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The Big Future: What is the future of sex?

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Sex is central to human life and has been from the very start, but the act and its aftermath aren't exactly perfect. Despite the technological advancements that have taken place over the course of the last century, people who don't want STIs or children still have to jump through a number of hoops to get to the good stuff. So in this week's Big Future, we look at how those hoops might one day improve — or disappear altogether.

Battling STIs means making sexual barriers more fun

Antibiotic resistant STIs are likely to become an even bigger problem in the future, which means that we're going to have to find ways to make sexual barriers more fun to use. One idea is to make thinner condoms, or condoms that wrap around the penis instead of needing to unfold over the tip. And for women, scientists are thinking about making a vaginal ring that prevents unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection all at once.

In the future, we think outside the condom

Condoms will still be around in the future, but it's possible that they'll be joined by a number of other technologies. For instance, scientists think it might be possible to create a male contraceptive based on infrared lasers and testicular gold nanoparticle injections.

Virtual sex will become truly immersive

Right now, virtual sex doesn't go much farther than video and sound, but the rise of virtual reality might bring about something entirely different — something that might allow people in different locations to enjoy each other's company in a way that actually feels physical. But no matter how good the virtual tech gets, it's hard to imagine it replacing physical sex. In the end, there's only so much technology can do against a basic biological imperative.