Lying in bed, surfing on the web with the TV on, being constantly reachable until your eyes drop shut – there can be no doubt that modern technology has invaded even our bedrooms, demanding our attention – attention that would otherwise have been invested in other things. For instance, intimacy and togetherness. But modern technology can also help people get closer, as demonstrated by the new app Pillow. In our EAN interview, developer Darren J. Smith explains how Pillow achieves this lofty goal and why a programme such as this is so important in today’s world.
On your website you describe Pillow as a “permission-giving app“. What exactly is Pillow and how is it supposed to improve people’s lives? Darren J. Smith: Pillow is an iOS app that takes couples through follow-along intimacy nurturing experiences. You pick an episode, choose a voice, press play and are audio-guided through these playful adventures. It’s great for inspiring creativity and improving intimate communication, but is ultimately designed for you and your partner to feel closer.
Pillow is “permission giving” because you literally have a voice in your bedroom directing you through an experience via your phone. Most of us find it difficult to talk openly about sex (less so the readers of this magazine!) Pillow makes it easier because it’s a conversation starter, and it’s emotionally easier to say yes or no to something suggested by random voice in an app than it is your partner.
We’re providing a platform to educate a new generation in the different ways of experiencing intimacy, connection and sex. Unfortunately, porn is the only way the majority of our society learn how to have sex, and the popular free porn sites don’t promote gender equality.
What can you tell us about the company and the team behind the app?
So my background is in children’s gaming and education tech startups. I want to bring that playfulness we had as kids (but neglect as adults) into the heart of one of the most important parts of our lives — intimacy and relationships.
My cofounder Laura Stucki has a business background, and we’ve partnered with one of the youngest Psychosexual Therapists here in the UK.
We’ve taken on a small round of investment so far, and will likely be raising again later this year.
How did you come up with the idea for Pillow?
I’ve been exploring the #SexTech space for 18 months. We built a few prototype products and listened to the feedback. We realised there’s a totally unexplored space – in making sex advice “real-time” as opposed to “read now do later”. Most of us are interested in learning more about sex whether it’s to impress a partner or to seek pleasure, but it’s takes effort and can be emotionally uncomfortable. We want to make it as easy as possible to have a new exciting and sensual adventure together, even after a long day at work and five years of living under the same roof!
Pillow uses audio-guided adventures to guide the users. Are we basically talking about an erotic audio book?
An audiobook takes you on somebody else’s journey, we take you on your own journey. Depending on the episode, Pillow either directs one of you, or both of you. You submit to the commands of a beautiful honey-voiced stranger.
We’re less focused on kink right now, and are crafting more accessible episodes focussed on closeness and intimacy building. Given Apple’s policy towards iPhone apps we need to start with the “soft stuff” but hope to explore the variety of human sexuality as we work with a variety of writers in the future.
Could you give us an example of such an adventure? What will the users be doing?
One of the most popular complaints from women goes like this, “He just rushes straight to sex/penetration – I wish he’d slow down!”. Our Irresistibly Tantalising episode is deliberately designed to make the listener slow right down and spend 20 minutes teasing the whole body.
In this episode just one partner follows along to the audio direction and thus the receiving partner can simply relax and enjoy the sensation of touch without needing to reciprocate. “This episode slowly builds sensuous one-to-one touch into a fully immersive, skin-tingling experience. Delve into a full-body encounter where the gentlest caresses unearth deep-seated pleasures. Together, you’ll explore unexpected new erogenous zones and rediscover the eroticism of deliberate, lingering skin-on-skin contact.”
Will there be different categories that cater to different tastes?
Most definitely. Human sexuality is beautifully varied! For launch we have episodes that focus on touch, pace, appreciation, anticipation, eye gazing, sensory deprivation and temperature play but we still have so much to learn and creatively explore! We plan on crafting episodes that take you through all sorts of fantasies and adventures, that explore the physical body and the emotional self, and which make you and your partner even better, together.
How many of these audio adventures are you going to release with the app? Are there plans to release additional adventures after the app has launched?
We launch with 10 episodes, 5 – 25 minutes in length. We’ll be releasing at least 2 new episodes a month post launch, but plan on ramping this up as fast as we can. We also want to experiment with different voices… any requests?
The problem your app tries to solve is a lack of intimacy in relationships. What would you say are the main causes for this problem and how can technology help solving it in general?
Ironically, our addiction to technology is one of the main causes of lack of intimacy in relationships. We rarely get any real alone time with our partners because we spend so much time being disrupted and distracted by our iPhones, iPads, TVs and Laptops. Furthermore, with so many opportunities in our world of abundance, our longer working hours and busier jobs that are no longer confined to the workplace, we just don’t give enough priority to our relationships.
Most interaction with technology is designed for single-person use. It was called a ‘personal computer’ (PC) for a reason. However, we believe that technology can be used by 2 people at the same time, in the same room, to help nurture that intimate space between them. Pillow is your meditator, your storyteller and your couples intimacy coach available in the safety, privacy and comfort of your own home.
What are the technical requirements for your app?
You’ll need an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad running iOS 8.2 or higher, and a 3G/4G or wifi connection.
How expensive is Pillow? Is there a way to try it out before buying?
You can download the app for free and try 3 of the episodes. To access all the content, you can subscribe to Pillow for €7.99/£5.99 per month, or €39.99/£29.99 for the year.