(NEW YORK) — When Oni Chen went off to the London College of Communication where he did his dissertation on apps, he said he missed his girlfriend terribly — especially their sex life.
So Chen, a 27-year-old marketing major from Taiwan, came up with a novel idea to experience intimacy long distance. He invented LovePalz, a gender-appropriate sex toy that conveniently works with an iPhone or other mobile device. Talk about phone sex.
Chen describes it as a “Wi-Fi-connected love machine that lets both the top and the bottom stimulate some sexy time.”
The two gadgets — Hera, which is designed for women; and Zeus, more for males — produce sensation and motion “in real time” via an Internet connection, according to the LovePalz website.
“When I was studying abroad, my girlfriend and I were apart and had a long-distance relationship, sex wasn’t something we could achieve,” he told ABCNews.com. “So I thought, why can’t we have something that can help us spike up our relationship when we are not around each other?”
All it takes, apparently, is a smartphone and $95 for the two devices. The app has a video conference function, too.
“It doesn’t really work, if you don’t see each other,” said Chen. The device is “controlled through your action,” and responds to the movement of the lover on the other phone.
“Mobile devices are just a tool to communicate,” he said. “The concept is to stimulate virtual sex — to feel as real as possible.”
But Joanne Cantor, a University of Wisconsin psychologist who specializes in the stressful aspects of the digital revolution, said LovePalz could be a poor substitute for the real deal.
“It’s probably a novelty thing and you try it once,” she said. “I can just visualize the person holding the phone in one hand and the device in the other hand. How sexy does that feel?”
“My thinking is this would be probably not work very well and kind of reflects what’s going on in technology,” said Cantor, author of the 2009 book Conquer CyberOverload.
Would the app be used, like other online pornography, with a stranger, rather than the spouse? “There is a great general tendency toward moving away from full communication to something less complete,” she said.
Cantor hails Skype as a worthy invention that brings families together, but said texting rather than talking, and Facebooking rather than meeting with real friends, can be dehumanizing.
“As our gadgets get smaller and smaller and work everywhere, they can dominate your life,” she said. “Unless you are aware and make some decisions, they will control every minute of your life.”
Chen readily admits the app has not been approved or even submitted to Apple for its App Store, nor has the device yet been manufactured. His website concedes that Kickstarter, a fundraising site for new ventures, has declined to help. Still, he says his company has already received 2,432 orders from the United States and around the globe.
But, he told ABCNews.com, “We are ready. Theoretically and practically it works.” Chen continues to ask for “donations” and doesn’t require payment until his company can deliver devices by January of 2013
So for now, the LovePalz website enthusiastically describes Chen’s vision: a “streamlined” metallic device that will give “long lasting” pleasure.
“Even if your hands sweat, it will not slip away, and it is very easy to wash if it gets dirty,” says the site. “The device’s fully water proof design allows it to function perfectly in water.”
The device boasts “multiple pressure and speed sensors” to transmit his-and-her reactions via an Internet connection.
But is that enough to salvage a long-distance relationship?
“People have lots of opinions,” said Chen, defending LovePalz. “But we think it can actually help a lot of couples and maybe even reduce their risk of cheating when they feel lonely or bored.”
Chen reports that sadly, his steady girlfriend is no longer around. Maybe the device could have kept the long-distance lovers together?
“Probably, maybe,” he said. “But maybe not.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com
Matt McFarland, CNN
Alanna Petroff, CNN
Rob McLean and Joshua Berlinger, CNN