Over the past few years, the wall separating X-rated tech from the rest of the industry has begun to slowly crumble as various Silicon Valley types try their hands at creating sex toys. OhMiBod was founded by a former Apple employee; the (now-defunct) Revel Body was invented by an angel investor; and MysteryVibe (where, full disclosure, I was briefly a consultant back in 2015) was launched by a former management consultant who partnered with an array of design firms better known for working with the likes of Ford and Gatorade than anything XXX.
The one problem? Importing the Silicon Valley mindset to the world of erotic products has mostly resulted in terrible sex toys.
Take, for instance, the Lovely cock ring, the brainchild of Jakub Konik, who previously worked for Ashley Madison competitor Victoria Milan. Lovely is an app-enabled cock ring that promises access to various sex-related metrics, suggestions for new positions and erotic activities, and — if you’re willing to spend $29.99 / month — access to sex educators and relationship experts through an in-app chat program. It’s a bloated, unwieldy offering that seems more concerned with adding on features than actually enhancing sexual pleasure. Not surprisingly, Lovely failed to generate enough consumer interest to meet its initial crowdfunding goal — and yet, it’s one of the few erotic products that’s successfully secured VC funding.
But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: the mindset that brought us Lovely is the same one that brought us Juicero, “smart” hairbrushes, and a $100 Bluetooth-enabled toaster. The Silicon Valley approach is bad for sex toys because it’s generally bad for consumer products. And as long as companies are designing toys with an eye toward securing VC funding, we’ll be awash in erotic products that privilege tech fads over consumer satisfaction.