Designer Summer Chen has combined artificial intelligence and sensor-embedded lingerie to create a "touch-to-text" system generating erotica, developed as part of her studies at the Royal College of Art.

Titled Enigma, the project involves a lingerie set laced with haptic sensors that capture data such as where a person is touching themselves, for how long and with what kind of pressure.

This data is then converted to textual prompts that are sent to AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT with the instruction to write a short, intimate fantasy story using this sequence of events.

Flatlay photo of a set of minimal black lingerie
The Enigma lingerie is embedded with haptic sensors

"I'm sitting on my balcony, my robe ajar, exposing my bare stomach to the night air," begins one such story generated from Chen's testing by ChatGPT and titled Intense Crumbs of Pleasure: A Night to Remember.

"As I reach for my glass of wine, the phone vibrates against my thighs. I set my drink down and check the message. It's from him."

Chen created Enigma during her masters course in Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art, starting from a position of wanting to create something to help post-menopausal women to rediscover their bodies, and eventually coming to focus on self-intimacy more broadly.

She saw erotica as a tool for self-empowerment and exploration, and in AI, she found a collaborator that could quickly turn somatic input into stories, while also allowing the user a sense of privacy and ownership that could enable them to relax and explore their sensuality.

Photo of a person scrolling some text on a smartphone. The text reads "I was lying on the bed, bathed in the warm afternoon sun which filtered in from the window. My lover was beside me, his hand gently caressing my neck. Suddenly, I felt..."
Enigma generates personalised erotica that users can read or listen to on their devices

"In the end, it's just you and your body," Chen told Dezeen. "By utilising AI to craft deeply personal narratives from intimate touch, Enigma showcased that AI systems can work alongside humans in deeply emotional and personal spaces."

To realise Enigma, Chen crafted an interface that interprets touch data from the lingerie and categorises it based on type, duration and intensity. It then turns this into textual prompts for ChatGPT to incorporate into a story.

For instance, in Crumbs of Pleasure, the prompt "I was touched for just a moment with incredible strength on my right breast" is incorporated into a scene where the protagonist's lover "pulls my robe aside and touches me out of nowhere, intensely on my right breast."

Chen says that Enigma democratises the production of erotica, giving people who might not otherwise feel they could write, be creative or express their sexuality a channel to do so.

Photo of a smartphone screen with a person's hands scrolling over it. The text on the screen reads "What are you in the mood for?" along with a minimal, black line illustration of an upturned face composed of tendrils of plants
The product is designed to help people reconnect with their bodies and sexuality

She also finds AI to be an excellent tool for the work, because it makes every narrative unique and can create "rich and meaningful" outputs given relatively sparse prompts.

In fact, from her testing she found that the less descriptive the prompts were, the more creative the story was.

"If the prompt is overly prescribed, the story is almost always boring and kind of robotic," she said.

At the same time, in her testing process she noticed some biases and limitations to the chatbot that she said she would avoid given the time and resources to craft her own machine-learning model.

Almost all of the stories were written from a female perspective, almost all were heterosexual in content, and all involved other people besides the protagonist, said Chen. Plus, ChatGPT has a prohibition on sexually explicit language that her prompts had to tiptoe around.

She hopes Enigma will contribute to a paradigm shift in human-to-AI interaction and help to dispel myths about the technology's "coldness".

Black and white photo of a woman from the chin down wearing the black Enigma bralette and pants, with a light robe over the top
The designer dubs the interface "touch-to-text"

"Highlighting projects where AI intersects with humanities can reposition it as a technology as diverse in its applications as imagination itself," said Chen.

"At its heart, Enigma was an endeavour to explore AI's role in our lives — not as impersonal machines, but as deeply personal enablers, aiding us in understanding, expressing and celebrating our own human experiences."

Since exhibiting her work, Chen says she has received interest from people proposing additional use-cases for Enigma, including as a therapeutic tool to help survivors of sexual trauma or breast cancer.

Student designers frequently take a creative approach to sex toys. Some previous works have included Dmytro Nikiforchuk's Dotyk toys for the elderly and Coby Huang's Rituals of Sexual Pleasure series featuring wood and wool as materials.

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