Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Sex Toy Charlotte Is Offering the World

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 11/12/2009 1 comment
I received a press release yesterday that announced the RealTouch had gone on sale to the public. RealTouch is a men's sex device and back in February I actually had the pleasure (no pun intended) of visiting the facility where the device was being developed, which is in Charlotte. Yep, Charlotte is the home base for Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network (AEBN), the largest provider of video-on-demand services for the adult entertainment industry. I met with the company president and staff there and they gave me a tour of the facility and showed me how the RealTouch works. Yes, it was pretty much like watching porn on the job. But hey, as a journalist I must go to the source to be able to report these things.

So when I received the press release yesterday, it reminded me that back in February I had written an article for a magazine, but that version of the article never saw the light of day (my editor only wanted a small blurb about the product, so a paragraph-size write-up was published in the mag). So I'm giving you that original article now. Below, I shed insight into how the RealTouch works and show how AEBN is a flourishing company.

A Wii for the Wee-Wee
Local company seeks to revolutionize porn with virtual sex device

By Jarvis Holliday

The Internet has been a gift and a curse for many industries. The music biz loves it because of the ease of promoting new artists, but hates it because of the illegal downloading that hurts record sales. No industry has been in bed more with the web than porn, though. Over the past decade, it has led to record-breaking sales for videos, sex toys, and services like web chats. But with all the pay sites out there, they’re hit hard by piracy, too.

But Charlotte-based Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network (AEBN), the largest provider of video-on-demand services in the $12 billion a year adult entertainment industry, is about to change the game. The company plans to begin selling its RealTouch men’s virtual sex device in coming months and it believes that its more than 10 million subscribers—who watch videos through the pay-per-minute service—aren’t going to be able to do without it.

The prototype for RealTouch was being developed for several years by a company that specializes in haptic (touch) technology when they approached AEBN. “They had a pretty good prototype, but didn’t know anything about the porn industry,” says Scott Coffman, president of AEBN. “So we partnered with them to take the prototype to develop it for use.”

What you have now is a sleek device that looks like something for your computer, but you’re not sure what at first glance. “It has the shape of a woman in some aspects, if you look at the curves,” says Brett Drysdale, product manager. “And we wanted to give sort of a modern, sleek look to it. But ultimately, we had things to fill in there like the three servo motors and the belts.”

The RealTouch is now for sale. The lady doesn't come with it.

It connects to your computer by a USB cable (the same way your printer and digital camera does) and after installing a supplied plug-in to Windows Media Player, you’re ready for action. It accepts lubrication, has a warming element, squeezes, and shakes--all to simulate the feeling of sex. RealTouch is engineered to be used exclusively on videos that stream online through AEBN’s website and those of its more than 20,000 affiliates (Playboy.com being one of the sites it provides video on demand for). The company currently has more than 100,000 adult titles in its catalog, but to be used with RealTouch the movies have to be individually configured frame by frame for use, a process that takes dozens of hours for a single scene by AEBN’s team of programmers. (AEBN currently has about 400 adult movies configured for use with RealTouch.)

Business is good for AEBN, which Coffman started in 1999. The company employs 250 people in its Charlotte headquarters and has recently moved into a 30,000 square foot office building that it purchased (not far from Billy Graham Parkway, coincidentally). Coffman says by the time RealTouch launches (25,000 will be stocked in a local warehouse), he will have invested about $10 million in its development. The device will go on sale for $199.99, but the company expects to generate most of its related revenue by charging $0.99 per minute to stream the videos that must be played with it. And they expect it will be played with.

"I would compare it to the video game world where Xbox and PlayStation were going about it the same, like 'we need to make better graphics and sound,' " Coffman says. "And Wii said, 'you know what, probably the better way to go is to change the controller and the whole concept of how you play the game.' Up to that point, the controller was never the focus. Now, it’s the same game, no major change in graphics, but it makes you feel like you’re in the game. And it gives them such an edge up on everybody else. And that’s kind of how we see what we’re about to do."

For more details, visit www.realtouch.com (NSFW).

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