When Lovense presented their first internet-controlled sex toy in 2010, only the biggest industry insiders had heard of teledildonics and long-distance sex toys. Six years later, and things are very different. But is this development a revolution in the world of adult entertainment? Not really, says Eddy Olivares, Marketing Manager of sex tech pioneer Lovense. He feels that we are only in the early stages of sex tech adoption. In our interview, we also addressed other topics that move the market at the moment: Is the end of traditional adult entertainment nigh? And how deeply have the new technologies penetrated the market?
Are we seeing the end of adult entertainment in its traditional form?
Eddy Olivares: I think we are far from traditional forms of adult entertainment being irrelevant. It’s evolving, but most people don’t like change. Traditional forms will persist for many years- they will die a slow death. I liken it to newspapers- they are still around, but subscription rates and sales are lower and lower every year.
Many people are already talking about ‘adult 3.0’. How far along is this revolution? How deeply have teledildonics, virtual reality, interactivity, etc. penetrated today’s market?
I don’t like to think of it as a ‘revolution’. The media likes to sensationalise the technology and many journalists are writing articles as if sex robots are close to taking over. It’s a bit ridiculous.
We’re in the early stages of sex tech adoption – the early adopters are cam models… our teledildonic products and cam model software allow them to make more money, so it’s an easy sell to them. The other group of early adopters will be men buying it for syncing with VR Porn- we see a lot of potential in this area. VR Porn should be considered the first ‘killer app’ for Virtual Reality- there’s more interest in it than any other application at the moment.
Teledildonics and interactive sex toys are perfect for lots of people (long distance couples and couples who enjoy public play), but they are still largely unknown. There’s got to be a catalyst to bring awareness to the general public about the availability of sex tech- then the ‘revolution’ will begin. What that catalyst will be and how long it will take is anybody’s guess.
“The companies providing the best software and hardware deserve to win.”
What is your opinion on the current range of teledildonics, virtual reality, interactive, and wearable products?
Limited. A lot of the current range is from traditional sex toy manufacturers that are experimenting or bootstrapping start-ups. I guess they see the opportunity, and are trying to ride the tech wave by sticking bluetooth into a toy. It’s not that simple. Developing sex tech is nothing like traditional toys– and the hardware and software development cannot be outsourced. Well, it can be, but the results would be bad- and the last thing consumers want are tech issues in the bedroom!
We are one of the only companies completely focused on sex tech, and consumers can recognise that. We get complimented all the time about how responsive we are to customer requests/issues and for how much better the user experience and features are for our software.
It seems as if the market for these products is fractured – there are many producers and many products, but there is no universal standard for software, apps, etc. Doesn’t that hamper the adult revolution?
I don’t think it hampers the adult revolution. The companies providing the best software and hardware deserve to win. It’s like saying Apple doesn’t deserve their profits and should allow the iOS operating system onto other phones. If open-sourcing (ala Android) is the way to go, it will succeed. There has already been an attempt to open-source ‘connected’ sex toys, but it failed.
For our company, it would be too generous to make it ‘open-source’ and allow products from other companies to work with our software. We see opportunities and make a name for ourselves by developing unique software features- like our cam model software and our upcoming VR player (both have patent-pending features). Employing a full-time development team and proper after-sales tech support is costly- we gain no benefit by adding compatibility with other manufacturers. But, we do pour our heart and soul into our company and our products. If the other companies who do sex tech are doing the same, consumers will win and the adult revolution will be alive and well.
“Our data is showing us that women are buying our long distance sex toys more than men.”
Tech and porn – sounds like something that will appeal primarily to men. And the idea of long-distance relationship sex also seems to be based on male fantasies to a certain extent. Are women only a secondary audience?
Porn tech does appeal primarily to men, but so does regular porn. If someone analysed the demographics of who is spending on porn, it’ll likely be men by a large majority.
But, long distance sex is an entirely different story. Our data is showing us that women are buying our long distance sex toys (the Max and Nora set) more than men. When someone is in a long distance relationship, lack of sexual expression (and sex) is a reminder of the intimacy gap. People in this situation are not having intricate fantasies about having ‘long distance sex’ they are looking for tools to increase the intimacy.
And what about the price of these products? It seems pretty steep. Isn’t that a hindrance if you want to really have an impact in the marketplace?
Most sex tech products do have steep price- we try to price ours fairly. On the one hand, it cost SO much more to develop compared to a traditional sex toy so a higher price is necessary… but you are right- it does have impact the adoption rate. Compared to a non-tech sex toy, our products are a bit steeper, but the functionality you get for the extra money is worth it.
How should these products be presented to the consumer? How can the trade find the right balance between ˈhigh-tech gadgetˈ and ˈsexual wellness productˈ?
I think products should always be marketed based on the value it gives a consumer. The technology in it is just a tool we use to solve someone’s problem
“We at LOVENSE don’t try to predict the future or revolutionise behaviour.”
There are already a few sex toy producers who stress the fact that their products have no high-tech features. Is that just a marketing ploy, or could it be the beginning of a counter movement?
There will always be room in the market for non-tech toys. Just like other industries, the market is segmented- consumers cannot be bunched into one group. It could be a marketing ploy, though, I would have to give a look at the statements made by the producers in question.
Some critics argue that all these new technologies used in modern sex toys offer little to no added value for the consumer. They say it’s not enough to put modern tech into a product just because you can. How do you see this situation?
The critics should talk to the countless long distance couples who contact us and thank them for developing our products. Having said that, we agree it’s not enough to put modern tech into a product just because you can. We carefully decide which products are developed. We spend our time trying to solve problems or enhance existing concepts (like public play toys).We have gotten repeated requests to add ‘long distance control’ functionality to a certain type of toy and we won’t do it- it doesn’t bring enough value to the consumer, in our opinion.
How will the adult 3.0 revolution continue? What can we expect in terms of new hardware? And what is possible with respect to new and innovative software?
How will it continue? Slowly! Good hardware takes a lot of development work. A typical product for us takes more than a year of testing and optimising before its release!
What is possible? Anything! The issue is adoption- what hardware and software will consumers be open to? It’s hard to predict. We at LOVENSE don’t try to predict the future or revolutionise behaviour. We focus on adding value to existing ideas by using technology and listening to our customers! We are a leader in sex tech because we listen carefully and react quickly to what the market is saying… we would go broke (like some of our now defunct competitors) if we poured resources into innovative products with unproven markets!