I wasn’t cybering long before it occurred to me that one day, we’d be able to connect sex toys to our computers and actually feel one another. I’ve held on to this idea, looking over every technological and pleasure offering for some twenty years, watching the pieces fall into place, getting closer and closer. We’re so close now, I can almost taste it.
Last year, LovePalz made one of the first commercial attempts to bridge the gap that the internet had created when it knocked down geographic barriers to love and desire. LovePalz was a dream in teledildonics design: a sleek two-way experience that relays sensation from a thrusting dildo to a squeezing cock sleeve using only wireless internet.
This wasn’t the first time someone had tried to take the meat to the virtual, but its forerunner, the Virtual Hole and Virtual Stick had come and gone in 2007 without so much as a blip. Many suggest it had to do with its design, which had that sort of sketchy quality shared by unattractive sex toys of old, but I think the more likely culprit was that it was too far ahead of the game. It’s important to think several moves ahead in technology, but it’s also possible to think so far ahead that you leave your potential consumer base in the dust. Think about it — in 2007, Twitter was only about a year old, still mostly a place full of “nerds” that “regular” people, when confronted with it, thought was ridiculous. At the beginning of 2007, Facebook had only been available to the public for a little over three months. The social aspects of the web that we take for granted now were only just about to be discovered by a large fraction of the national population. Virtual Hole and Virtual Stick had a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.
This was no longer the case when LovePalz’s maker, the Taipei-based Winzz, launched the funding campaign for its teledildonics offering five years later. The market was online and completely acclimated to virtual interaction. By 2012, Facebook was allowing non-reciprocal relationships — you could now “follow” people like you could on Twitter without being “friends.” By 2012, “normal” people were proposing marriage to their partners on Twitter, live-casting everything from going into labor to baking, sharing their trials and joys with hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of strangers like they’d been born to engage in this way. By 2012, we were readier than we’ve ever been for teledildonics.
Over 5,000 pre-orders poured in over LovePalz’s first two months. Today LovePalz has sold over twice that many pairs of units. They’re currently getting ready to begin distributing an upgraded version of their product — an upgrade that includes taking some poetic license and adding vibration to their thrusting dildo.
This LovePalz upgrade is coming as a new effort in teledildonics marches into the spotlight. Two weeks ago, Dutch entrepreneur Toon Timmermans launched an Indiegogo campaign for another go at taking physical pleasure into the virtual realm. His product is the Kiiroo. Unlike LovePalz, the Kiiroo isn’t just about keeping the connection alive between lovers facing separation, but about helping people come together physically no matter what kind of relationship they’re after.
Along with their devices, which, like LovePalz, relay sensations from one to another, Kiiroo is building a social network. Kiiroo comes for the Greek word kyrios, meaning “lord” or “master,” a name meant to convey to prospective users that they’re the ones in charge — they decide what they want and how they use their devices, and have the power via their profiles to accept or decline interactions. One of Kiiroo’s differentiators is the fact that you can use your device to transmit to more than a single user at a time.
Though no mention was made of monetizing interactions, Timmermans did list camgirls as potential users in a recent interview with Fast Company. This possible commercial aspect could explain why the Kiiroo is angling to offer sensation relays from one device to multiple-users straight out of the gate.
That they didn’t think the current iteration of Kiiroo’s female device, the OPue, needed to actually receive signals suggests that Kiiroo has been watching the evolution of LovePalz and accepted what the break-through company acknowledged in its upgrade — that women need something beyond a thrusting device to enjoy the same height of pleasure that men do with their squeezing sleeves. The OPue is a vibrating dildo, straight up.
“We see ourselves as a technology company who wants to create a new community and in that community, the opportunity to be intimate in a third dimension,” Timmermans told Fast Company. While currently gauging the market via the Indiegogo campaign, the founder’s hope is to hook up with Second Life, and to channel the sexual interactions in the digital game into the realm of physical experience. Second Life, for its part, has expressed interest in Kiiroo. If that works out, Timmermans could be looking at a sweet piece of some 10 milion users.
It looks like Kiiroo has taken note of RealTouch’s recent decision to call it quits and worked to develop all their own technology. The good news for RealTouch fans is that Kiiroo will be encoding adult films to relay sensations to viewers via their devices as these motions appear onscreen. Though the Kiiroo doesn’t seem to offer as diverse a range of sensations as the RealTouch, it’s a small consolation — and another aspect of the sensation game that LovePalz doesn’t yet have covered.
For all the excitement, it is somewhat discouraging that Kiiroo’s female device doesn’t receive data. Word is that they’re working to change that — though it will require a total overhaul of their female device. Why they didn’t go the extra mile for added clitoral stimulation after making the concession to give up sensory relays in favor of ensuring pleasure, is unclear.
Despite these observations, it’s good news for consumers to see another contender in the teledildonics space. Succeed or fade away, more companies mean more interest in the space. And this one is starting to finally get the attention it deserves. In September of last year, the sleekly-designed Elaico made an attempt to get in on the market via Skype, though sadly their Indiegogo campaign reached only five percent of its goal. Then just two months later, FriXion came into view. Still in the pre-beta registration stage, this last one is incredibly promising. Though it involves standard parts like the Fleshlight and regular penis-shaped dildos, FriXion’s strength lies in its use of machine arms to relay the acceleration of thrust from one user to the other. FriXion’s focus on developing a strong, responsive machine arm that can be made to work with a number of existing products instead of any one stimulation device makes it incredibly versatile, and the added promise of an open API for developers to continue to innovate means users will have even more to choose from. Of course, that’s all in the future.
But, hey, we’ve waited this long — we can wait a little longer.
Header image from Kiiroo.