10 reasons why 2014 was the best year in sex tech

Earlier this year, Pew Research came out with a study on the future of artificial intelligence. In the study, one robotics expert was quoted as saying that by 2025, “robotic sex partners will be commonplace, although the source of scorn and division, the way that critics today bemoan selfies as an indicator of all that’s wrong with the world.”

While sex with robots still isn’t as easy or normal as Snapchatting a selfie, that’s not to say that we haven’t made advances in sex tech this year. While concern trolls caution the intersection of sex and intimacy with technology in our everyday lives, we can’t ignore the fact that there’s some pretty cool—and sexy—stuff out there, from an automated blowjob machine to a smart vibrator that replicates human sex to Oculus Rift porn to a cunnilingus-giving teddy bear.

OK, so maybe not everything about sex tech is great, but as we near the end of 2014, we’re taking a look at all the advances we’ve made in erotic technology, and look forward to what’s coming next in 2015 (pun definitely intended.)

Tracking our sex lives

Concerned that you and your partner are spending too much time on your smartphones, and not enough time between the sheets? Well, there might be some validity to that: According to a 2013 study, nearly 20 percent of millennials regularly text in bed.

But if nothing else, the rise of sex-tracking in 2014 proved we could have our cake and eat it too. Apps like Nipple and Spreadsheets capitalized on the self-quantification craze by helping us track our sexual performance, via stats, graphs, and, in the case of Nipple, cute oral sex emojis. There’s even a sex-tracking wearable: the SexFit, a Bluetooth-enabled ring that slides on the tip of your penis

Bondara

Workouts for vaginas

A word of advice, ladies: Screw the FitBit, and start screwing yourselves instead. That’s what we learned this year from the rise of vagina wearable tech, particularly the smart vagina exercise-tracker, which helps ladies work out their Kegel muscles. Much like fitness-trackers, gadgets like the kGoal, the Skea, and Lelo’s Luna Smart Bead track your exercises in real time, giving you auto-feedback via a Bluetooth-connected app. The only difference is where you “wear” them. 

Although some ladies were slightly squeamish about the rise of the vaginal fitness trend, Kegel exercises actually yield real concrete benefits, with studies showing that doing regular pelvic floor muscle exercises reduces the risk of incontinence and strengthens orgasm.

Sex toys for boys

Sex toys: They ain’t just for ladies anymore. Thanks to the success of the Autoblow 2, an automated blowjob machine that blew through its crowdfunding goals on Indiegogo, we saw new additions to the previously ignored male sex toy market, like the Pulse male vibrator, the Fleshlight Launchpad, and the Handie, a Fleshlight-type device with a customized semen-catcher. Sure, it looks kind of like a mutant catcher’s mitt, but did you not hear the words “customized semen-catcher”? Now that’s what I call technological progress.

The de-sleaze of the dating app

In light of being slapped with a sexual harrassment lawsuit by cofounder Whitney Wolfe, Tinder didn’t exactly have a great year. But competing dating app founders saw opportunity in Tinder’s PR mess, with invite-only, message-filtering alternatives like Wyldfire, Bumble, and Mesh launching in 2014. That said, the advent of safer, friendlier, more “female-friendly” dating apps hasn’t convinced Tinder users to emigrate just yet: According to a New York Times report, Tinder logs more than a billion swipes daily.

Vibrators with smarts

With physicists and engineers gradually looking to the Silicon Valley sex toy space, we started to see the market getting a whole lot smarter. Vibrators like the Hum, which was created by three Silicon Valley biohackers, replicates the experience of having sex with an actual lover by providing auto-feedback in the form of pulses and vibrations, and remote-controlled sex toys like OhMiBod’s BlueMotion and LovePalz’ recently launched Twist couples’ sex toy allow couples to stay connected over great distances. 

Smarter… but creepier?

Although sex toys are gradually becoming sleeker, more minimalist, and better-designed, following the example of companies like Apple and Google, there are still a handful of stragglers stuck in the Compaq age. Take, for instance, the aforementioned Autoblow 2, which looked a bit like a pervier R2D2, or the Teddy Love, a sex toy for women disguised as a teddy bear with a vibrating tongue

Teddy Love/Indiegogo

A condom evolution

Following Bill Gates’ call to reinvent the traditional latex condom in 2013, entrepreneurs have been attempting to disrupting the world’s most despised prophylactic—an admirable goal in itself, but some of these efforts have been, shall we say, a bit unsettling. For every positive innovation, like the open-source “electric eel” condom, we had some pretty bizarre developments, such as the Galactic Cap (essentially a tiny latex hat worn on the tip of the penis, like a mini Devo chapeau), and the Scroguard, a giant latex diaper that ostensibly prevents STIs spread via skin-to-skin contact. Thanks, but we’ll just stick with good old ribbed Trojans for now.

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A dirty side to social networks

Thanks to the creation of smutty social networks like Pornostagram (now Uplust) and the hookup app Mixxxer, it became easier for horny swingers and singles to hook up on the Internet. Not that that was ever difficult in the first place. But still, now it’s mainstream and comes with its own branding and platform vision. 

The social smut exodus 

At the start of 2014, content-sharing platforms like Vine and Twitter were brimming with porn. By the end of the year, that was no longer the case. All in all, it wasn’t such a great year for online NSFW expression: Already-stringent tech behemoths like Google and Apple cracked down on adult content even more, and even NSFW alternatives like Ello, which was founded in part as a less restrictive alternative to Facebook’s real names policy, made it clear they didn’t plan on becoming a “showcase for that type of content,” according to a blog post by founder Paul Budnitz. So what will become of kinksters wandering the desert of the Internet, desperately searching for a tolerant and accepting social network, come 2015? That remains to be seen.

Porn goes beyond HD

While porn didn’t get more “realistic” in terms of actual content (as far as we can tell, blonde lesbians with giant breasts and talon-like nails are in as high demand as they ever were) it did get a lot more naturalistic in terms of tech. The porn company Naughty America announced it was developing 4K content, which is much crisper and clearer than standard HD, and at least two companies are in the process of developing their own up-close-and-personal pornographic content for Oculus Rift. Although Oculus hasn’t been released on the general market yet, it’s just a matter of time before getting oral sex from a naughty babysitter or a sexy Spongebob Squarepants will be as simple as strapping on a headset. The future of masturbation is now! And it’s naked, red-faced, sweating, and has headset acne. 

Photo by Don Hankins/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.