An electric condom in early stages of development just might take safe sex from analog to digital.
Last March, Bill and Melinda Gates challenged innovators worldwide to invent the "Next Generation Condom" -- one that wouldn't diminish the quality of sensations felt during sex. Notable entries included a condom made from collagen derived from beef tendon claiming to approximate human skin, and a condom that actually tightens during intercourse. But none of these really give the jolt some may be looking for.
Last week, Georgia Tech students Firaz Peer and Andrew Quitmeyer introduced their "Electric Eel" condom on IndieGogo, which they describe as an "open-source digital condom prototype using electrodes and soft-circuitry." In laymen's terms, it supplies mild vibrations -- a "digital" rather than "physical" enhancement to the standard condom, as the creators put it.
While battery-operated devices can be a woman's best friend, the words "voltage," circuitry" and "electricity" are rather terrifying to anyone with a vulva. But for men, the threadlike electrodes running throughout the condom, concentrated in the underside of the shaft, provide the type of stimulation condom-less sex can't.
The condom is still in very early stages of development, and Quitmeyer and Peer are performing most tests on a cloth-sheath version, pictured above, which potential users can try out to get a feel for the sensations. The electric currents are manipulated by a microcontroller connected to the condom and operated by the user, or by "various Internet APIs" accessed from a mobile device. Start brainstorming ways to explain your CondomApp.
Despite considerable anecdotal evidence to the contrary, the commonly-held assumption that sex without condoms is more pleasurable often prevents their use. But with STDs being an increasingly global concern, eschewing safe sex for perceived better sex is an alarming trend. Can a dubiously realized electric condom inspire a worldwide shift in attitudes about safe sex? Not necessarily. But the degree to which talented innovators have taken up the condom-improvement mantle is encouraging, and getting some latex in Silicon Valley could give safe sex an upgrade.
We look forward to seeing which condom earns the Gates Foundation's $1 million prize. If indeed it is the "Electric Eel," may we recommend a lubricated version, "Electric Slide"?
[h/t Refinery 29]