smart condom

Condoms have a bad rep in most corners. They get blamed for loss of feeling during sex, for interrupting the flow and for, frankly, smelling kind of gross. According to Planned Parenthood, only 19% of women between the ages of 20 and 44 and 6% of women age 61 and older use condoms whenever they have sex.

Those are pretty abysmal numbers.

But they’re also one of our greatest protections against STIs and unintentional pregnancies so figuring out how to get people to wear them more consistently is pretty important.

If that’s the case, why are condoms still basically the same as they’ve ever been? Despite the amazing advances that the human race has made in technology in the past hundred years, he design and functionality of condoms hasn’t really changed since guys in medieval times were rolling sheepskins over their cocks.

But if one China-based company has anything to do with it, that won’t be the case for long.

Tech Hive, China’s premier startup accelerator, recently teamed up with Durex to run a 54-hour startup challenge focusing on sexual health. The winner was a smart condom named CirQ that was created by a team that was led by Biman Najika Liyanagea, a researcher at Beihang University, with experience at Microsoft Research Asia and a founder of two previous startups.

The CirQ — which was conceived of, designed, and pitched in the 54 hour period — is a “a smart material-based printable electronic tag” that responds to blood flow and contracts or expands the condom accordingly. It will also send data via biometric sensors to an accompanying app, making it the world’s first adaptable condom.

“Basically, the circuitry goes on a strip at the base of the condom,” explained team member Alex Ververis. “It can sense blood flow, and constrict or expand the diameter of the condom accordingly, with a gentle yet pleasant pumping action. The twin benefits are an enhanced and healthier sexual experience.”

As the winner of the Tech Hive/Durex competition, the team will receive RMB100,000 (around $16,000) in cash, marketing consultancy from Durex, promotion on Durex’s Chinese social media networks (including Weibo, WeChat, and Douban), and a gift bag of “sexual well-being products.”

The question now, of course, is whether or not this concept product will actually get produced. Unfortunately, those of us in the sex/tech world know that Durex has a habit of getting us really pumped about products and then revealing that — surprise! — they had no intention of ever actually creating them.

(Who remembers the haptic tech toy Fundawear from Durex Australia? Jerks.)

Perhaps the fact that the CirQ was created by an independent team means that someday in the future we’ll see it on the market — but I’m not going to get my hopes up too high. If nothing else, I hope that the concept spurs other innovators to think of new ways that the amazing technology we have at our disposal in 2015 could make condoms something more than a necessary evil.

Image courtesy of Hey Paul Studios, via CC License on Flickr.

h/t BaDoink Magazine.


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