For the uninitiated, sextech hacking refers to the modification of existing sex toys, and, with ever-increasing open-access resources out there, it’s more accessible than ever.
The open-source approach to building hardware and software allows anyone to get involved – you can simply jump on a forum or become an expert … with no existing skills.”
She explains that it’s more about having the confidence to go for it, as hacking isn’t just about making something work, it’s about being open to the possibility of breaking things, which Touchy Feely Tech’s founder, Alice Stewart, describes as a “very liberating” experience.
So, if this is a topic that interests you, how can you get involved with sextech hacking?
Self-direct your learning
Figure out what you want to make
To start with, it’s recommended you get specific on your interests, needs and desires. Queer engineer Space Buck explains that wanting to learn hacking is like wanting to learn a language, and “there are so many to choose from”. Not having a preference can make it near “impossible to pick one and actually get started,” he says.
So, think about what you’re interested in and work from there. Maybe you need to develop coding skills? Or perhaps you’re more interested in building kits, and might need to invest in a soldering kit? We’ve rounded up existing projects further down this article to inspire you and kick off your research.
Once you’ve figured out your field of interest, Stewart suggests beginning to prototype in a lo-fi way, “with plasticine, cardboard, a sketchbook, whatever.”
This tangible approach to brainstorming can help you see your ideas beginning to form right there in front of you. Silicone is a popular material choice among the ‘maker’ community, and is pretty simple to get started with. Or experiment with different materials such as clay (for prototypes only!): maybe you could mould a butt plug shaped like your favorite vegetable? Or perhaps you’re willing to dissect a toy that you’re happy to sacrifice in the name of sextech hacking experimentation. At this stage it’s all about getting stuck in.
Use the internet as a learning tool
The internet is also a fantastic resource for anyone looking to hack or make sex toys. “Whether you’re writing a webpage to control a toy or designing a new toy from scratch, there are tutorials online to help you,” says Bawdy Blueprints.
While these may not be sextech-specific tutorials, what’s important is applying expert tech knowledge to suit your specific sextech needs.
Projects to inspire you
Now that many toys are adding WiFi and Bluetooth control, the practice can incorporate teledildonic modification. Or, if you want to start from scratch, you could even create your own custom devices using methods such as 3D printing.
We’ve rounded up some truly innovative projects to inspire you and start you off on your sextech hacking journey.
Communicate via morse code vibrations
Take one example: making your vibrator not only deliver orgasms but deliver secret messages in the form of morse code.
Pussytalk, created by psycho-sexologist Cathline Smoos and outernet designer Aurélien Fache, was a project launched in 2019 that ‘turns your words to orgasms’.
Smoos is from a sexology background – watch this video to hear her talk about the benefits of joining the VR community while it’s still a “really small” industry.
Getting creative with BDSM tech
Playful hacking certainly has possibilities to be incorporated into BDSM play. Rather than starting to brainstorm from the tech perspective, inspiration can come from exploring the power dynamics between doms and subs, and taking your hacking ideas from there.
Take Deviant Designs, an engineer and designer who creates fun, unique toys for BDSM play. Technically, the designs range from relatively simple projects (for example, ‘maze cuffs’ made on a 3D printer), to ones that require a little more technical know-how (see below).
As part of a recent talk series for Raspberry Dream Lab’s Unsensored programme, the maker was quoted as saying: “You don’t need an electronics lab and access to vast manufacturing resources to create adult toys. Thanks to the maker movement there are thousands of resources out there teaching us how to inexpensively create custom yet complex toys at home.”
Need a blueprint to get things started? Build your own motion-controlled vibe
Body Interaction (BI) is an open-source vibrator development board using Arduino, a prototyping platform that enables users to create interactive electronic products.
Using BI’s website resources, you can build your own advanced vibrator.
In contrast to off-the-shelf products, the project allows you to program every pattern on your toy. You’ll need a 3D printer to make the case, but three templates are available on the site.
The BI model is equipped with a motion detection sensor, which can be used to adjust the motor speed, and you can even move the vibrator faster or slower to adjust the speed.
Join a workshop
While the pandemic has meant events have had to go online-only, this could actually be a good thing for a relatively niche hacking space to be accessible to more people.
Take the Rainbows End sex tech hackathon happening this month. While it was sold out at the time of writing this guide, the organisers expressed there was a lot of interest, indicating the maker community is growing rapidly.
Make sure you’re following all the relevant social accounts to be the first to sign up for upcoming events.
Get experimenting with open source sex toy control software
For those interested in reprogramming existing toys, make sure you bookmark open source sextech blog Nonpolynominal.
Kyle Machulis, who is also behind buttplug.io – “a library that makes it easy for people to write software that controls sex toys” – says he will be “using [the Nonpolynominal blog] space to post updates and in-depth technical articles about our various products.
Launched in 2020, he writes that “we’ll also include posts on haptics (intimate and otherwise), product design and marketing, and other topics we cover as part of our consultancy.”
You can read more information about Machulis’s work and support his Patreon.
Whether it’s designing your own predicament bondage that connects to an electric shock system, or taking inspiration from this exosuit that makes use of nipple propellers to show when you’re excited, there’s plenty of projects out there to get you hacking in no time.