Virtual sex and haptic sex toys have been held back over the last two decades by patent trolls. The most notable victim was perhaps the RealTouch. A brave attempt by adult media giant AEBN at the first true haptic sex toy that would enable virtual sex online (and via synched porn videos). Admittedly the first generation RealTouch had a lot of problems. It was notorious for leaking lube, and more importantly, the hatpic technology wasn’t quite ready for prime time, with notable lagging in the synchronization of the toy’s movements (generated by motors and belts) and the action on screen. But these and other problems may have been overcome in the second iteration of RealTouch, which was agonizingly close to release when the aforementioned patent issues finally ended the project.
Here’s an interesting article from 2015 on the background story to the RealTouch and its sad failure to launch a haptic sex industry.
RealTouch launched in 2008 as a subsidiary of the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, a service that streams thousands of movies from its own site and also owns the popular video site PornoTube. The company’s initial teledildonic hardware, simply named the “RealTouch,” consisted of a male masturbator — a motorized sleeve placed over male genitalia in order to simulate sex, designed to work in sync with a set of specially modified movies from AEBN’s back catalog. For example, if you watched a movie where a male performer was penetrating another person, that thrusting motion would be replicated by the device. If that performer were to then quicken (or slow) their pace, the device would follow suit in real time. It wasn’t the most elegant of connected-sex solutions, though, since it required its own USB “mini tower” and power supply to connect with a desktop PC.
The clock was ticking, for both researchers who were working on the second generation of RealTouch hardware and the factories that were preparing to manufacture the fifth run of the original. The licensors strung out their negotiations beyond the hard date AEBN would work to, forcing RealTouch to shut down. An agreement was eventually reached with the licensors, but by the time AEBN had signed on the dotted line — and for something close to the original price — it was too late for RealTouch.
The timing could not have been worse. Shortly after the shutdown, Amazon’s Betas and HBO’s Sex/Now both aired, sending mainstream interest in RealTouch’s products through the roof. By that point, however, the company had no choice but to exit the market.
The article also reveals that AEBN planned a haptic virtual sex version of Chatroulette, which was all the rage at the time.
There’s also the company’s unreleased “couple’s product,” a device designed for the internet generation’s sexual habits. EJ wouldn’t comment directly, but it appears as if RealTouch intended to create a connected-sex-toy version of Chatroulette — the once-popular site that lets people initiate random conversations with total strangers over webcams. In this case, people of either gender would be able to engage in casual cybersex with the first person that tickled their fancy.
And here is a review of the RealTouch from 2013