How SHE saved the Doc’s Phone

This is not really a story about SHE.  Its about the Fuck Shame sticker, and what happened after SHE when Team Una needed some dinner.

So what is a Fuck Shame sticker?   I am glad you asked.

On Saturday evening at SHE, there was a mix and meet where lots of people (like Team Una) had tables set up to talk about what we’re doing and to, you know, mix and meet.   One of the tables was hosted by Heather Brewer MFT.    She had a quite fetching cigarette girl helping (or was that you in disguise Heather?) but instead of handing out cigarettes, she had papers where you could write anonymous sex questions(She’s going to answer them later on her blog). In return you got these cool “Fuck Shame” stickers.    Its always a good thing to keep in mind, so the Doc’s sticker went right onto the back of her phone. That was a real smart move.

2015-01-26 22.20.13

After things finished up on Sunday night, Team Una was hungry, and we wanted to explore.  We took a taxi down to the Farmer’s Market and had the most amazingly awesome time.   Fondue,  Beef Bourguignon, beer, dessert in what felt like a Spring evening.  There were people from everywhere, and you know — people who were basically in a good mood and hanging with friends and family.  That’s not what I was expecting for LA.   Heaven.

After dinner, as the market was closing, we walked out through “The Grove”.   Now, if you have never been there — its basically an outdoor shopping mall.  In the middle is a great big fountain (see the pic …)

the grove

See where the umbrellas are in the picture?  That’s where we were standing.    We were all trying to take pictures of the fountain while it was pulsating in time to some music.

While this was going on, someone bumped the Doc’s arm, and her phone went plop — right into the pond.  The Doc started yelling for me to save her phone.

It was almost dark.  My eyes are not what they used to be.  At first I saw nothing.  But then I saw the orange “Fuck Shame” sticker.   I had my shoes off, and was in and out of the pond before the security guards knew what happened.      The phone was in the water for less than 30 seconds.   We popped the battery, let it dry overnight, and it still works just as bad as it ever did.    So thanks to “Fuck Shame”, the Doc’s phone is saved.

 

 

 

What does your kid think about this?

The question is:  What does your kid think of what you are doing?

I (Mike) have been asked this question by several people.

We actually fretted about what to tell our child.   For a long time he was too young to care, but as he approaches teenager-hood.  this could become an issue.  What to say?

One day, the Doc and I sat our child down (Think of Mr. and Mrs. Brady having a heart to heart with Bobby).    The conversation went something like:

Us:  You know mommy and I are working on a project with Angela.

Son:  Yes.

Us: You know what we’re making?

Son:  Yeah, you’re making a vibrator.

<mom and dad are stunned.  Kids are apparently information sponges>

Us: You know what that is?

Son: Sure, the teacher talked about them at school in “My Future,  My Choice”.    Can I use your iTunes?

So there you go.   Its OK — they learned about what vibrators are at school, and he apparently doesn’t give a rip.

Its the 21st century by the way.  Just in case that wasn’t clear.  Our kids are going to live in a world that’s different than the one we grew up in.

 

Its not a toy. Its a complex embedded system with a touch based user interface.

Una Vibrators makes sex toys or “adult novelty devices” if you prefer.   There are a million sex toys on the market.  What is different about Una’s products?

Well, first off,  Una’s vibrators are neither “novelty devices”, nor are they properly called “toys”.  They’re going to be a real treat for adults to play with though.

There are a number of factors that make Una’s products different — we will discuss materials, the batteries, the shape, the motors,  recycling, reliability, UL, FCC & IPx7 testing,  and the overall experience in future posts.   Right now we’re going to talk about the electronics and the software.

If they’re not toys, then what are they?    Technically, the Una products are “embedded systems  with a novel, touch based user interface”.    If you’re an electrical engineer or computer scientist reading this, then I can say things like “ARM, multi-core, IoT, Bluetooth, LiPo, machine learning,  projected capacitance touch sensor and secure firmware loader with haptic feedback” and that’s basically “’nuff said”.   That doesn’t mean much to most people though.   You can look up “embedded system” on Wikipedia, but that’s not going to tell you a lot either.

