Better loving through technology: a day at the sex-toy hackathon

Sound-controlled vibrators, 3D-printed clitorises and ‘Michael Gove’ as a safe word: coders and inventors try to find the future of sex in south London

Twelve years of Catholic school prepares you for a lot of weird things, but walking into a church to find 50 people testing vibrators on each other’s noses, strapping each other into inflatable hug machines and flinging around bits of deconstructed sex toys under a huge stained-glass window that reads THOU ART THE KING OF GLORY O CHRIST is not one of them.

I am at Goldsmiths, University of London, in the church of what used to be St James Hatcham but was transformed, some years ago, into an arts “hub”. Hacksmiths, the student-run tech society at the university, runs “hackathons” – invention marathons – where over the course of three days, attendees of varying skills and backgrounds camp out on air beds and eat pizza while brainstorming and building machines. For this event, the theme was sex technology.

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Simon Parkin’s best video games of 2017

An immersive, interactive exploration of life on Earth and Nintendo’s resurgent flights of escapism were among the highlights of the gaming year

• Observer critics’ reviews of the year in full

As social media shrinks and quickens the world, and the threats we face seem to grow ever taller and closer, the relevance of entertainment (and, whisper it, art) appears to diminish. Surely the king’s ransom it takes to fund a blockbuster film would be more usefully and perhaps profitably applied to combating climate change, or Boris Johnson’s gaffes? What is a commissioned oil portrait if not the most extravagant of all selfies, taken in a world to whose indignities and injustices no one can claim to be blind? In this context, video games can seem like the hollowest endeavours of all. They cost ever larger sums to build, require ever greater numbers of talented minds to make, and distract ever more humans from the practical issues of reality.

And yet in video games we often perceive some of the mathematical building blocks of existence, often follow the logical chains of cause and effect that follow our actions and reactions, and occasionally catch ghostly, flitting shadows of how life works and maybe even what it means.

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Breck Bednar’s mother hopes film about his murder goes viral

Lorin LaFave wants story of her son’s death by an online predator to highlight the threat posed to young male gamers

The mother of a 14-year-old boy murdered by an online predator is working with police on a film about his killing as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the sexual exploitation of boys.

Lorin LaFave, the mother of Breck Bednar, who was murdered in 2014 after being groomed online, is working with several police forces on the film. It will be modelled on Kayleigh’s Love Story, a film made by Leicestershire police about a 15-year-old schoolgirl who was killed after being groomed by a man who sent her an unsolicited Facebook message. Made with the support of the victim’s family, Kayleigh’s Love Story has been widely screened at local schools and viewed by an estimated 35 million people online.

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5 apps you can’t miss this week

Here are the 5 apps you can’t miss this week. We’ve been searching the Play Store for you, and these caught our eye: YouTube Go, Onetap Glitch, Beat Street, and more!

(This is a preview – click here to read the entire entry.)

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