What comes to mind when you think of sextech? Sex toys? Sex robots? In fact, those two categories make up only a portion of the SexTech industry, an industry valued at $30 billion with 30% yearly growth rate, and has even been cited to be worth $122 billion by 2026. There have been many more numbers thrown around, but whatever valuation you believe, the industry is undoubtedly a fast growing one.
Also known as sex tech or sexual technologies, the term sextech itself was credibly coined in 2015 by the Make Love Not Porn’s founder, Cindy Gallop, to describe technology-driven innovation that enhances the human sexual experience.
It has become a global industry that builds software and hardware tools to liberate sexuality from the confines of societies inherited stigmas and taboos, both as a response to the lack of sex education, sexual consent in the wake of #MeToo, and to open up new conversations around pleasure and sexuality.
Ventures that sculpt, support, and spread the sextech industry include collectives such as the Women of Sex Tech, schemes such as the Sex Tech Hackathons in NYC, London, Sydney and Berlin, the Future of Sex Accelorator Programme and websites such as ours and SEXTECHGUIDE.
From smart sex toys, to adult apps, immersive porn and much, much more, the projection of sextech is almost limitless. Here’s a breakdown of what you may find in the sextech industry today.
Smart Sex Toys
Bluetooth and Wifi enabled smart sex toys use vibrator technology and motion technology to effectively stimulate the genitals, usually through a remote control mobile device or by another toy. This may seem like a pretty new concept, but the idea has been around at least since the 1990s when in 1998 a patent was created over “teledildonic” technology. This has arguably stifled the development of any “method and device for interactive virtual control of sexual aids using digital computer networks,” until 2018 when this patent was lifted.
Companies such as Kiiroo bought the rights to the patent, and could therefore develop teledildonic dual stimulation and remote control toys for their long distance products. However, many startup companies were hit hard with lawsuits for developing such products.
The possibilities for smart sex toys are infinite, accessible toys that can aid people with mobility issues, encouraging intimacy in long-distance relationships and fuelling fun in power play sexual dynamics, to name but a few.
There are so many more products that fit into the smart sex toys category, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Voice controlled vibrators, wearables that strengthen your pelvic floor with games or learn your arousal patterns to stimulate you just as you want to be stimulated, even the Cock Cam is a stroke of sextech ingenuity (yes, it’s a cock ring with a camera attached).
Speaking of smart sex toys, they wouldn’t be very smart without their app companions for remote control. The MysteryVibe App is currently only Bluetooth enabled, meaning you can locally control the vibration settings in Crescendo and Tenuto from up to 30 feet away, great for exploring power play in the bedroom.
The OhMiBod App, however, allows partner control of their products from anywhere in the world, with real time touch feedback. They also released a smart-watch version of their app so you or your partner can control it from the wrist. The club mode is a really interesting feature, where you can play your favourite songs and vibrate to the beat, or to the sound of your partner’s voice.
The Feel Connect App not only connects your device to other devices, but to online interactive adult content. We-Connect App offers video chat while you control your partner’s We-Vibe.
Dating apps, such as Tinder and Bumble, all play a huge role in the development of sextech, whether that be connecting people romantically or for hookups.
LGBTQ dating apps, such as Grindr and HER, are incredible tools for the queer community to form friendships to lifelong partners.
Fetish apps are more heavily inclined to the kink community, but they also open up possibilities to normalise deviant sexualities and attract people who have perhaps never been able to explore their wildest fantasies…using apps such as Feeld, the threesome app, or Whiplr, the messenger for kinks.
For those who maybe don’t want a real life partner, there are even apps that can provide the perfect AI lovers. A virtual partner who will keep you company, or provide the illusion for family members on your case about meeting someone.
Sexual wellness and education apps help people to rediscover their sexuality.
In the wake of #MeToo, issues around the safety of vulnerable people. Apps have tried to find ways of mediating this unsettling grey area, with “consent” apps. While the idea is a positive one, they don’t bode well if after the consent app has been used, a person revokes that consent.
Safe & the City is one app that uses GPS for people to track any sort of assault or sexual harassment in the hope that others will avoid those routes home.
Sexual health apps are also on the rise, where people can track their cycles, fertility, contraception, and STI checks.
Porn itself is a huge thread of sextech, but when it comes to innovative ways the industry are applying modern technology, we are definitely seeing more immersive and interactive ways of enjoying adult content.
Interactive cam sites enable users to interact with pornstars live. Many now use interactive smart sex toys that respond with vibrations when you pay in Bitcoins. Virtual reality (VR) porn, however, is a much more immersive way that can place you bang in the middle of your favourite porn scene and even interact with your favourite pornstars that were once only 2 dimensional. Here’s a review of the 35 top VR porn sites. Augmented Reality (AR) is also catching up to VR with these augmented reality erotic apps.
Other adult content creators are also branching into non-visual sextech, such as audio porn, encouraging the power of our other senses via immersive aural sexual stimulation.
Sex robots are a whole industry in and of themselves. However, the majority of the mainstream conversation is fear-mongering. Will they replace human relationships? Will they encourage objectification and the rape of women and children? All fair questions, but what about the possibilities sex robots could have, including sexual therapy, sexual prosthetics such as cyber-genitalia, or cyber-limbs that augment sexual skills or aid people with disabilities.
Sextech is limited only by our imagination, albeit and a bit of investment, but just think of the possibilities in a $122 billion dollar industry. What would your sextech innovation do?