Kiiroo - a new (expensive) way to masturbate over the internet.

by Shawna Scott July 30, 2015

Like any retail business, especially ones that deal in personal tech, researching and choosing products to stock is a big part of what I do. I’ll read press releases, blogs and industry articles about a product, and then I’ll buy one in to have a look at it for myself. Much like the broader tech industry, with sex toys there’s a lot of hype with only a small percentage of products being worth that hype. I have to filter out a lot of the buzz, if you’ll forgive the pun, to discover what toys are designed well enough to have on my virtual shelves.

In the last few months, I have received countless emails and press releases for a new brand of toy that promises to “revolutionise” the industry (they always do). However after properly seeing the Kiiroo Onyx & Pearl teledildonics set being road tested in a Vice mini-documentary about the future of sex and relationships, I had to admit my interest was piqued. Teledildonics is a term that refers to electronic sex toys that can be controlled using a computer. Some of them use mobile phone apps like the We-Vibe 4 or Vibease. Others like Co-mingle and indeed the Kiiroo use haptic technology.

You can buy Kiiroo’s men’s masturbator (Onyx)  or vibrator (Pearl)  individually or as a set. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be writing about them as a set. Kiiroo market it as a way for couples to connect long distance. The Onyx is held over the penis, and using bluetooth, any touch made on the Pearl is supposedly replicated inside the Onyx. However this is where the design flaws start to kick in. The teledildonics part is entirely one way - the woman can stimulate the man remotely, but his actions have no effect on what she feels. The Pearl does vibrate, but when the whole point of the system is for couples to connect, it seriously falls short of that goal. It enforces the trope that men need to be pleasured and women’s bodies are just too complicated, so we’ll let them take care of themselves.


The Kiiroo system is also complicated and difficult to set up.  When I took the Pearl out of the box, the shaft was dusty and held a strong plasticy smell from the packaging that I could not manage to wash off; not a good start. It took myself and my partner ages to figure out how to turn the Onyx bit on, and we’re people who handle sex toys literally everyday. I was suddenly reminded of a great Elon Musk quote:

“Any product that needs a manual to work is broken.”  

The toy itself is loaded with complex futuristic penis-squeezing technology, so it’s exceedingly bulky and quite heavy - to the point where both hands are needed during use, which can be distracting. The port for the USB charger is at the same end as where you insert your penis and lube. This seems like an odd and counterintuitive decision since they had a ridiculous amount of surface area to choose from. The Onyx is loud and grindy-sounding. In fact after paying our friends in wine to act as a mini-focus group, it received the nickname “dick-eater.”

Inside it is lined with a Fleshlight brand SuperSkin™ sleeve, and underneath is a series of textured, contracting rings that react to signals sent from the Pearl. Another problem is the SuperSkin™ sleeve. Kiiroo have opted to partner with well-known toy manufacturer, Fleshlight, to create disposable sleeves for the Onyx rather than design their own silicone version.

Apart from the fact that even after spending $369, you will still have to continue buying new sleeves at $10 a pop, there are other worrying issues with the disposable sleeves. Part of the problem stems from the fact that the industry I love so much and have found a career in is completely unregulated internationally in terms of what materials a sex toy can be made from. There are no standards for which adult products must be held to, and because of this, manufacturers do not have to disclose what their products are made of either. In the case of Fleshlight, their patented SuperSkin™ material is a “closely guarded company secret,” which is understandable for a brand as popular as Fleshlight, but even the likes of Coca-Cola still have to disclose the types of ingredients used in their soft drinks and are held to account by the FDA. The Kiiroo website does not even say how often a sleeve should be changed out.

Based on texture and the fact that it’s disposable, my best guess would be that the sleeve is made from an elastomer, which is fine. I sell Tenga men’s products that are made from elastomer as well, but consumers need to be made aware of that - because elastomer, while non-toxic, is still slightly porous and can allow bacteria to grow if not cleaned and stored properly. Most importantly, it is not a “forever” material like silicone and will need to be thrown away eventually, something that isn’t made explicitly clear on the website.

On top of paying for the disposable sleeves, there is also the option of purchasing video content that the Onyx syncs to, something that isn’t really advertised on the very “couples-friendly” site until after you download and install the app. Users get access to a limited amount of these for free with your purchase, but after that they are then an additional $10 each.  You would think they’d at least give users a few weeks or months access to their porn library for free.

Kiiroo does have one strong thing going for it, and that’s the web-camming community. While their teledildonics system fails at bringing actual real life couples together, the same cannot be said for online, transactional sex. In fact last year they were recruiting Camgirls as affiliates to sell pre-orders on their Indiegogo campaign of what eventually became the Onyx & Pearl, but realising they would get better publicity if they branded them as “couples” toys, they seem to have changed their marketing strategy. Cam models are still using their products, but now Kiiroo do not have to risk being labelled as “seedy.”  

The Onyx and Pearl toys could be great, but not in their current incarnations. Kiiroo have fallen into the trap of putting too much focus on the technology and not enough on the user experience. It ignores the needs of half the people that it is marketed to, wives and girlfriends, but clearly was developed and designed for the cam market. The usability needs work, and for that high of a price point, they need to use materials that don’t need to be replaced again and again, or at the very least give you a few extra sleeves with the kit. I have faith that versions 2.0 and 3.0 will be better, but for me, the Kiiroo debut has left me disappointed.

 





Shawna Scott
Shawna Scott

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