Is This USB Vibrator The New iPod? [Interview]

Is This USB Vibrator The New iPod? [Interview]

The DUET, photo courtesy CRAVE.

DUET is one of those products designed to elicit “aha” moments: it’s a vibrator that looks like a USB key. Small, slim and discreet, it has no cords, no bulky buttons and requires no batteries.

Despite Steve Jobs’s well-known war on porn, he might have approved of the guiding principles behind its luxe yet functional design.

The San Francisco-based startup behind it, CRAVE, hopes to do what Apple did for MP3 players: create a breakout product that people will want to carry around.

No more hiding your sex toys in a drawer or worrying about airport security sniggers; a soon-to-ship version dubbed DUET LUX packs memory storage like a regular USB key – an enticing twofer if ever there was one.

Is This USB Vibrator The New iPod? [Interview]

Cult of Mac talked to CRAVE’s Ti Chang, an industrial designer, and Michael Topolovac, a serial entrepreneur with a product design degree from Stanford, about their inspiration and what it’s like to think like a Mac but rely on PCs to make your design desires reality.

Cult of Mac: So you do both design and most manufacturing in-house – like Apple’s early days. Does it lead to a better product?

Michael Topolovac: Yes, that’s why we do it. Manufacturing can be a lot of work and require a lot of energy; we think it has a huge impact on final product. With an R&D shop in the building, you build a prototype and can gauge the look and feel in real time. If you don’t have those abilities in-house, it takes forever. The attention to detail has to do with having control over all the key processes…and making sure details you don’t want don’t end up on the final product.

Is This USB Vibrator The New iPod? [Interview]

CoM: How did you hit on the USB idea?

MT: In our research (we talked to over 1,000 women) no one ever said, “I want a USB vibrator.” What they said was, “Batteries are a hassle, chargers – and leaving vibrators out to charge – are a hassle.”

Ti Chang: When I came on board, the USB charging was already there from a design standpoint… Ultimately, it was about keeping it simple. It needed to perform well and look nice, without attracting attention; DUET has a very clean aesthetic, it looks like it belongs charging on your computer. (And the part that you use on your body isn’t the part you plug in, either)… Vibrators are often these hideous objects that you want hide, stash in a drawer, with these outlandish shapes and colors and everything.

We wanted to create something beautiful and elegant, something you don’t have to feel ashamed about… You could leave it around the house and it wouldn’t be a big deal.

CoM: Apple didn’t make the first MP3 player, but they made the one that worked best. Is that what you’re trying to accomplish with Crave?

MT: When Apple is involved, you always want to avoid the hubris of comparisons. But we aspire to that: with MP3 players, the tech existed but no one had solved the experience. When Apple perfected the experience, the iPod became the MP3 player everyone wanted. In our two years of research, we learned the experience *is* the product. With DUET, the experience questions were – How do I buy it? How do I go through airport security? How do I charge it? Is it waterproof? It’s similar in that regard, we’re trying to solve an overall experience.

Is This USB Vibrator The New iPod? [Interview]

The team at CRAVE.

CoM: You mentioned you’re definitely “Mac people,” what do you run on, Macs or PCs?

TC: Our platform of choice is Mac, but we can’t use it for everything.

MT: We use [Macs] for whatever we can. Sadly, in the MCAD and EDA space, there are not the right tools yet for the Mac world, so for Solidworks and Altium, we have to use PCs… Though they are on Mac hardware that we dual boot when we need to deal with the PC world.

CoM: What kind of problems does this create?

TC: Well, with the switching back and forth, it’s mostly little things. Maybe you leave something on the desktop (sorry Michael!) it can be a little messy… You have to remember to tidy up and make sure files are saved in right place… You might make sketches and not have them on Mac, so it interrupts the flow… A lot of little hiccups that get resolved eventually.

MT: There are a lot of layers to this issue… I speak as someone who was originally an Apple II user and has worked in all-PC shops… The quality of my life improved dramatically when working in a “mixed” environment, comparatively speaking. The pain involved in switching between platforms is dwarfed by what it would be like if we had to live in a Windows world completely. We also use the cloud when possible, too.

Is This USB Vibrator The New iPod? [Interview]

DUET has four vibration modes and four power levels.

CoM: You crowdsourced funding back in August and recently started shipping. Who are the first DUET customers?

MT: We really thought of this as a female-centric product, with Ti as our own Jonny Ive (laughing), the voice of the product, but we’ve been surprised. About half of our customers so far are men.

TC: Enlightened men!

MT: There are men who aren’t against vibrators in principle, but they wouldn’t buy those pink bunny or wormy-looking things… The feedback we’re getting is, “It’s beautiful, designed well and I’m not embarrassed to buy it for her.”

CoM: What’s next for you?

MT: Again, any comparisons with Apple are risky, but we can aspire to one-tenth of that greatness. I view us as a cross between a company like Apple, focused on consumer products, and a fashion company like Hermès.

TC: We’re committed to designing experiential products for women, that’s at the core of what we do; sexuality is such a varied thing, no one product suits everyone.

You can check out CRAVE here.

This story is part of an ongoing series, if you’d like to be featured, email Nicole AT cultofmac.com or use the form below.


  • Brianna Wu

    Really interesting story. These are all legit concerns, and it looks like a good product. 

  • prof_peabody

    it looks interesting and very well designed, but I’m not sure which end is which or what plugs in where.  it would be better if either of the two websites for it had a more detailed explanation. 

  • Giovanni Bianchi

    LELO have been already doing that for a while with their Mia usb vibrator.

  • Felix George Liver

    in a series? of what sex toy specials? lol

  • ThinkingAtheist

    I-i-i-i-ii-i     f-f-fo-o-o-r-r-rr     o-o-on-n-n-e-e-e-   w-w-wo-o-ou-u-l-l-d-d-d     -nn-ne-e-ee-v-v-e-ee-r-r-r-r    u-uu-s-s-s–ee-e-      s-s-su-u-c-c-h-h-h-h       a-a-a     d-dd–e-ee-v-v-v-ii-c-c-c-e-ee…

  • shherr

    Uh. Sure the design is great, but at least those bunnies and dolphins that lady shit-talked have a part for penetration. A lot of women don’t care for penetration, but they’re alienating those that do… and I have no clue why this is on this particular blog… other than the in-house manufacturing comparison. 

  • venasque

     Really?  Not trying to troll here but I thought it was pretty obvious.  Also in the interview part of the article they say the part that plugs into the computer for charging is not the part used on against the body.  So using the included photos you can figure out which part is which. 

  • HoodiVision

    USB…Unusually Strong Buzz…….

About the author

Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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