What does all that mean in English?   Its a device with a really smart computer inside that only knows how to do one thing, and do it well.

Let’s start with the basics.  Most vibrators on the market have one or more motors, a power source, and something to control the power supply to the motors — buttons or knobs. Some of the luxury devices have small microchips in them to create various pulsing patterns and support a Bluetooth connection to your phone or tablet.  You push the button/turn the knob and something happens to the motors.  You push the button again, and something different happens to the motors.

Una is a little smarter.    We went into this wanting to make something nobody had ever seen before (and Mike wanted to impress his wife).  We obviously have motors, but there are no buttons.  We have a touch sensing surface (like your iPhone without the screen). and a bad-ass microprocessor.   We have a Bluetooth radio, and various types of sensors.   We have some proprietary software to bind all the pieces together (Our “Intuitive Touch Platform”).

The touch sensor receives touches, slides, taps and other gestures. The software running on the microprocessor interprets them to determine what the user might like to do, and generates sequences  to drive the motors.     Using some sophisticated machine learning algorithms, the device learns what a given user likes, and over time and it tunes itself to the specific user.   Una’s vibrators will remember what you like way better than your partner does.  Using the Bluetooth radio, our devices can communicate with a phone/tablet/computer to allow the user to compose their own “symphonies” with the touch of a finger.

So, they’re not really toys.   There is a sophisticated computer in there, but all it knows how to do is learn what you like, and apply that to your body in the form of vibrations.

Pretty techie, I know, but, if we do our jobs right, you won’t even notice the technology — you’ll notice how beautiful the device is, and you will delight in discovering all the things Una vibrators can do.

 

How did Una Vibrators come to be?

Back in 2010, three people got together to make a product.  They didn’t know at first what the product would be, but they knew they  wanted to make something awesome and take it to market.    This is their story.

Mike has worked on other people’s products for a long long time.  He wanted to make his own products.    He’s had lots of ideas — and had developed enough experience to take something to market, but what to make?

One evening,  Mike, Kathy and Angela were sitting around the campfire discussing a product he was working on.   Most of the customers, and the whole development team were men.   Kathy said “When are you going to make something for the women?”

Well, Mike and the Doc have been together for a few years,  he and knew better than to presume what a woman might like.  The conversation went something like “OK, I give up, what could *I* make for women?”   Kathy said “well, everyone I know hates their vibrator”.

Hasn’t everything been done in this field?   People have been patenting vibrators for over 100 years.  Mike is a geek.  He knows stuff like that. What could a guy possibly make *for women* that was better than anything out there?  Well, a guy all by himself couldn’t, but this was a challenge that Mike could not pass up.

Mike contacted people in the industry to try and figure out how one might make such a device.  Carol at Good Vibrations basically said “why the hell not?”.  The owner at Vibratex told Mike that its a rough-tough business with lawyers, money and people trying to rip you off.  Mike works in electronics — that’s nothing new.   Mike made some simple prototypes, talked to industrial designers, and read up on the field.   For a long time, Mike and Angela kicked ideas around at the office.   Now you have to understand– they are introverted and basically pretty shy.   The “conversations” were something like “what if we did….no wait, I can’t say that, let me email it to you”.  Over the course of a year, they “invented” everything that had already been done.

Then one day….

Angela showed up at work with some seashells.  Mike and Angela played with the shells, drew pictures, and Mike had the idea of making a device with features of a seashell, but using touch sensing (like your SmartPhone) instead of buttons or knobs.   Using low-cost, high-performance chips we could make the device very smart to remember what the users liked.   Using cutting edge batteries & charging technology, we could make a device would be “ready when you are”. There were a lot of possibilities.  That same day,  Kathy came home from the bookstore with a book of symbols and their meanings. and we wound up looking at this picture — Boticelli’s Birth of Venus.

