When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, he unknowingly gifted the future with technology’s most eccentric advance: Teledildonics. Pleasure and electronics have breached the limits of factory-standard vibrators and spawned an industry-wide race to keep up with mainstream tech. Relationship experts might have warned us to keep the TV out of the bedroom, but that rule never considered the power of the iPhone.
The term “teledildonics” technically implies a relationship between telecommunications and sex toys. However, inventive manufacturers have expanded on the concept a la Star Trek, tapping virtual reality, advanced mechanical engineering, and intelligent design. “Nowadays, design and technology are deeply intertwined, and designers are using technology to enable innovative products and experiences that are breaking new grounds in the area of adult toys,” says Ti Chang, co-founder of Crave. Coupled with acceptance from conventional media, the influx of novel ideas into the adult industry is closely paralleling trends in more commonplace sectors. “Every new technology released in other mediums and industries opens up new avenues and options for adult toys,” confirms Lynda Mort, director of strategic planning for XR Brands. Companies like Crave, run by an industrial designer and a Stanford engineer, and XR, which began as an indie Ebay venture, are proving that sometimes it takes the new guy to recognize what the rest of the commerce clique is missing.
Nowadays, design and technology are deeply intertwined… —Ti Chang, Crave
“It’s very exciting to see more designers coming into the sex industry from the tech world or with engineering backgrounds,” says Sarah Tomchesson, head of business operations at The Pleasure Chest. The creation of pleasure products is no longer limited to wealthy porn execs seeking higher profit margins. Tech veterans and creative minds are seizing new opportunities to change the way the world views the pleasure industry. “The Eva by Dame is a great example of an innovative new product that was crowd funded and developed outside the industry to fill a gap,” says Tomchesson. Sex tech isn’t just a designer’s KickStarter pipe dream. Niche businesses like Dame or Orgasmatronics offer products that wouldn’t have existed without prior demand and a healthy dose of crowdfunding. “We noticed that the kink and queer communities seemed to be more excited about purchasing toys with innovative tech,” says Alexandra Ars, co-founder of Orgasmatronics. “We heard a huge demand for an anatomically correct, real-time responsive strap-on vibrator.”
Consumers are no longer satisfied with the sex toy equivalent of a flip phone and are opting for products more akin to an Android. “Customer choice has driven innovation into the industry, which now offers a multitude of low and high-tech sex toys,” says Max Chameleon, a software developer and co-founder of sex toy review blog CarnalChameleon.com. “Today you can buy a strap-on that transmits sensations experienced by the phallus not only to the wearer, but to a partner thousands of miles away. This is easily a life-changing technology for consumers, and one well worth paying for.”
Teledildonics, within its rightful definition, is an advanced form of phone sex. Using smart phones and tablets, couples are able to connect on-screen and control his-and-hers toys that enable virtual intercourse. The technology isn’t new, but sex toy manufacturers have only recently employed its uses. “It has been a slow emergence to date, and there are those who say it cannot be done,” says John McCoy, CEO of Intimuse. McCoy’s patented toy designs allow long-distance relationships to thrive through the use of real-time, bi-directional play. “Customers have similar expectations in terms of quality, reliability and innovation as they do of other devices such as smartphones, computer games and electronic devices,” notes McCoy. Intimuse focuses on an experience that matches what consumers seek from their everyday electronic devices. “Realism and compelling, easy, intuitive, intimate experiences are important for couples,” says McCoy. Such advances are bound to stir mixed feelings among more traditional manufcturers, but for inventors like McCoy, the game has already changed in favor of tech. “What we have is highly disruptive technology, and I think it worries some people in the industry,” says McCoy. “This is good news for consumers because they will benefit with expanded pleasure even if some of the industry players are nervous.”
Technological advances are almost never received with 100 percent support in any media. Apprehension will always exist when new ideas are brought forth, but it rarely prevails in the face of change. “Teledildonics is the future of the adult toy industry,” says Lynda Mort of XR Brands. “Looking back at the history of our industry, sex toys started off as mere long phallic-shaped items and have evolved to include innovative technologies like virtual reality and apparatuses that can be controlled via smartphones.” XR Brands, best known for its extreme lifestyle accessories, is taking the reigns of robotic sex. “With VR on the cusp of becoming a mainstream technology, we are doing what we can to keep up and get ahead of the curve,” says Rebecca Weinberg, director of sales at XR. “Our iFuk VR system has transformed the interactive sex simulation experience by incorporating real-time virtual reality,” explains Weinberg. “Each system comes with a headset screen and compatible stroker that instantly reacts and responds to the acts depicted on screen, and users can customize what they watch.”
From couples’ toys to advanced solo play, tech will only become more prevalent in pleasure product design as Silicon Valley quickens its pace in mainstream design. Not everyone will be able to keep up, but XR strategists are poised to stay on top. “This kind of forward-thinking erotic technology will continue to grow and incorporate into other products on the market, improving them drastically and keeping up with consumer demand,” notes Mort. “Because of our need and expectation for the latest technologies, consumers will maintain a passion, eagerness and willingness to pay for the “next big thing” in high-tech sex toys.”
Blame Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and “Fifty Shades.” The game never stays the same, especially when it comes to our obsession with newfangled ways to have sex without letting go of our smart phones. If you still aren’t convinced, look no further than your local tech geek. “I can say with confidence that technology is extremely important to human sexuality,” affirms Max Chameleon. “I can’t speak for what the market will find most in demand, but I think it’s easy to focus on how technology can enhance sexuality.” If Mr. Graham Bell could re-invent the telephone in the present day, he’d probably end up on the short list of the novelty industry’s most powerful players.