In case you haven’t heard: my friends at Comingle.io and several other small sex/tech companies, are under attack from a company that owns a patent on all teledildonics — yep, literally, any device that can be controlled over a network and causes a physical sensation. This story has been covered by Ars Technica, Boingboing, Metafetish, and Gizmodo.
The EFF even featured this patent as a Stupid Patent of the Month because it’s so broad: “[This patent] never should have issued. Doing it with a computer (literally) does not make something patentable.”
This lawsuit promises to have a chilling effect on the development of new sex toys, including my own work.
Here’s how you can help: If you know of any prior art (computer-controlled sex tech devices dated before August 1997), can get Comingle in touch with a pro-bono patent attorney, and/or can chip in to their legal defense fund, please visit Comingle’s IndieGoGo page.
There was a very primitive sex toy, way before 1997, where you attached a light sensor to a spot on your computer screen, and the other user’s software would make the cursor blink as a white square under the sensor. Then the local sensor would impart some fun through, as I recall, a vibrator of some kind.
I’ll try Googling it, but I want to jog any other tech-sex-geezers memories!
best wishes in this fight,
Cool! Thanks for the mention — hopefully you can find it, or this will jog someone else’s memory.
It may have been this:
Clearly the toys in this 2000 article were in development by 1996!
Oh, awesome, thank you! That at least gives us some more names of toys and companies to go on.
Teledildonics was a joke around the MIT Media lab in the 90s. Maybe Google will turn up something. Also look through old wired magazines.
All I’ve dug up is this thread from 2002 talking about devices that had already disappeared from the internet (panty pagers?):
I’m not certain how applicable those are, since they didn’t involve any computers (unless you argue that a pager was a simplistic computer of the time).
Interestingly though the last post references a device called the Tele Vibe, which in the promo shot looks like it might be the previously mentioned device that had a screen attached interface (I can’t imagine what else the blue bit with the black rim would be):
It does look like most of the retailers (and the manufacturer) are long gone, except at least one:
Love Honey are still kicking, so they might be able to dig up some records (it looks like they’ve got a few of their own phone connected devices discontinued too, so they may well want to join the fight).
I’m sure I’ve seen at least one device that used a 9-pin serial port to connect to a PC, but I’ve had no luck finding that.
It’s quite possible that a pager-type device would be relevant to the case, since those are controlled over a network. Thanks so much for the links!
The x-rated version of the music video to the track “Thunderdome” by the band “Messiah”, contains a clip of an anime where a woman is being penetrated by a machine. The music video was released in 1994. I bet if you could find the original anime you could get some relevant content.
Also, many electronic devices are capable of causing a physical sensation. A radio from the 1960s was controlled by a radio tower and had a speaker which created vibrations that could physically be felt.
Cool, thank you for the pointers!
Patents do have expiry dates.And if there is a patent infringement that is not defended. It weakens the validity of the patent
Thanks for writing! Yes, as Metafish reported, the patent is dated August 1998, so we’d be looking at expiration in August 2018.
Check this article out at Forbes. Immersion software was designed to provide physical feedback.
Thanks! Yeah, at this point it seems like the lawsuit settled (without the patent getting re-reviewed) — my plan is just to wait things out until the patent expires in 2018.
Oh a quick excerpt:
In 1995 Immersion began licensing its TouchSense software and hardware for use in joysticks and steering wheels. Game developers were quick to embed within their program code TouchSense instructions that would trigger tactile effects in the hardware.
Close enough to show prior art. I went to a trade show in SanFran Moscone Center around 2000. They had a booth and gave away a free tee-shirt — Bright yellow and says “FeelMe”. One of my favorite tee-shirts ever.