Sonic Sex Toys: Revel Body Puts Fancy-Toothbrush Tech into Vibrators

1/10/12Follow @curtwoodward

Turns out sonic-wave motors aren’t just good for cleaning your teeth or skin. Seattle startup Revel Body, newly backed by an array of Northwest angel investors, is using a similar motor technology to power a new line of sex toys.

Yep, that’s right—vibrators. Revel Body founder Robin Elenga says the resonant motors that power sonic cleaning products are vastly superior vibration producers when compared to old-fashioned rotary motors powering most adult toys these days, but they’re still not being implemented in the industry.

Revel Body plans to change that. The company, which has been quietly doing bootstrapped research and development for about five years, recently closed an $825,000 seed round from the Alliance of Angels, Puget Sound Venture Club, and Zino Society. The company is readying its first product for retail outlets, aimed at going on sale later this year.

The Seattle area has a prolific history with sonic-wave consumer health devices. A lot of that traces back to the team from Optiva and entrepreneur David Giuliani, who developed the Sonicare toothbrush and sold the company to Netherlands-based Philips in 2000.

Giuliani then took the sonic-wave-creating motor technology to a new venture, Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, which developed the ClariSonic skin-cleansing brush—a consumer hit that cracked $100 million in annual sales before being acquired by L’Oreal USA in November.

Revel Body isn’t related to those companies, but Elenga—a software guy and former consultant for Fortune 500 companies—says the startup is working with a similar type of resonant motor in its device. One major difference, which Revel Body is in the final stages of patenting, is the ability to run the vibrator in a range of speeds rather than at a fairly stable rate, such as with the Sonicare or ClariSonic, Elenga says.

Revel Body’s pitch is that the resonant motor technology allows the device to produce a more vigorous and pleasing vibration, something much more modern and advanced than the old-fashioned devices proliferating the adult market today.

“The big things that consumers don’t like about these products, pretty much the majority of them, come back to the motor,” Elenga says. “It seems like with a vibrator, you’d want to compete on vibration. But nobody is doing that. It’s kind of a head-slapper when you look at it that way.”

Not that consumers haven’t noticed the advantages on their own. “I’ve heard from multiple close sources within Sonicare that there were a lot of people out there in the world using the Sonicare toothbrush as a sexual vibrator,” he says.

Revel Body has been operating on a relatively small budget, spending around $150,000 over the past five years to develop and test the product. The first device, named the Orb, looks a lot different from what you might think for a product like this. Elenga says the resonant motor technology allows different forms for devices, and allows it to be battery powered yet still powerful. The company plans to assemble the products itself from third-party components, with relatively little labor.

Revel Body's Orb

As for the subject matter—this isn’t a mobile-social app we’re talking about, here—Elenga says it’s something that he had to take a little time getting used to at first when doing pitches. But “after about 100 conversations, you get kind of numb to it.”

As a guy, I wondered whether there was a particularly delicate way for him to proceed in pitching the product to investors, partners, or testers, since the target market is heavily female. Wouldn’t there be a creepiness factor to avoid?

Elenga says it’s actually been men who have blanched the most.

“At a couple of groups, virtually every woman in the crowd is smiling and nodding their head. The guys might have smirks on their faces—occasionally a guy would walk out of the room because he was so uncomfortable,” Elenga says. “People would apologize whenever that would happen, but I think it’s good because it shows that this industry is still transitioning into the mainstream. And I think that’s when you want to get into an industry.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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