Revel Body’s Toothbrush Tech: Vibe Variation or Valley-Style Vaporware?

by Thomas Roche on January 10, 2012

As you may or may not know, the typical vibrator motor is a simple affair. Most vibrators just have an electromagnetic wheel that spins; a weight on one side makes it spin slightly off-kilter.

How strong the vibrations are depends on how fast the wheel spins, how big the wheel is, how heavy the weight is, and how the toy itself transmits the vibrations — owing to size, shape, material, angle, etc.

Such toys allow for many variations, including insertable toys that rotate, wobble, flicker and even thrust — and, of course, penetrative sex machines are a whole other ball game.

The same basic principle of an off-kilter wheel runs most vibrating consumer devices, including those high-tech toothbrushes your dentist may have pushed on you. And I think it’s safe to say that over the years, plenty of people have found a “dual use” for their oral care technology.

So it comes as no surprise that a Seattle company called Revel Body just acquired a small pile of venture capital to adapt the sonic-toothbrush technology for consumer sex toys, the first of which is called “The Orb” — pictured above.

What does it do? Fuck if I know. Presumably it vibrates, but neither the article about Revel Body on article on XConomy.com nor the one on Geekwire cares to tell us just exactly how it vibrates differently than other high-end vibrators like, say, those of Jimmy Jane (which was similarly VC-funded). Since XConomy says Revel Body plans to have its first products in stores this year, I hope their vibrations are more innovative than their soundbites. From XConomy:

One major difference, which Revel Body is in the final stages of patenting, is the ability to run the vibrator in a range of speeds rather than at a fairly stable rate, such as with the Sonicare or ClariSonic.

Huh? Why are they comparing this to other toothbrushes, rather than other vibrators? If I wanted to brush my teeth or buff my skin with it, I might care whether it’s better than a Sonicare or a ClariSonic.

However, I’d like to masturbate with it; therefore, what I want to know is how does it vibrate differently than existing vibrators…not goddamn toothbrushes?

And as for “the ability to run the vibrator in a range of speeds rather than a fairly stable rate,” if that sounds impressive to either a tech reporter or a vibrator entrepreneur…well, that’s just terrifying. I’m not even sure what they think it means, so it’d be nice if they’d explain it to me. I’m just a caveman — that is, a consumer — so tell me why I would want to put your surely-expensive device on my oh-so-private thingie.

I could ascribe the lack of specifics negativity and an unwillingness to talk about the down and dirty of sex, but I don’t read it that way. It’s simply Hype Repetition, rather than genuine information…and, needless to say, it occurs in every sector of the tech market. Sex toys — particularly vibrators — are products whose inner workings are probably unfamiliar to most of the readers of tech news. But Vibrator Hype shouldn’t get any more of a free pass than Smartphone Hype.

Here’s more from XConomy:

Revel Body’s pitch is that the resonant motor technology allows the device to produce a more vigorous and pleasing vibration, something much more modern and advanced than the old-fashioned devices proliferating the adult market today.

“The big things that consumers don’t like about these products, pretty much the majority of them, come back to the motor,”  [Revel Body founder Robin] Elenga says. “It seems like with a vibrator, you’d want to compete on vibration. But nobody is doing that. It’s kind of a head-slapper when you look at it that way.”

Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to tear into Robin Elenga too badly. Elenga is a company founder. He’s serving as a spokesperson, and is therefore (unfortunately) spouting PR nonsense. That’s in the job description, I’m sorry to say.

But calling most of today’s vibrators “old-fashioned devices” is fairly absurd. I’ve seen vibrators that whirl, twirl, jiggle, and jump. They seem to do just about everything but call themselves a cab.

If the motor is different, that’s interesting news, and I want to know all about it. But just how it’s different can’t be discovered by the company’s press, its supremely uninformative website, or by cruising the various Wikipedia articles on electric motors and toothbrushes. One of the few hits I get on vibration and “resonant motors” is on JimmyJane’s Little Chroma, which promises “deep, resonant vibrations.”

So what is a “resonant motor,” which Revel Body claims is 66% quieter than other vibrators, according to Geekwire? Resonant motors are used in electric cars and other consumer devices, and mechanical resonance is a simple concept…but I’m not sure yet how it applies to Revel Body’s vibrators, and so far it hasn’t been explained to me. Like too many products at the intersection of sex and tech, it smells like hype.

Today’s sex-toy consumers are savvy; they want you to tell them what they’re getting; I find it vaguely insulting to read fluffy estimates of “revolutionary” changes from reporters who can’t be bothered to address relevant questions about the technology’s actual points of difference.

