Monday, June 5, 2023

When sex toys receive the Tech-Startup treatment

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As soon as possible days of 2020, weeks before the pandemic brought an end to normalcy, the biggest gadget convention of the year was held in Las Vegas. And there was a real buzz around the health and wellness section: sex toys were featured as part of the category and would be eligible for innovation awards.

This was undeniably a promotion for sex toy companies, which in the past were present at CES but were denied prime real estate at the show. In 2019, a sex-tech start-up even received a CES innovation award for its biomimetic vibrator, but the award was canceled, which drew media attention to the product.

Lora DiCarlo, who runs the eponymous award-winning startup, has quickly become something of a spokesperson for both her own business and the larger category of sex toy entrepreneurs trying to create better, smarter products. and well designed. Many of them have been advocating innovative products and sexually positive messages for years, but it was the DiCarlo incident that helped raise awareness among the general public.

There was only one problem: DiCarlo’s innovation wasn’t much more than a prototype in 2019. It would take almost a year for the vibrator, called Ose, to start shipping, and once consumers got their hands on it, initial reviews weren’t all positive. People had paid $ 290 for a product that promised a life-changing orgasm; but some writers, like Lux Alptraum and Jess joho, found it to be a literal pain. And DiCarlo has sometimes stretched the truth when it comes to marketing both for herself and for her business, like Alptraum. reported in WIRED earlier this year.

Lora DiCarlo has since redesigned and re-released the Ose, and has shipped four more toys. But the hype around the products has raised important questions about what it means to approach intimate products with a tech startup mindset. This week, Alptraum is joining the podcast, with Joho and sex historian Hallie Lieberman, to discuss it. DiCarlo also offers his side of the story.

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