Algorithmically, my inner nostril is sexier than my balls.
That’s what I learned from Sext Machine, a game in which a robot rates the sexiness–or should that be sextiness?–of blurry globules of flesh. This is sort of terrifying, when you think about it. In the post-singularity, I might never sneeze right again.
Designed by technologist Mike Walker, Sext Machine describes itself as “an SMS-based game exploring the frailty of algorithms and human sexuality.” In plainer speak, the goal is to actually trick the bot into thinking that the picture you just sexted is somehow pornographic. You ‘win’ when you convince the Sext Machine that some non-descript fold of flesh on, say, your inner arm is a honeypot of sexual delight; or that the out-of-focus knob of your big toe is actually a big rubbery one.
Putting Sext Machine to the test, I started the game by sending a sly winky face text to (669) 333-SEXT. Moments later, the bot texted me back with a “how u doin bae? ;)” For all its sexual prowess, the Sext Machine was apparently an idiot.
For my first sext, I decided to calibrate Sext Machine by sending it a picture of the least sexy thing I could think of: a photograph of my aged mother looking confused while holding a one-eyed, anthropomorphic coconut.
“Not hot at all X.X,” Sext Machine wrote back. Clearly, the algorithm was working.
Then I tested Sext Machine with a blurry iPhone picture of my thumb. This got Sext Machine decidedly more turgid than my addled, coconut-bearing mother had: it declared that this blurry thumb was 54% on the sliding scale of human-robot sexuality. I soon learned, though, that the Sext Machine algorithm practically defaulted to being 54% turned on. It seemed to exist in the sad, perpetual limbo of the semi-boner: a butt-like photo of my inner elbow, and a close-up selfie of the puckered orifice of my fist also garnered a 54% rating.
Could the Sext Machine be some sort of fetishist? To test, I sent Sext Machine a picture of my parakeet, Humbert Humbird, staring at an iPhone, which in turn was displaying a photo of an enormously endowed individual in cut-off jean shorts holding his foot up to the camera. If it had a taste for the strange at all, I figured this image would be enough to melt several of Sext Machine’s servos. Instead, the bot was dismissive. “…seriously? lame,” it texted.
I didn’t know what this meant. Was I being rejected for sending an openly sexual photograph to Sext Machine, or rejected because the algorithm didn’t think there was anything sexual happening in that picture, which there totally was? So I decided to test it out. I sent Sext Machine an undershot of an erection I found on Wikicommons. A few minutes later, that indisputable cock garnered an 86% sexiness rating. For good measure, I then sent Sext Machine a picture of a flaccid micropenis, also from Wikicommons. (Editor’s Note: Suuuuure.)
Surprisingly, Sext Machine liked that too: “that pic makes me like 65% turned on rn :)” It appears that robots like penises in all shapes and sizes.
I ended my relationship with Sext Machine with two last sexts. The first was a photograph of my hairy inner nostril that I thought was ambigious enough that Sext Machine might jump at the chance to carnally plunder it. BINGO. Sext Machine gave my glistening nasal cavity its highest sex ranking yet, an astonishing 93%. Which raised an obvious question: how did that sex ranking compare to my genitals? And since I’m a journalist–hellooooo, Pulitzer–I then texted a random robot programmed by a dude I don’t know a picture of my junk.
How’d it rank? A ghastly 38%. According to Sext Machine, I can’t even give this away.
For the record, mailing photos of your naked body to Sext Machine probably isn’t a good idea. In an interview with Boing Boing‘s Leigh Alexander, Walker says that it’s actually best if you don’t send Sext Machine pictures of your naked body. The bot integrates with Twilio, an SMS and MMS service which automatically stores everything. “I definitely do not intend to share the photos with anyone, but if people want to experiment with actual nudity it’s probably sensible to avoid anything identifiable,” he says.
Sage advice. Once Sext Machine and Twilio hook up with Skynet, you might find some sort of Sexterminator on your doorstep, brandishing a titanium hard-on for that 99% sexy inner armpit it scoped so many years ago. When that happens, anonymity might be the only defense you have.
You can play Sext Machine by texting ‘;); to (669) 333-SEXT.