Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself.
-old Apache saying
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Staying on the topic of sex, one of my favorite topics. We have new sex toys for women who want to strengthen their coochies, their hoo-hows, their snatches, their....you get the idea.
Keep it tight, ladies, and we'll try to keep it up.
Meet Elvie, A New Breed Of Connected Tech For Women
The life of a technology journalist inexorably involves a lot of gadgetry. And while I can appreciate the sleek beauty of new Apple hardware as much as the next person, I don’t routinely get excited by the prospect of unboxing any other new gizmo just because. But when the courier handed over the small white bag containing Elvie I was uncharacteristically eager to open it up — because this is a rare beast indeed: a connected device designed by women, for women.
It’s not hyperbole to say Elvie is a new breed of connected device. It’s indicative of the lack of smart technology specifically — and intelligently — addressing women. Given the male-dominated tech space that’s hardly a surprise. Let’s call it an ‘on-going disappointment’. But make no mistake, it’s also a missed opportunity.
Bottom line: there are huge opportunities for technology businesses to be built that intelligently address women’s needs. Women are routinely early adopters of all sorts of digital services. So if you’re making something of genuine utility to an underserved 50 per cent of the population chances are your product won’t be languishing on the shelves for long.
Only last week Berlin-based period and fertility tracker app Clue raised a $7 million Series A round of funding. Its ambition is to build “a platform for female health” — using the data its users are contributing to conduct and support research into health and lifestyle issues that specifically affect women.
Chiaro, the London-based startup behind Elvie, has similarly expansive aims, with plans to build out a portfolio of devices and services for women. It has raised more than $3 million at this early stage — with the likes of Lars Rasmussen and Nicole Junkermann among its super angel investors, and Lulu’s Alexandra Chong on its board — and Elvie is its first device and first step towards building a technology lifestyle brand for women. Expect to see more such savvy, female-led startups appearing — as both Chiaro and Clue are.
Real-time feedback as you exercise
So what exactly is Elvie? It’s a connected pelvic floor exerciser which gives the user real-time feedback as they exercise. Think of it as a non-passive wearable. It gathers and charts your data to track performance over time, as many fitness wearables do, but it also allows for guided pelvic floor exercising in real-time. Which is core to its proposition.
Point being it’s not exactly easy to know whether you’re correctly performing pelvic floor lifts — given there’s no visual feedback from the muscle. (A male colleague referenced the “dark and mysterious pelvic floor” when I mentioned my Elvie review unit had arrived. But even for women there’s plenty of mystery around this muscle, given it’s been so hard to quantify it — up to now).
Exercising the pelvic floor is a good idea for lots of reasons. Motivation to exercise can be associated with childbirth preparation or post-natal recovery; bladder control issues; lifestyle goals focused on improving core fitness (lifting the pelvic floor can be involved when you practice pilates and yoga, for instance). Exercising the pelvic floor can also be a motivator for women of any age wanting to improve sensation during sex. Safe to say, there are a host of health, fitness and lifestyle benefits to tap into here.
Chiaro kicked off pre-orders for Elvie just under a year ago, and is now shipping the first devices to buyers. The exerciser retails for £149 (~$230), and is currently sold direct via the Elvie website. TechCrunch was sent one of the first batch — keep reading for our early impressions.
How Elvie works
The Elvie device works in conjunction with a companion app. The two communicate via Bluetooth — the device’s BT radio remains outside the body so there’s no chance of the signal being blocked during use (in a very cute and clever piece of industrial design the radio is located in the Elvie’s tail).
There are no buttons on the exerciser, as you’d hope given it’s designed for internal use. Indeed, the entire pebble-shaped device is encased in medical grade silicone — giving it a smooth, seamless unibody for hygiene and comfort. Since Elvie is designed to sense force applied almost anywhere on its body the whole device is also effectively one big button. (The user activates the link between app and Elvie by squeezing the device with their pelvic floor muscles once they’ve inserted it into their vagina — at which point the app will offer to guide them through a workout.)
While it’s big for a button, Elvie is deliberately smaller than the average pelvic floor exerciser — Chiaro claims it’s as much as 3x smaller than alternatives. (One rival connected device is the Kgoal — which a Verge reviewer criticized as too large, finding it painful to use.)
During Elvie’s product development and testing, co-founder Tania Boler says the team were continually told by women that they wanted the device to be small. (For those who want a slightly larger exerciser there is a silicone cap accessory in the box which fits snuggly over Elvie’s head to size it up a little.)
Hidden inside Elvie’s smooth silicone exterior are a series of force sensors which allow the device to measure the user’s pelvic floor as they squeeze and relax the muscle. Muscle activity is visualised in real time in the app — denoted by the vertical position of a gem icon on the screen.
Each Elvie training session lasts about five minutes and involves a series of exercises that are much like basic games — except you’re controlling the games with your pelvic floor muscle, rather than your fingers. Trust me it’s pretty fun.
I found the Elvie super simple to set up and start using. Almost too simple, if anything. Chiaro has created a measure it calls LVs to quantify your pelvic floor lift strength. But it’s not immediately clear what a specific score means. You’re presumably aiming for a higher LVs score — to denote more powerful lifts — but a little more information/context here would be helpful.
Each training session starts with an attempt to lift the gem as high as you can to calibrate the peak force you’re aiming for for that particular session. You’re then led through a series of different exercises, depending on your current level (and your initial lift). The app offers three different levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Beginner is the default but the user can switch to another level whenever they like if they wish.
When I hear from people that religion doesn't hurt anything, I say, really? Well besides wars, the Crusades, the Inquisitions, 9-11, ethnic cleansing, the suppression of women, the suppression of homosexuals, fatwas, honor killings, suicide bombings, arranged marriages to minors, human sacrifice, burning witches, and systematic sex with children, I have a few little quibbles. And I forgot blowing up girl schools in Afghanistan.