Erection Tech Is Rising as Younger Patients Treat Dysfunction with AI

Startups rush to meet a growing market with 'smart' cock rings and gamified masturbation sleeves.
​​Image courtesy Myhixel​

What Technology And AI Mean For The Erectile Industry

Throughout history, erectile dysfunction, which includes the inability to achieve an erect penis, spares no social class or age group. King Louis XVI of France reportedly had ED at age 15. Ancient Egyptians used lotus flowers to treat impotence. In ancient Greece and Rome, men wore stone talismans, or ate the genitalia of roosters and goats to boost their virility. 


It’s no surprise, then, that an entire sector of technology claiming to treat erectile issues and improve sexual function has boomed over the last two decades, with the erectile tech industry projected to grow to USD 1.7 billion by 2027. 

An increasing number of entrepreneurs, doctors, and larger corporations are patenting technology—from “smart” cock rings that track nighttime emissions and bodily vitals to guided masturbatory devices incorporating cognitive dissonance and AI—claiming to prevent or cure an age-old struggle. 

A Gold Rush For Cures As Erectile Dysfunction Is On The Rise

The market for ED treatment has never been more crowded. Renowned urologist Dr. James Elist, whose seminal study on the negative effects of cigarette smoking led to the 1982 California bill labeling cigarettes with warnings on impotence, has spent the last two decades focusing on male enhancement and virility. He also patented the world’s first FDA-cleared penile enhancement implant, the Penuma

His business is booming; he told Motherboard the average age of his patients has gotten younger and younger through the last two decades, which he attributes largely to lifestyle factors like an increase in stress, diabetes, and obesity in young people. Other causes include COVID-19 (which impacts blood vessels in all parts of the body) and the recreational use of Viagra by young, healthy men, according to Elist.


“Many things can change and reverse ED, but they should always check with their healthcare provider,” Elist told Motherboard.

While medications such as Viagra and Cialis have been around for decades (and are being revamped with the modern wave of sublinguals like Rugiet), ED smart technology using app-linked devices and medical data to treat sexual dysfunction is relatively new.

Firmtech rings

Product images courtesy of Firmtech

One such smart sex technology company  is FirmTech. The FirmTech Tech Ring is a vibrating cock ring that tracks the wearer’s nocturnal erections (unconscious erections during sleep), duration of their erections, and firmness of their penis. Users can track their data through a linked app, and the pleasurable constriction of the ring itself helps keep the penis hard, the founder of FirmTech, Elliot Justin, told Motherboard. 

“Sexual health is not something that is isolated. It’s a reflection of your overall health.”


Justin is an emergency medicine specialist who told Motherboard that he was first inspired in 2015 when he was working with a doctor at the University of Utah on designing a catheter to control unstable blood pressure after stroke. One of Justin’s colleagues realized this work could have broader implications and challenged him to come up with a way to count the number of nocturnal erections in men, as nocturnal erections are a key indicator of cardiovascular health. 

As a doctor who had seen countless cardiovascular emergencies, and is himself a self-proclaimed cock ring enthusiast, Justin decided to develop what is essentially a smart watch for your penis. 

“Sort of like a heart attack or stroke, there’s no emergency that concerns a man like not being able to get it up,” Justin said. “Sexual health is not something that is isolated. It’s a reflection of your overall health.”

Firmtech is one in a string of recent erectile companies attempting to reinvent the way we think about penile health. Patricia López worked for years in the sex tech industry before founding Myhixel, another erectile technology that gamifies cognitive behavioral therapy to treat premature ejaculation and improve sexual function through an app-linked guided masturbatory device. 

The latest version of the Myhixel Play app uses AI to give the user personalized, real-time guidance while they complete an eight-week, clinical trial-tested program developed by researchers from the ISM (Murcia Sexological Institute) and the University of Elche in Spain. Movement and speed sensors capture each of the steps in users’ masturbation sessions to provide data points like duration, intensity, and heart rate, and based on that data, the app suggests individualized cognitive behavioral therapy to help with the mental aspects of premature ejaculation, as well as nutrition and fitness recommendations for the physical. 


“The use of AI in the ED tech industry could lead to more personalized and effective treatments for people with erectile dysfunction,” Myhixel CTO Bernardo Ronquillo told Motherboard. “AI-powered devices could analyze data on a person’s sexual health and provide tailored treatment plans, including the use of smart sex toys for therapy or stimulation.” 

Where Does The Data Go?

By their very nature, erectile technologies collect a host of intimate data. AI can enhance the personalized and therapeutic applications of erectile technologies, but can also heighten data security and privacy risks. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) only protects information that is directly exchanged between a licensed medical provider and the patient. Everything else—from the data collected by an app about your ejaculation times to the personal information you input when you create a profile—is fair game. 

Mozilla data privacy expert Jen Caltrider, who recently lead a project analyzing the data security and privacy of mental health apps (which are notoriously murky), said that data security often comes down to the resources of the company producing the product, and smaller companies simply may not have the resources to pay for all the encryption. Myhixel claims to use “completely secure, encrypted services,” according to Roquillo, and Justin said Firmtech’s user data is encrypted by industry standard AWS. But data protection laws surrounding such health apps are nebulous at best. 


“Just like the information that your Fitbit collects on you is health data… but because it’s not being collected by a health professional it’s just data that the company collects and owns and you have to trust them with,” Caltrider said.

Data privacy is an even grayer area, Caltrider said, pointing out that FirmTech’s privacy policy, which is fairly standard among erectile technologies, paints in broad strokes and allows for sharing data with third-party affiliates.

“I mean, data is money. I’m always surprised at how much information we give up and how companies find ways to make money off of it,” Caltrider said.

Smart Sex Toys, Smarter Sex Robots?

The rapid growth of AI and smart sex toys have the potential to transform the robotics and prosthetics industry, as well. Researchers can use the data generated by smart sex toys for advanced robotics to create prosthetics that can provide more realistic feedback to users and simulate touch. 

Glenise Kinard-Moore, certified information security expert and founder of accessibility-friendly Bluetooth-enabled prosthetic penis VDOM, told Motherboard she is optimistic about the benefits of AI-enabled prosthetics and believes that realistic sex robots are not far off in the future. 

Glenise Kinard-Moore

VDOM founder Glenise Kinard-Moore (credit Ira Carmichael)

“By collecting data on usage patterns and physiological responses, AI-enabled prosthetics could be customized to better meet the needs of their users,” Kinard-Moore said. “For example, an ED tech device could use AI to analyze a user's sexual response and adjust the level of stimulation or pressure to optimize their experience. Another potential implication is the use of AI in robotics. As AI technology becomes more sophisticated, we could see the development of robots designed to provide sexual companionship or assistance. These robots could use AI to learn and adapt to individual preferences and provide a more personalized experience,” says Kinard-Moore.

If each evolution in AI technology is inching us closer to a world populated with Blade Runner-esque sex robots, Kinard-Moore said she hopes that companies will be cognizant of ethics and avoid the dystopian element. “As with any emerging technology, it's important to consider the ethical implications of these developments,” Kinard-Moore said. “There are concerns about the potential for AI-powered sex robots to perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes or further objectify women.” 

Since erectile dysfunction is both a medical issue and a tech opportunity, the erectile technology market’s rapid growth shows few signs of stopping. “As these technologies continue to evolve, it will be important for developers and users alike to consider the ethical implications and ensure that they are used in a responsible and respectful manner,” Kinard-Moore said.