Nonetheless, a couple of interesting points can be gotten from the various stories about Revel Body (which are all, with painful obviousness, derived from company materials). Here’s one, from Geekwire’s post on the subject:

“There were a lot of consumers calling Sonicare saying they were using it as a sexual vibrator, and that kind of made me wonder why would people be using that vibrator,” said Elenga. “It was just this idea that if vibration is better beyond what the existing motors can do, we should try to help it.”

[Link.]

I can personally testify that, yeah, this works shockingly well, assuming you proceed with a certain amount of caution. For what it’s worth, I’ve also seen a Panasonic pore cleanser used on a bound female as a terrifyingly sadistic clit-sucker. See? The Beauty Myth can lead to liberation!

Another interesting point on the Revel Body story comes from Woodward’s account of Elenga pitching the product to investors. (Robin Elenga is apparently male.) Woodward asks, “Since the target market is heavily female. Wouldn’t there be a creepiness factor to avoid?”

Elenga says it’s actually been men who have blanched the most.

“At a couple of groups, virtually every woman in the crowd is smiling and nodding their head. The guys might have smirks on their faces—occasionally a guy would walk out of the room because he was so uncomfortable,” Elenga says. “People would apologize whenever that would happen, but I think it’s good because it shows that this industry is still transitioning into the mainstream. And I think that’s when you want to get into an industry.”

[Link.]

 

This has been my experience in the social world, too; many women who are not well-versed in the sex toy industry are nonetheless comfortable discussing vibrators. I’ve always found that far fewer men are.

Obviously, when new sex toy technologies get the same level of meaning-free hype that other consumer technologies do, that’s a good thing; it’s just another roadmark that shows broader consumer acceptance of toys.

But hype is still hype. All things being equal, I’m dying to find out just what’s different about Revel Body’s products — if and when they get to market.

 

{ 3 comments }

1 Carnal Torment January 14, 2012 at 6:00 am

From an engineering perspective, the major advantage of a ‘sonic’ vibrator would be its speed. A Hitachi Magic Wand tops out at about 6,000 RPM, whereas a high-end sonic toothbrush (which tech the Orb is presumably based on) tops out at around 40,000 RPM.

When you hit that kind of frequency, the vibrations start to cause interesting interactions in any fluids (or soft tissue) that they are in contact with. Sonic toothbrushes use these secondary wave effects to create waves and shear forces in the actual gums, which acts to dislodge plaque. In a vibrator, I can only imagine that those wave/shear effects would be very effective on tender bits…

2 Allen January 12, 2012 at 12:39 am

Greetings everyone from Seattle. Long time no see.

Beyond the fact that Revel could obviously really use someone decent on the PR team to craft a better message, I can give you a first hand account that I have seen the orb. Hallelujah. I HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY THE ORB. Hallelujah! Well maybe not the cool levitating orb but a orb prototype, nonetheless.

Daddy Likes.

I bet the toothbrush comparison came up because the Seattle investment community is so familiar David Giuliani’s sonic sensations and made the ‘uncomfortable’ comfortable with some kind of analogy. Building up that ‘yes ladder.’

I am actually a bit excited by the possibilities of using these motors in my own machine work. Not only is the tech customizable to nail certain frequency spreads to make vibrators more effective functionally; it also enables another stage of broader product innovation with great flexibility in form factor. Lower power consumption. The motor is stupid quiet. Betcha you could use it on a plane and no one would notice. Not that I would recommend such use, that would be just wrong, right?

Bottom line, it felt pretty damn good. Daddy likes.

You know that is the second time I have said, “Daddy likes.” Kind of creeps me out. No more.

That said, they have cool IP (you can read the patent with an easy web search) and a lot of hard work ahead of them bringing it to market but I am confident that the very capable Robin will give it all he’s got. I love seeing cool projects get funded. Congrats!

Which reminds me, one other thing that sticks out in my mind that should not go unrecognized is the investment groups that stepped up and came in on this deal. It is great to see such forward thinking in the investment community. I know what it is like to pitch businesses that have to do with your naughty bits. It is actually quite a challenge. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Lead by example. There is still opportunity in ‘the biz.’ Keep your eyes open for new opportunities.

3 Oliver Holland January 11, 2012 at 8:32 am

Interesting! I’m not and electrical engineer, but as for the “revolutionary resonant motor”, my guess is that they’re planning to use some kind of piezo actuator – something like the cell phone vibrator demo’d in this vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GarBZhZnFQs

Their toothbrush meets sextoy PR angle is hilarious since the toy itself seems to bear absolutely no resemblance to a toothbrush. I wonder if it levitates off the base like that too? Usually product images that imply levitation are a sure indicator of vaporware.

~OH

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