Dema Tio was a newlywed working in technology in Boston. His wife was back in Singapore. They missed each other. A lot. "I didn't want my wife to be a desperate housewife," he said. So like any dutiful husband, he decided to design a wireless programmable smart vibrator so that they could share intimate moments even though they were thousands of miles apart.
The Vibease, launching officially this week, resembles other high-end sex toys on the market, an ergonomic knob cloaked in waterproof, fuchsia silicone. What's different lurks inside. Using an Android app, you or your lover can pre-record an audio fantasy or voice message and sync the movements of the device with the story.
"When the guy says I’m touching you softly, or I'm touching you hard, he can choose the movement to follow the story," says Tio. Or the user can choose an "immersive" reading of, say, 50 Shades of Grey. Tio envisions the app eventually hosting a marketplace of erotic stories created and shared by users, with the thrills already baked in. I picture obsessive fans of Ira Glass getting crazy with old podcasts of This American Life.
Although Tio is a graduate of the buzzy Shenzhen-based hardware incubator Haxlr8r, with advisors including Zach Smith, founder of Makerbot, and Cyril Ebersweiler, early stage investor at Leap Motion, he hasn't had an easy road to launch. Kickstarter, for example, rejected his campaign due to adult content.
"Definitely there’s still stigma about sex toys," he says. "Raising money is tough. Most investors say they need to wait and see how we’re going to market. If it goes too hardcore porn, it’s hard to continue. If we prove we can sell it as acceptable to the mainstream, then we have a chance to raise funding." What's considered mainstream also varies widely from market to market, he says; while Asian women won't admit to an interest in marital aids, European women buy them "like lipstick."
[Woman at the finish line: Pete Saloutos via Shutterstock]