Last year, I wrote about how CES still wasn’t welcoming sextech companies with open arms, but that the tide appeared to be turning for the biggest consumer tech show in Las Vegas and its attitude to adult exhibitors. This year, it appears that trickle of companies hasn’t exactly turned into a torrent, but a few companies made their presence felt.
Officially, last year, SEXTECHGUIDE was told by CES’ organizing body, the CTA (Consumer Technology Association), that there was no official presence for adult-related companies and services. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop a few making their way onto the show floor.
“‘Adult products’ is not an official product category for CES. Some so-called adult products have been shown on the show floor via the exhibits of CES partners (e.g., Trojan was part of the Living in Digital Times exhibit) or awards programs (e.g., The Bird – an eBook vibrator that won an Innovation award as a wearable),” a spokesperson for the CTA told us at the time.
This year, UK startup MysteryVibe generated attention by being part of the Showstoppers satellite event that takes place each year around CES – but it’s not the main CES show floor. OhMiBod, however, was on the proper show floor with its own stand, in the iLounge area, and officially listed in the app category.
The company was there talking up, and showing off, its new Fuse and Esca devices, which have been developed in partnership with Kiiroo. Given the partnership with Kiiroo, you could also see the Fleshlight Launch in use on the show floor too. Well, not ‘in use’, but working in conjunction and responding to a connected vibrator.
Naughty America had a spot on the show floor again too, as it has done in previous years touting its VR porn service. It’s a fairly notable exception, that seems to make it through the vetting process simply by virtue of it being VR-related.
“In general, we still do not approve space for “adult” products unless they fit under a specific approved category, e.g. virtual reality,” a spokesperson told us in an updated statement regarding this year’s show.
Not having a general ‘adult’ category is, arguably, not a bad thing overall – but the show is supposed to highlight innovative products, companies and services, so there’s a simple enough middle ground that could be struck.
A tough balance?
Where CES has faced its fiercest criticism in recent years is the lack of diversity among keynote speakers – an imbalance left unaddressed once again in 2018’s event – and the presence of ‘booth babes’ on the show floor. CES 2018 did see a marked reduction in the number of booth babes at the show, but they weren’t entirely absent.
Lioness co-founder and CEO Liz Klinger noted that, in some sense, CES attendees had simply swapped booth babes for virtual babes.
“Though the scantily clad models may have left, they’ve merely been replaced by the ones tech professionals can comfortably ogle at through headsets. Yes, the sexism at CES is still alive and thriving. CES is still an event designed by men for men,” Klinger wrote.
The CTA, for its part, has already pledged to improve the number of female keynote speakers at next year’s event, but Klinger also noted in the same post that she’d been unsuccessful in securing her own spot at the show, and wasn’t entirely sure why.
There are few reasons to feel that it’s an event successfully taking into account the way in which technology – and attitudes – change over time when it comes to sex. This year, 400,000 Target stores in the US will carry OhMiBod vibrators on their shelves. While not ‘sextech’, as devices, it’s sex toys going entirely mainstream. It’s a vibrator impulse buy while you’re out buying a faux fur throw or any of the million other things target sells.
Perhaps the CTA worries that fully embracing adult products at CES would reverse some of its already slow progress to turn down the sleaze factor – such as with the discouragement of booth babes – but that hadn’t necessarily be the case. Many of the newest, most innovative sextech companies are female-founded, and would be well placed among other startups in Eureka Park. They wouldn’t be showing up with booth babes, that’s for damn sure.
However, it seems for now that sextech remains not entirely welcome at CES.
All images in this post kindly provided by Ben Wood, CCS Insight.