At CES 2019 the biggest topic, almost by accident, was sex tech. That's because the governing body of the event revoked its Innovation Award on realizing the company behind the winning robotics technology makes sex tech products.
That company, Lora DiCarlo, makes a device that taps advanced microrobotics to give women hands-free orgasms. The company still made an appearance at a smaller nighttime show, but nowhere near the main CES show floor where it was denied placement, and not at the Innovation Awards ceremony.
On Wednesday, the Consumer Technology Association reversed the award's revocation, which had gotten other 2019 CES attendees and the media talking about the placement of sex tech among consumer products.,
"CTA did not handle this award properly," Jean Foster, CTA's senior vice president of marketing and communications, said in a statement. "This prompted some important conversations internally and with external advisors and we look forward to taking these learnings to continue to improve the show."
In a follow-up call, Foster said the CTA is always looking to expand the show into new areas. "One of the benefits of CES ... is the fact that we're always looking at what are the latest innovations in consumer technology and how do we (put) them in the show."
Foster also that said while the CTA didn't believe there was anything fundamentally wrong with the awards, it's reviewing policies and processes to ensure it's following its own rules.
Lora DiCarlo said it was thankful for the restoration of the award given for the company's work in advanced robotics.
"We appreciate this gesture from the CTA, who have taken an important step in the right direction to remove the stigma and embarrassment around female sexuality. This is a win for our engineering team, who deserve recognition for the robotic technology they developed in the making of Osé. The Lora DiCarlo team is committed to pushing the technology industry forward and to embrace female, diverse and LGBTQ innovators. We hope we can continue to be a catalyst for meaningful changes that makes CES and the consumer tech industry inclusive for all."
Foster seemed to echo the claims, saying that the CTA is constantly asking, "How do we drive the industry forward?" As a leader on a global stage, CTA has an ability to elevate smaller, more diverse tech.
CES' annual Innovation Awards recognize exceptional achievements in technology. In October 2018, Lora was notified it had won the CES 2019 Innovation Award in the Robotics and Drones category, an honor that would be announced at the 2019 event in Las Vegas.
That category is described on the CES site like this: "Consumer drones, consumer UAVs and other unmanned systems that are able to fly, move, or otherwise be operated from a remote location. May include secondary features such as photo/video recording, movement of materials, mapping, way-finding, search/rescue, or other capabilities."
Lora DiCarlo's Osé device taps robotics to provide women with hands-free blended orgasms that involve both the clitoris and G-spot. It does this through microrobotics meant to mimic human touch in place of vibrations. The Osé (called Vela at the time of the company's application for the CES award) is not yet available for public purchase but was evaluated by judges from various backgrounds. At the time, the device incorporated five pending patents for robotics, biomimicry and engineering feats, according to Lora DiCarlo.
On realizing what type of device the Osé, nee Vela, was, the CTA revoked the award, apologizing and saying that the Lora DiCarlo product "does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted for the Innovation Awards Program." The CTA went on to say that this was because "CES is a professional business show, and porn, adult toys and sex tech products are not part of the event."
Also on Wednesday, Lora DiCarlo announced that it had raised an additional $2 million in financing, bring its total investment to date to $3.2 million. Founder and CEO Lora Haddock said in a release that she was honored by the financial show of support: "Our investors support our mission of promoting gender equity and making societal changes that benefit everyone."
Originally published 11:21 a.m. PT.
Update, 1:51 p.m. PT: Adds more comment from CTA and Lora DiCarlo investment news.