 

Sandro Botticelli - La nascita di Venere - Google Art Project - edited.jpg

The painting is full of symbolism, but when we saw Venus on the shell — well — it was like the universe was telling us something.

I would tell you how the story ends, but it hasn’t ended yet.  That was just the beginning.

We’re not making a seashell shaped vibrator — but it did give us the idea for the shape.    Its completely unique.   The motor arrangement is completely unique.  The way of controlling the device — our patent-pending  “Intuitive Touch Technology”  — is a completely new way to interact with handheld devices.

 

What we loved about SHE

Team Una had a little table at the Sexual Health Expo’s Meet and Greet on Saturday.    We got a chance to tell people about Una’s 1st vibrator.  This was our first foray out into the public with info about what we are making.

The Doc had a powerpoint showing off some concepts about how the touch user interface will work.  Mike had a demo of the hardware (I promise, I will make a video).  Kim was our networking Ninja and stealthily roamed the area meeting people and sending them our way.  We met an amazing variety of people from all walks of life.

What did we like?

Well,  the whole expo went just about flawlessly from our perspective.   It was really nice to be able to show up/set up/do our thing/get out without hassles.  Thanks Kat if you’re reading this.  Great to chat with you by the way :-)

The Sofitel was pretty darned nifty.   If you stay there — the breakfast buffet is killer and the staff was wonderful.

We got outside of our comfort zones.    Way outside.  We decided it was ok.

We went to a number of the talks  — the Doc particularly enjoyed Ducky Doolittle’s workshop (she’s got a million one liners) and the one about sex and aging and oxytocin and more.    Mike got to see Tristan’s talk and his comment was “she’s an awesome public speaker.  I’d go listen to her talk even if she was selling life insurance”.

The people were nice — we had lots of people come to our table asking questions, offering to help, asking to be beta testers (we’ll need to set up the Team Una  “Master Beta Tester Team” ).  We talked to some potential competitors who offered to tell us what mistakes not to make as we get into the business (so we can make new ones of our own).

It turns out that Tristan Taormino, Ducky Dootlittle, Reid Mihalko  are real people you can just walk up to and say hello.

What was the best part?  Well, to me (Mike) it felt like there was a sense of community.  I had a couple of conversations that I could not imagine happening anywhere else.   I got it — sex is something all of us are interested in, and most of us wouldn’t be here without it — but it was more than that.   I’m looking forward to seeing some of these folks again at the next event we go to, and maybe actually getting to know them.

It was my first time at a trade show like this and I felt completely welcome and comfortable.   I’ve been in the tech business for 25 years, and have never felt like that at one of my usual trade shows. Thank you to Emily and the SHE team for making this happen.

We’ll be back next year to collect our “Most Innovative Sex Toy for Women” and “Best New Sex Toy” awards.

 

 

 

Back from SHE!

Team Una is home from SHE and digging into our day jobs for a while. Gotta bring in the green while we develop Una V’s products to change the world.

The industrial designers told us they’re shipping our foam/resin models for review tomorrow. ooohhh,  Yes we are excited.

The touch user interface design is coming along. Creating a new type of user interface from scratch is harder than you think.  At this point we have two industrial design guys, a psychologist and me (electrical engineer) working on it.   I am sure it took a small army of people to figure out the original touch interfaces for our smart phones.

Every day Una gets a little closer to being real.

Una’s Design Considerations

When the Intuitive Touch Team decided we wanted to make a vibrator, we didn’t just want to make something and “get it out there”.   We could have.   Several people suggested that.  We were looking for a product to demonstrate the Intuitive Touch Hardware/Software  platform, not necessarily to go into the sex toy business.  However, we don’t like to do things halfway, and we are nuts for quality and being creative.    We looked at what has been done, and where the industry is going, and decided there was lots of room for us to innovate.  If we were going to step out on a limb doing “intimacy products”, we were going to do it right.

