Sex-Tech Companies Are Having More Fun Than the Rest of Us at CES | WIRED
That’s what happened in early 2019, when DiCarlo and her team were awarded a CES Innovation prize in the Robotics and Drone category. Their product, the Ose, was a prototype of a robotic, hands-free device designed to simultaneously stimulate a woman’s clitoris and the erogenous area known as the G-spot. It was codeveloped with Oregon State University’s robotics and engineering lab. (DiCarlo’s pitch to potential collaborators: “I had an orgasm when I was 28, and I have a great idea for a product.”)
Shortly afterward, when DiCarlo applied for exhibition space, the Consumer Technology Association disqualified the Ose. It was “immoral,” “obscene,” “profane.”
Backlash ensued. DiCarlo hired a PR firm. News outlets, including WIRED, picked up on the story of the rescinded prize. This was not because the Ose itself was so obviously defensible—it was still just a prototype, few people had tried it—but because the views of the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on CES, seemed so perniciously outdated. A line had been drawn in the desert sand. Men, and it is mostly men at CES, could grin their way through VR porn demos in the far corners of the show as recently as 2017. But the gadgets geared toward women, particularly as the internet-of-things trend emerged, were overwhelmingly products like undulating baby bassinets, smart breast pumps, pulsing skin-care wands, and self-emptying vacuum cleaners.
“It was so shocking, because we really thought this was turning the tide on how we approach female sexuality—and just sexuality, period,” DiCarlo told me. “We view female sexuality as sacred. We don’t view it as something vile or disgusting.”
Then, last summer, the CTA sent out an email detailing a few policy changes for CES 2020. This year’s show would include tech-based sexual products on a one-year trial basis, provided the products were deemed “innovative” by the CTA. They would be put into the Health and Wellness bucket, and they had to include some sort of new or emerging tech to qualify. Your vintage vibrator wouldn’t cut it.
There were around a dozen sex-tech companies exhibiting at CES this year, according to the CTA. They have names like Satisfyer, OhMiBod, and Crave. Sex-positive or downright punny signs abound, ones that read, “Come as you are!” “John the App RLOVEution” or “If we talk about pleasure outside of the sheets, we can bring it out of the shadows.”
Almost all of them were marketing products to women, though many have inclusive language in their messaging.
Many of the products work with apps, because there are apps for that. The president of Satisfyer, a popular sex-tech brand distributed by a German company called EIS, told me that the company’s most-sold item is a clitoris stimulator. He started to demo a new app that will eventually work across a few Satisfyer products, ones that have proprietary “air pulse” technology. Then he threw up his hands and asked Megwyn White, a sex wellness educator, for help. “I am not a woman, so it’s hard for me to talk about,” he said.
White showed me a series of default presets in the iPhone app: Big Fun, Spark, Good Fun, Hammer, Rumble, and Wave. The primary user of the app can grant remote access to a partner, so that if you’re in another state or even another room, a partner can flick their fingers on a touchscreen and control the frequency and intensity of a Satisfyer. They can use their voice or a favorite song to dictate rhythm. In the future, customers will even be able to do this from an Apple Watch, White said.
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