VR porn, toys, dating apps

VR porn, toys, dating apps – men usually work at the interface of sex and technology. A Berlin conference wants to change that. Because women have good ideas too.

A mascot in a pink clitoris costume welcomes visitors to the Sx-Tech conference on 1 July in The Drivery, a venue in Berlin-Tempelhof. About half of the more than 250 guests are women, the majority on stage. There, for example, they tell how to hack vibrators and reprogram them; what it takes to get more viewers into virtual reality pornography or how to create sex toys that women actually enjoy.

Sx Tech stands for „sex tech“ – a somewhat vague term for an industry at the interface of sex and technology. This includes, for example, a vibrator connected to the Internet or erotic dating apps. Ola Miedzynska, 32, the organizer of Sx Tech, was keen to address women in particular with her conference.

For female founders it would be particularly difficult in the industry: „For a young woman it is already complicated to be taken seriously by her mostly male business partners and investors,“ she says. Talking about sex doesn’t make it easier. Since she started looking for partners for the conference, Miedzynska says, she often gets invitations to dates from the LinkedIn professional network. „Once someone even sent me penis photos via my private Instagram account,“ she says.

VR has some new opportunities, in particular for the sex industry. For example the new movie about the porn star linda lovelace would be awesome in VR.

Miedzynska spent nine years advising various start-ups, bringing them together with large companies and organizing tech conferences. She also analyzed market trends in artificial intelligence and virtual reality – and how they affected sex tech.

„Over the past four years, I’ve noticed that the really exciting innovations in the industry have come from women,“ she says, „thanks to them, among other things, we have sex toys today that can do more than just be a vibrating plastic penis. Through the influence of women in the industry, sex toys have become more diverse and elegant – and are more oriented towards female needs.

From bioglide gel to platforms for sex workers

Four years ago, for example, the US company Dame, founded by two New York women, launched the first portable clitoral stimulator on the market. It is attached to the vulval lips and allows women who wear it to have their hands free during sex. Women who, for example, do not get enough penetration to get there, are stimulated additionally. But women are not only involved in sex toys:

  1. They set up start-ups such as Sustain, which produces fair trade condoms and organic lubricants, educational apps such as Tabú or the online platform Ohlala, which brings sex workers and customers together.
  2. In 2015, two sex tech companies in New York launched the Women of Sextech network – so that founders, journalists and developers from the industry can share good ideas and support each other.
  3. Miedzynska, who is part of the network, has found nothing comparable in Europe and has therefore created Sx Tech.

The one-day conference is a mixture of lectures and panel discussions. There will also be a sex tech hackathlon: a competition in which teams of developers, marketing experts and local futurologists will design new products. The results are then evaluated by a jury. The highlight for conference visitors: They can talk to Harmony – a sex doll equipped with artificial intelligence. And they can look at sex toys: for example pair vibrators that the partner can control from a distance. Or sex toys that stimulate the clitoris with pressure waves to come as close as possible to oral sex.

„For years, the sextoy industry has lacked innovation,“ says Johanna Rief. „Some manufacturers sold it as a novelty when they released a dildo in pink. Rief is the Wow Tech Group press spokeswoman who launched the Womanizer in 2014: the first vibrator with a pressure wave stimulator. Around half of the 120 employees of the Wow Tech Group – which is also the main sponsor of the Sx Tech Conference – are women, says Rief. „60 percent of our sex toys are bought by women, 40 percent by men. And even they usually buy the toys for their partner,“ she adds.

„We can’t do without women’s knowledge when it comes to developing toys for them.“ Womanizer, the pressure wave stimulator for the clitoris, was invented by an engineer from Lower Bavaria. But the company’s interdisciplinary team, which develops innovations, is now half female, says Rief.

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