Innovating Pleasure Products By Syncing With Mobile Technology

Alex Parker

Future gazing is always fraught with danger as in a few years someone is going to read this and have a good old chortle. I’ve done it myself, seeing letters I sent to magazines as a kid, indignant about some development in the field of IT, or how such and such a PC was superior to another. The fact is that none of us can reliably predict the future, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying and when your business is at stake – and maybe right now we can all get some help from some of the richest corporations on the planet.

About 18 months ago I did an April 1st piece for an industry magazine about using the Raspberry Pi “credit card computer” to control sex toys. Along with a spoof website I set up (http://lovingtoyz.com/) the idea was to have some fun. But was it so far from the reality we see developing today?

Offering a range of complexities and features will mean that your product will appeal to everyone from a basic tablet user to the most tech-savvy pleasure enthusiast.

European countries have some of the highest penetrations of smart phones in any of the world markets. According to surveys conducted by Google in 2013, the U.K. specifically has a higher percentage of smartphone users than the U.S. Add to that the number of tablets using Android or iOS and you have a vast percentage of consumers who own a tool that is capable of linking to any networkable/connectable device.

The logic is pretty simple. Take a sophisticated and powerful piece of tech that your consumer already owns and link it to your product. It doesn’t matter if that’s TV, DVR, home heating system or fridge, you have instantly added value to your product and given the consumer the perception that they are more empowered. Now, drop the control interface on to your own product and you have achieved something even more exciting, not only is your product cheaper to produce but when it comes to sex toys it may be more compact, easier to make waterproof and you have created a product that may not even have been remote controlled before.

With smartphones and tablets, voice control of pleasure devices becomes feasible. With the phone in your hand or at the side of your bed you immediately fix the problem of current voice controlled vibes, which have a microphone built into them – it’s so far away from your mouth when used they can be very unreliable.

Hang on! Then there’s the sophistication you can add to the controls. Fully programmable toys that you can tune and experiment with, the ability to share programs with friends and lovers by email and even dedicated online platforms, perhaps send a new vibe program as a gift to your lover!

So the possibilities are endless, the benefits are obvious and yet it hasn’t happened before. The problem has been the technology and the relatively high cost of R & D in comparison with the size of production runs in the adult industry. Since generic chipsets and cheaper smart phones/tablets have become available, the gap between what’s possible and the ceiling price for pleasure products has rapidly closed and now no longer exists.

Previous attempts at sex toy interactivity have been in my opinion a little premature, too close to the bleeding edge of technology and in my experience disappointing. Like the Apple Newton or Sony’s Aibo, they arrived before the tech was ready to deliver a useful product at a reasonable price, out of the reach of everyone but a few rich geeks.

Using smartphones, connected via Bluetooth to your vibe, or cock ring or whatever else allows manufacturers to leverage their existing products and reduce development spend considerably. There are some incredible classic vibes out there that don’t have to be submerged by the rafts of new product releases which characterize some manufacturers’ marketing strategies. Take the best vibes from LELO, Jimmyjane, Je Joue or Fun Factory and upgrade them with Bluetooth connectivity, add a USB port for charging, and potential programming and what you have is a bucket full of “win.”

Now the economics of programmable sex toys have made almost anything possible what do you as a designer, manufacturer or retailer of adult products need to be aware of?

Smartphone and tablet use is only going to increase so any and all potential consumers could be in the market for one of the new generations of sex toys.

Offering a range of complexities and features will mean that your product will appeal to everyone from a basic tablet user to the most tech-savvy pleasure enthusiast.

Consider if it’s worth investing in a social network presence designed for your product. Right now I can’t see it working without a huge investment in terms of time and capital spend. Creating a secure and properly policed, full-feature social network/forum to share programs is beyond the pockets of even the richest of sex toy vendors. Stick to the ability to email programs to each other via XML files or create a simple, secure program sharing facility on your product/company site.

Start off with a simple user interface and offer free upgrades via app stores or in the case of Android apps via your own website and the Play Store. People love freebies and it’s almost guaranteed your first shot at a user interface will need to be refined. All software is an evolution and is never finished, plus if your vibe gets a new feature you’ll need to update the apps.

Exploit haptic feedback on handsets that allow it. A smooth screen may be difficult to use in the heat of passion and the gentle feedback can help when using the interface.

Create a standard, make it extensible and stick to it. Nothing ticks off tech users more than having to throw out all their old gadgets because the vendor stopped supporting it. Something as simple as using XML as your storage medium for programs can help there.

Decide if your product is going to be “dumb.” A dumb product that simply changes its stimulation patterns in response to the phone will be cheaper to produce, but if the phone battery dies or your tablet can’t connect to the pleasure product you’ve just got a very expensive dildo not a super hi-tech vibe. Allowing the vibe to store and interpret the programs given to it might cost more but at least it will work after if you’re sans cell phone.

Use a reputable and professional set of developers to create your app and the ecosystem around it. Cutting corners on development staff will come back to bite you later in the product life cycle, app development can be carried out by any competent programmer but only a specialist will get it right.

Consumers today are either carrying a smartphone or have one close to hand. In the U.K. many people seem dependent on the little slabs of tech to carry out even basic tasks, so why not pleasuring themselves too?

Isaac Newton said in a letter to Robert Hooke “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders [sic] of Giants.” A quotation that’s appropriate here for many reasons. Newton’s acknowledgement of the great achievers that had gone before is at its core and while no pun is intended the very multi-billion dollar corporation that has driven the acceptance of smartphones, Apple got its name and its original logo from Newton’s apocryphal incident in the orchard. Alongside Microsoft, Google and the tech hardware producers, adult product designers have a veritable crowd of giants to help them conceive, design, build and sell products that really will blow our minds.


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