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We're making hackable, open-source sex toys (NSFW) (comingle.io)
172 points by durkie on Jan 13, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments

Hi all! We're making an Arduino-based sex toy platform to which you can attach any kind of sensor or controller and change change how your toy responds. You can also create interesting motor vibration patterns or build your own toy in whatever form you like.

So far we've had lots of fun connecting wii Nunchucks, heart-rate monitors, music/audio sensors, capacitive touch sensing (a la makey makey -- turn almost anything in to a touch interface. Bananas, body piercings, large metal objects are fun here), stroke sensors, and geiger counters (weirdest, but probably the most boring, at least in relatively radiation-free Atlanta).

Our toys are hopefully going to be exposing lots of people to programming that have no experience with it, and we're excited about creating fun tools to do this.

On the back-end, currently the only way to talk to an Arduino over the web is via the NPAPI plugin architecture (deprecated and soon to be highly-restricted by Chrome), or by the Chrome Serial API. So we'll be developing a graphical front-end that turns intention ("make all the motors vibrate in this pattern", "make the accelerometer in my wii nunchuck" increase/decrease vibration pattern frequency") in to Arduino code, which then gets compiled on the back-end and delivered via Chrome extension to your toy.

Very cool! But ATMega's can be pretty pricey as well as connectors like USB. Bluetooth LE would be a pretty good alternative especially since it's wireless.

Check out platforms like the mbed (http://developer.mbed.org/) which can work with Nordic's really nice nRF51822 chipset. This is the same one in the Estimote iBeacons and it's a very nice platform.

They even come in module forms that are pre-certified with the FCC to make integration with end-devices more friendly. Modules such as the PTR5518 can be pretty cheap (http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/PTR5518-Coin-size-nR...) and small, and they just could get soldered to your existing circuit. Best of all, the mbed source code you write for the firmware works directly in those modules too.

Good luck with the project!

>Modules such as the PTR5518 can be pretty cheap

Those are $8 each! That's way too expensive if they want to sell this thing for < $100. I'd think you'd probably want the total cost for making these to be ~$15 max.

I've also been looking into wireless connectivity options for consumer devices, and the options do not look too good for small companies or individuals. You can get NRF51822 chips for around $3 each in bulk, but then you are greatly increasing the difficulty level and making FCC certification potentially much more painful. (I mean, say you get it working but then it fails the emissions test. If you're not an Real Electronic Engineer, how are you realistically going to fix that?)

Also, not everything supports bluetooth LE, and consumers just know that their device has "Bluetooth" (if they even know that), and are going to get pissed if their Bluetooth device can't connect to your (ahem) dildo.

MicroUSB connectors aren't super expensive (less than $1 each in bulk).

Anyway, none of the frustration there is directed at you -- just ranting a bit.

Thanks! They are indeed pricey -- it's tough reading things like this (http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4297) talking about chips that are 40 times as fast, have 2 thousand times more memory and cost half as much as our Atmegas. :/

But I think you're definitely right -- things are moving towards BLE in general, and having fewer wires and ports is for sure a plus for something like a sex toy.

>You can also create interesting motor vibration patterns

send a hug, picture, vibration pattern to your friends. Add favorite pattern to FB or Tinder profile. I mean social features integration potential here is just amazing.

>So far we've had lots of fun connecting wii Nunchucks, heart-rate monitors

need to run to patent office with novel idea and apparatus - heart monitor connected as a feedback controller to a programmable sex toy with "Economy"/"Sport Enthusiast" presets

And one can imagine how the data can be stored/analyzed/compared onto the Cloud smart-fitness-band style.

Anyway, i'm much happier to see Arduino in the toys than Linux in the rifles (while it is a logical and unavoidable way of things it still feels like abomination).

I've been researching parts for a while relating to non-vibration based haptic output... so far what I've found are solenoid type devices, electro static output (TENS units for example) or resonant actuators, but things like tactile displays used for braile for example are too cumbersome in construction to really be useful as skin contact points.

anyways just an idea from another hacking type who'se been thinking about the subject.

Slightly off-topic, but your https is broken: you are including non-secure items. Namely, your logo is served over http.


I think I'm going to need one in buttplug form. With bluetooth and preferably wifi modules.

haha, no problem! we are actually working on it. :)

Cool! Do let me know where it goes. I want to do some pen testing with an attack buttplug.

> Do let me know where it goes.


I wish I could say I'd planned that. Instead, I am reduced to marveling at the range of innuendo enabled by the network attack buttplug.


