App-Connected Sex Toys Are Innovating Intimacy

The latest trend in pleasure products is keeping couples on the cutting edge

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Jan 23, 2016 at 6:44 PM ET

To witness the future of sex toys, look to today’s smartphones. In a world where access to virtually anything is just a few finger taps away, people can now dial into immersive and interactive sexual experiences with a new generation of pleasure products that are controlled via mobile apps.

Until recently, the tech aspects of sex toys were fairly simplistic—typically, users could control vibration and movement with buttons on the device itself. App-controlled devices therefore represent a giant leap forward for the sex toy industry, allowing users, no matter where they are, to fully customize their pleasure sessions.

“One of the best things about these types of pleasure products is that they can help couples stay connected sexually despite not physically being together,” Sherri Shaulis, senior editor of pleasure products at AVN, said Friday on the sidelines of the AVN Novelty Expo in Las Vegas. “Couples who live long distances, couples who travel for work or even couples with one partner overseas in the military can still be intimate with one another.”

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Product company We-Vibe created one of the first app-connected sex toys on the market, and now boasts four products in the field. One of its standout devices is The Nova, a dual-simulation, USB-chargeable, silicone-constructed vibrator that can be controlled with the company’s We-Connect app.

“There are three main features to the app, which we call ‘Touch,’ ‘Tease’ and ‘Turn On,’” said Denny Alexander, the communications manager for Standard Innovation, parent company of We-Vibe. “’Touch’ is a touch screen control [that controls the device’s vibration intensity]. ‘Tease’ is our custom vibration mode, and ‘Turn On’ is our distance control feature.”

Through the app, a user can select from more than 10 vibration modes, or program custom settings that can be saved and used later. Users may also cede control of a device to their partner, making an otherwise solitary masturbation session a collaborative and possibly more intimate affair. And if users decide to “Turn On,” they can in theory make their partner orgasm from pretty much anywhere in the world.

Alexander added that the average We-Connect user logs on four times per month and uses the app for 18 minutes per session, demonstrating that the app has become a fairly ingrained part of some people’s sexual regimens.

For those seeking a more community-oriented experience, Evolved Novelties sells six products designed for online connectivity. The company’s Vibratissimo line is compatible with its proprietary app, which allows users to create pubic profiles, search for friends and virtually interact with others. Have a particularly intense vibration pattern you just can’t keep to yourself? Now you can share it with a friend!

Evolved sales manager Lucy Vonne said that while the company’s products have gotten good reviews from users, high-tech sex toys have a little while to go before they are fully embraced by the mainstream.

“App-connected toys are more of a niche market at the moment, but one that’s growing,” Vonne said Friday. “It’s been popular among early adopters—people who always have to have the latest devices. As with any new line of products it takes a little time for people to grasp it, but [they’re] so much fun and easy to use. I think this market segment is only growing.”

This attitude has inspired other companies to strive even further. In business since 1972, Topco Sales is the first pleasure products company to combine app functionality with virtual reality. Made out of lifelike Cyberskin, its Twerking Butt device looks and feels like the real thing. It includes two inputs, six sensual massage settings and rhythmic vibration that realistically simulates human body motion. Additionally, the Twerking Butt syncs up with the included Cyberskin VR headset, fully immersing the user in 3D cybersex. Every gyration, twerk and/or bounce the user sees through the headset is mimicked exactly on the device. If the user chooses not to watch adult content supplied by the website Pornhub on the headset, they can still use the product’s standalone app to control the device’s movement, intensity and frequency.

With such advances, the adult novelty community is betting on the expansion of the app-compatible sex toy sector, particularly among smartphone-obsessed milennials.

“This trend will only continue to grow,” AVN’s Shaulis said. “Just as the rabbit-style vibrator became ubiquitous after ‘Sex and the City,’ I believe app-driven pleasure products will become the rule and not the exception for most manufacturers.”