On August 17th, U.S. Patent No. 6,368,268 expired, and the sex-toy industry rejoiced.
The patent was originally filed in 1998, and gave the patent holder (TZU Technologies) the rights to any internet-controlled sex toys, more specifically known as teledildonics.
Now that the infamous “teledildonics patent” has come to a climax, sex-toy manufacturers are free to invent internet-controlled vibrators, dildos and fleshlights without either having to pay a hefty licensing fee to TZU Technologies or being sued, all of which means that we may soon be introduced to more (and better) teledildonics.
But let’s back up for a moment to explore how teledildonics actually work. “The direction that teledildonics are going in now [provides users with] the ability to sync sensations by using two toys that are connected,” says Carolyn Eagle of Betty’s Toy Box. “It has amazing possibilities, not only for long-distance relationships, but for the entire porn industry. Imagine being able to watch a performer on your computer and actually stimulate them with a sex toy—and they can do the same to you.”
Essentially, teledildonics allow you to have virtual “sex” from across the world (so long as you have a functioning internet connection). “Two of the most popular items these days, although there are always new ones coming out due to the competitive market, are the Kiiroo Onyx Masturbator and Pearl Vibrator,” says Chelsea McCain, sex toys and novelties manager for the online adult retailer and entertainment website Adult Empire. “These two products can be purchased separately or together, but either way, they’re app-run and mimic intercourse in real time. When the Pearl is inserted, the Onyx picks up the signal and begins to stroke faster and provide a tighter feeling. With the push of a button, the Onyx user can also control the vibration patterns of the Pearl.”
McCain also mentions that she knows at least one long-distance couple who “benefited tremendously” from the We-Vibe Pivot (cock ring) and Wish(vibrator), which can be connected using the We-Connect app. “They were highly sexually active [before they were separated due to work travel], so they needed something to keep them connected besides sexual video chatting, sexting and sending nudes,” McCain says.
Speaking of We-Vibe, sex-toy reviewer Candy Snatch tells me that she and her partner use the app-enabled We-Vibe Nova and Jive vibrators to get each other off from miles apart. “Despite the huge distance between us, he’s able to control the toy in my hand, and this amuses me and turns me on in equal parts,” she explains. “The actual setup is a bit jarring to the mood, though. The first attempt to connect with him didn’t work, so we had to reconnect to get his end of the connection sound. I suggest doing this in advance to actual play, as it’s a bit of a mood-killer.”
But despite some technical difficulties—including laggy video chat that forced Snatch and her partner to switch over to the arguably less interesting texting function that works with the We-Connect app—the couple has had mostly positive experiences using teledildonics. “It feels a bit like super sexting,” Snatch explains, adding that remotely-controlled sex toys feel nothing at all like real sex. “Despite the remote, disconnected nature of teledildonics, they do definitely make me feel closer to him. I felt more connected than during, say, sexting or phone sex. It also feels surreal, and this—the feeling of being stimulated from afar—adds to my arousal.”
Snatch also says that she’s worn the Jive in public, allowing her partner to get her off while she’s going about her business. “This was great fun and certainly added a thrill to the teledildonics experience, but I found it frustrating when the app glitched a few times and the connection was lost,” she explains. “This is definitely a downside to using teledildonics: The technology is still a little glitchy and drops out at times, which can be frustrating when you’re in the throes of passion, or even worse, when you’re about to come.”
If you’re wondering how her partner feels about teledildonics, Snatch says that he thoroughly enjoys being in control of her vibrators. “He feels as though, despite the distance, he’s still in charge of my pleasure and orgasms,” she emphasizes. “For a couple in a long-distance relationship, this is vital.”
Still, Snatch doubts that teledildonics, in their current form, can fully recreate sex. “For long-distance couples, a teledildonic device is a great investment,” Snatch says. “But it’s not a replacement for sex—it’s more like an enhancement to play, which allows you to achieve greater intimacy with your long-distance partner.”
That’s not to say, however, that teledildonics won’t experience a thoroughly sexy revamp thanks to the recent conclusion of the teledildonics patent. “Hearing that people come together so easily through these products, you can’t help to wonder what direction we’re going in next with them,” McCain says. “I’m excited to see what the future holds.”