Wouldn't it make more sense to use the BeagleBone? :I

A .io domain for a dildo company is kind of... classy.

Clearly it should be dil.do



Seems like this type of platform would be a good base for building SexBot type things that are connected remotely. Guy in one location is making love to his Fleshlight, which uses sensors to alter the behavior of the vibrator his long-distance partner has. And vice-versa. Huge potential there.

Also known as "teledildonics".

Which is a totally awesome word that I don't get to use nearly enough.

"It's like Chatroulette, but for teledildonics"

I can definitely see a market for stuff like that. The first cam site that adds that could probably rule the world.

"We only tackle the hardest networking problems, mostly on the backend."

Thanks! I knew there was a word for it but it was totally not coming to mind.

Definitely! We don't have a lot built out for this yet, but hope to have more connectivity options available is crowdfunding is successful.

One of our beta testers even managed to set up a remote console for his partner:

"My partner VNC'd in to control [it] from 1500 miles away. That was a treat!"

Somehow, "making love" doesn't seem like the right phrase for a fleshlight.

There are already products like this being marketed right now.

Which is why I'm arguing, the bottleneck in this industry is not electronics... it's materials.

Well... for (just about) any product that is already being marketed there is potential for a DIY market along side it. I don't see any particular reason why this can't be one of those products. Aren't we in some sort of "maker age" right now?

This is awesome. I've had so many interesting conversations with friends who work in the webcam modeling industry about the possibilities of technology. And, we're beginning to get past the stigma of sex toys for men, so the potential market is roughly doubling in size over the next few years (in addition to the increasing openness about sex and sexuality providing further increases in market size). It really is a fascinating industry that I've considered stepping into for years.

Nearly all of these toys only provide pieces of the puzzle, though. There is no connectivity across smart toys from different manufacturers, there are rarely multiple components allowing male-female play remotely, there's a haphazard approach to the existing industries in this space (i.e. there are "toy + movie" products, but there is no standard for it, as far as I know). I feel like the industry hasn't learned the lessons taught by PC standardization: Being able to use one manufacturer's software with another manufacturer's hardware on yet another manufacturer's platform leads to a much bigger market than a vertically integrated thing. (I think.)

You're totally right and that's exactly what we want to address!

Sex toys are no longer taboo things -- they sell vibrators at drug stores in the US now, and sex toy shops have transformed from sleazy, look-both-ways places to sex-positive, clean, and couples-friendly boutiques.

We're hoping both to launch our toy, but launch an open-source platform as well. I know of at least one manufacturer awaiting our campaign results for integration of our electronics in to their toys.

And again, I see a magic "$50,000" crowdfunding.

I wish people would stop this. It sets the expectation that "$50K is enough to produce a consumer product" when it's almost never enough.

At about $10/hour that's only 5,000 labor hours. That's roughly 1 year for 2 people solely on labor alone. No software, no hardware, no molds, no 3D prints, no customer support, no packaging, no documentation, etc.

I know that there is a balance between an amount that can get funded, but in my charitable moments I believe the reason for so many hardware failures is that people don't ask for the amount they actually need.

(Side note: In my less charitable moments, I posit that people keep the amount below $100K because it isn't worth taking someone to court over that amount.)

Point taken! But we're also not starting from scratch here. We've been doing prototypes for the past year along with continuous software development and refinement, and project documentation and workshops and conferences and ...

We're at the point where we believe we have a design that can be manufactured and work well, that we can make enough off of it to fund future products, and that $50k will fund an initial order run of those products.

You're definitely right that $50k doesn't cover our costs given what we've put in to it already (including labor), but the goal is to run a profitable business once we've gotten our initial kickstart, if you will.

And of course, there is also a publicity aspect to it too. Campaigns that wildly outperform their initial goals (fingers crossed) look a lot better than those that barely make it or don't at all.

I'm impressed but I've got to wonder how big the market is for this. How many people (of either gender) want to hack on their sex toys?

There seems to be a strong positive correlation between creativity and kinkiness that can definitely be a lot of fun to explore.

For example, in the area of hackable unconventional sex toys, ideas I haven't seen here but that may be worth exploring: solenoid valves (to control fluid or air flows? — test! — have emergency release valves!); linear actuators and a few pumps (see above); in-line flow meters (to measure them? Interesting elements of breath control possible); pin lattices with solenoids/linear actuators/similar (programmable textures?); and, of course, inexpensive accelerometers.

Things I have seen, and played with which have been variously modified include certain TENS units (not really a fan) and 'violet wands' (a fan!).