So — as a team, it was important to us to see if we could make something that women really liked a lot — enough that they would happily tell their friends about this delightful, elegant and beautiful toy they owned.   We set a pretty high bar for ourselves.  This requires patience, planning and persistence.

We wanted to create an experience for the senses — all the senses.  Starting with the plain brown box,  down to the amazingly beautiful packaging, the device itself, and yes – –  your thousandth orgasm.    All of the pieces have to fit together perfectly.  This is not just a sex-geek/electronics-geek project.  It needs to look like someone thought every step through carefully.

We wanted the device to “just work” and “be ready when you are”.  Nobody wants to pull their vibrator out of the drawer and find that it needs to charge for 8 hours before use.  That just kind of kills the moment.    Nobody wants to read the instruction manual for a vibrator —  it should work in a way that makes sense and is a delight to discover all the things it does.

We required the devices to be waterproof and body safe.   How does one prove this?  UL testing, FCC testing will tell us that the electronics are safe, but we also need to test for waterproofness, and be able to prove that the materials we are using really are body safe.

What if your mother in law or the kids are in the next room?   Quiet is important.

Each of these features has many details that needed to be worked out — what materials specifically?   How heavy is the device?  Can we make something beautiful and elegant?  Can we manufacture it here in the USA?  Can we hit a price point that allows us to make the devices cost effectively?   Does it let us thoroughly wring out the Intuitive Touch Technology platform?   If you leave it out on your nightstand, does it look like  a sex toy or  a piece of art?

The Intuitive Touch Tech team has been working on all of this for several years — doing prototypes,  writing business plans,  working with mechanical engineers and doing focus groups.    I guarantee — our team meetings are more fun and interesting than yours.  We’ve been learning all kinds of stuff they don’t teach in school.  Over the next months, we’ll be writing about all of these “design factors” in detail — leading up to the launch of Una’s first product.   Its going to be awesome.

 

What do we mean by Intuitive Touch?

When you look at your smart phone, its pretty obvious where to put your fingers, and even without instructions, we figure out how to use the touch based environment.

We don’t even think about how to use computer mice,  car stereos, microwave ovens — these devices are intuitive — they behave in a way that “makes sense”, even if you’re not reading an instruction manual.  That’s intuitive.

What if you cannot see the device — because its dark, you’re blind, or you are keeping your eyes on the road?   What if you’re having a great moment with your vibrator and you accidentally push the button and get a vibration pattern you hate.   Now, you want to get right back to that, but — “Did I push the button 5 times or 6?   I can’t quite remember”.   And really — you shouldn’t have to.  What if the device could remember for you and operate in a way that just “makes sense”?  That would be pretty intuitive.

That’s where Intuitive Touch Technology comes in — our software and hardware solution figures out where your whole hand is.  It combines motion, touch, and machine learning to figure out what an individual user is trying to do, then makes it happen.   There is not necessarily a screen involved.   If a device is tilted, or not gripped perfectly, or the user has shaky hands, the device is smart enough to correct for these things and provide a reliable, intuitive user experience.  The device provides intelligent feedback to  the user’s body, based on what it learns from repeated use.

Touch is a pretty fundamental part of the human experience.  We want to bring that to as many people as possible, in many different products — tools for medical professionals, gaming devices, and yes — intimate products like vibrators.

 

 

 

We’ll be at the Sexual Health Expo. Come visit us!

On January 17th and 18th, Team Una will be at the Sexual Health Expo.   On Saturday evening, we’ll have a table at their Meet & Greet event.  We’ll be showing some concept drawings of the device, a demo of the hardware platform, and meeting lots of fun and interesting people.

If you are in the LA Area next weekend, come and visit us at the Sofitel Beverly Hills.  I bet the talks will be a lot more interesting than any trade shows Team Una has gone to as part of our day jobs.   And if you are one of the many people who has listened to Mike talk about Intuitive Touch and his motion sensor/touch sensor prototype, you will finally get to see a real demo.  How cool is that?

 

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