Houses, cars, sex toys: The internet of things keeps growing as more and more objects can communicate with one another and the person using them. This trend has long since reached the adult industry, and it continues to gain momentum. But do we really need masturbators that can be connected via the internet or cock rings that measure the thrust speed or vibrators that can “feel” the emotional state of the user? Put differently: Is this the future of sex toys? Do these products offer real value or are they just made because they can be made?
Why does someone own a sex toy? If you answer is to have a quick and uncomplicated orgasm, then, yes, I guess there is no real need for interconnectivity among sex toys. And the fact that toys can collect data wouldn’t do the user much good either, after all, that information could only come to bear in the next product generation, right?
But if you look at it from the producer’s perspective, you get a different picture. If you know when and how your products are used, you can optimise the next toys for exactly those situations. And the more a producer knows about the users, the easier it is to meet their expectations. This way, they can create the products the consumers really want. This process is already commonplace in the world of digital products, so why not adopt in the adult market? No matter which technology is applied to stimulate the user – whether the toy vibrates, pulsates, or massages – everything can be customised to match the consumers’ preferences.
But before we reach this stage, there are still some hurdles product developers have to overcome. For instance, a few weeks ago, it was reported that hackers had managed to crack the software of We Vibe 4. That raised the question of user and data protection. For connected products to truly catch on, the producers need to convince the consumers that their personal data are safe and that no third party will gain access to them. This is all the more important because there are many consumers who are sceptical towards the concept of data collection to begin with.
What’s more, the best technology won’t save a product if it doesn’t deliver the performance consumers expect. If producers promise better sex or more intimate relationships, they have to be able to back up those claims. Not least of all because sex tech products are usually positioned in the upper price segment due to the expensive and time-consuming development process. Today, the digital revolution of sex toys is still in its earliest stages, and it would be premature to write it off at this point only because it is not quite as revolutionary as advertised – yet. Not every high-tech sex toy with app controls, Bluetooth, etc. is going to be a revelation or even a success. But don’t dismiss this trend. Chances are that, before long, it will produce a few veritable mega sellers.
A clever idea alone does not make a good product. Nor does modern technology. That may sound harsh, but I feel it reflects the reality of the market pretty accurately. Many product ideas that seem innovative at first glance have turned out to be duds because they lacked practical functionality or were held back by other factors – oftentimes, the price. And you can find many examples of such failures in the adult market. Lots of products have quickly been dismissed because people felt they were all bells and whistles, useless gadgets with little to no added value.
There’s nothing worse than a product promising sexual satisfaction that can’t keep this promise because there is too much focus on other things. I am not saying this is true for the products of the new sex tech revolution – well, not all of them -, but it often seems that modern technology is shoehorned into the design of a sex toys just because it’s possible, and as a result, the actual purpose of the vibrator, etc. is neglected. The idea of partner A sitting in Paris and controlling the vibrator of partner B halfway around the planet with his masturbator – yes, that sounds really cutting-edge, fun, and it probably also tickles the imagination of many couples in long-term relationships.The idea of a cock ring measuring the speed of sex – well, that sounds unusual (how long before someone adds a calorie metre to one of these things?), but it might be fun. The idea of controlling sex toys with your smartphone via app – yes, that’s probably modern and up-to-date and all.
But, if I may ask: What about the functionality and usability and all the other factors that traditionally make a great, appealing sex toy? If these elements are pushed to the sidelines of the development process because the focus is on other things, namely modern technologies – or if products are only developed because there is this new technology that you could theoretically put in a sex toy – how can these products ever reach the same level of success and acceptance as products that focus on actually being sex toys? We all know that there is an audience for pretty much any product, small as it may be. So what’s in the cards for sex tech products? It is possible that they win over a small fan base while the rest don’t really care because they feel it’s just a bunch of gimmicky gadgets. In the worst case, the idea and the technology seem great at first glance, but the user experience ends up being disappointing. However, seeing as VR is looking to be the next big thing, it’s also a very real possibility that interactive toys become a big hit, taking the experience of consuming pornographic content to a new level. Of course, the porn factor will appeal mostly to men. But then again, the combination of porn and technology seemed to be a male thing to begin with. That won’t really get a lot of women on board. Who knows, maybe 2016 will really be the year of the male sex toy …