There might be product ideas here, but they're likely to be kind of… niche. Still, kinky people can host quite dedicated niches sometimes (and that's about all I'm going to say about that here! <g>).

Our initial feedback has been super positive. In particular, it's really awesome to have your toy respond to your (or your partner's!) heartrate or bump to the music, or even just tweak a vibration pattern to work for you. Everyone likes different stuff you know?

But also, hackable is really another word for customizable. Lots of vibrators on the market have buttons to increase/decrease intensity and alter vibration behavior. We're just trying to get down to the core of customizable, but also keep it super easy for people to do. Our goal is to have a bunch of click-to-download programs that let you easily modify how your toy behaves without having to get in to libraries and header files and debugging.

IMHO, the market is bigger than most of us probably think, but even if it's not, what market there is will be loyal and interested.

I think you'd be surprised; this gave my wife some interesting ideas ... for work.

For what it's worth she's an academic in computing.

Its definitely something I'm interested in, but I'm a bit of a freak.

"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

― Mark Twain

What is an impossible truth? I think Bertram Russell would disagree with Twain.

Perhaps he meant something closer to 'the probable' or 'the plausible'

I think the key insight of the sentence is that "possibilities" are subjective, and don't necessarily match reality (the truth).

When fiction defies expectations (possibilities), we reject it as absurd. When reality does, we have to accept it (modify our notion of "possible").

He's definitely meaning something along the lines of 'plausible' - 'the possible' here means 'what we consider possible'.

I think the quote makes that obvious though. If you hammer everyone's parse errors out of snappy quotes they end up pretty awkward and dull.

I'm not sure 'probability' was even in popular use in Twain's times.

A friend of mine (and physics PhD) created this:


Which seems in a similar vein. An open-source dildo complete with pressure and blood flow sensors. Although the Psigasm is theoretically focused on human sexuality research rather than recreational uses.

Transman here... I don't know if the tech is here yet or not, but I'd love to see a double-sided toy that responded on one side to sensations from the other side. For example, my girlfriend could give me a handjob, or what not, that I could feel.

Hardware isn't really my area of expertise, but I really hope advances in this area help make your sex life more fulfilling.

Why would you need your girlfriend to do it? You can just auto tune it for maximum pleasure.

Awesome. Go big, have lots of fun.

.io is a great call. Big grin over here.

In a similar vein there was a "Hacking My Vagina" (NSFW) thread from a couple of years ago about a dildo/arduino project complete with hands-free operation: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4826561

It was interesting from both a technical and a "what's the future going to look like?" perspective.

Finally! Maybe someone will eventually implement "emergency retreat mode" to avoid these astonishing visits in a hospital.


VR helmet + strap-on with stereo camera in the tip. Would be interesting, if nothing else.

We've sort of tried this? :)

We have a howto (https://www.comingle.io/howto/computer-vision-dildos ) that connects our vibrator to the image coming off of a webcam, and the webcam of course is inserted in another dildo

Hawking would love it, it's dildos all the way down.

In Soviet Russia, device roots you!

The most fascinating part: it seems people here are more excited about this toy than about having actual real-life sex :)

Isn't it too early for this?

How much customization can you really achieve before 3d Printers can print silicone-like materials and the rest of those plastics used for sex toys?

I just can't believe so much customization can come from twiddling bits when the crux of the issue is materials and ergonomics. I say this from having observed over the years that sex toys have evolved in both those areas (again, materials and ergonomics) but no so much on the electronics part of it (which, I argue, has or would have minor impact on the final product).

There is definitely still room to go in improving the materials and the limitations around working with them. Especially because people are so wary about sex-toy materials that it limits your options even further.

We think there's still lots of room to improve on the stimulation and interaction side of sex toys and that if you give people the ability to tweak their toy they will find fun things that work for them.

Like look at vibrators. What's changed about them significantly? The big things are the Magic Wand and the Rabbit. Only now are we starting to see things that incorporate biometrics or partner interactions in to toys, and we want to make an open platform for experimenting with those things.

We know that our current shape won't work for everyone, but one of our aspirations in making an open dildo platform is that the electronics can be incorporated in to sex toys of a variety of form factors and abilities (either by us or by others).

3D printers already can — I believe Bad Dragon's rather exotic pieces are made that way?

We love Bad Dragon! They are true artisans (www.bad-dragon.com -- SUPER nsfw, but truly amazing).

We met their founder at Arse Elektronika in October, and I think they 3D print their masters, but still do all their molding by hand.

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