A massive proportion of young, single people use apps like Tinder and Bumble to meet peers. That means, in a sense, that our phones have become sex tools. The idea of a battery-powered pleasure machine is almost a cultural given. And that’s good news for the sex toy industry, which is growing thanks to early adopters and the product designer that cater to them. Today’s buzzers and dildos and cock rings — what a previous generation might have called “marital aids” — aren’t as terrifying as their predecessors. They are intended for the mass market.

LELO, a Swedish luxury pleasure company founded in 2002, capitalizes on the combination of advanced technology and lifestyle. The company boasts one of the most expensive vibrators in the world: the 18 karat gold LELO Inez. In addition to making ridiculously wealthy people feel sexy, LELO integrates its tech into kegel exercisers, silicone vibrators, and toys meant for users to share during intercourse. The products are well made and beautiful in their own right. LELO clearly wants to be the Apple of genital stimulation and they’re succeeding.

The LELO Ora 2™ comes dangerously close to existing in the uncanny valley — it’s a near-cyborg-like toy meant to replicate the sensation of oral sex. Using it feels like intimacy without the intimacy. Using the LUNA Smart Bead™, on the other hand, is a more straight-forward experience and about as erotic as a pap smear. That’s not an insult to product, by the way; it’s a training device for kegel muscles which gauges the user’s strength, remembers the user’s progress for each new use, and designs an exercise routine.

The company got me in touch with Steve Thomson, the brand’s Global Marketing Manager. We emailed back and forth about what it’s like to sell a gadget designed to give the most pleasure to the most people.

Do you consider yourself a communications person for a tech industry, an erotic lifestyle industry, or some combination?

My background was is copywriting and marketing consultancy for luxury sports cars and 5 star hotels, but when I saw LELO was hiring, there was something about the potential of the company that intrigued me.

Technology and sexuality are inextricably linked, so it’s possible to be a communications person for both industries at the same time. They’re not mutually exclusive industries: for as long as technology has existed, it’s been adapted for sexual purposes. For example, 1839 saw Louis Daguerre invent the camera as we know it today. The first series of erotic photographs appeared in 1840. By 1860, the amount of photographic studios in Paris alone had risen to 400 from 16 a couple of years earlier, and the majority of these studios made their income from the sale of illicit and, at the time, illegal nude photos.

The same is true of the printing press, the video camera, the internet, and countless other examples where technology has been sexualized the moment it was developed.

That’s stunning. I never thought about technology and sex that way before, as twin entities, but you make a good point. Can you describe how technology and sexual health overlap today?

When it comes to sexual health or products designed to enhance sexual function, technology becomes incredibly important – sometimes in unexpected ways. Take something relatively simple, like the popular TOR 2 vibrating couples’ ring – where our engineers work with silicone suppliers to extend to the composition of the silicone from which the ring is made, to make sure it’s exactly the right balance of strength and stretchiness.

Sticking with male-oriented pleasure products for the next example, one of the bestselling objects of 2015 was the HUGO™ prostate massager. Prostate massagers have long been loosely associated with improved sexual function, and as our flagship male pleasure product, we really got behind the technology in HUGO. It features our exclusive SenseMotion™ technology, which allows the product to be controlled wirelessly through the motions of the remote, which features an integrated accelerometer that transmits motion to the massager which then converts those motions into corresponding vibrations.

I’ve read about how recognizing the prostate as a source of pleasure for men will help break down that barrier between genders. I know a lot of sex toys companies have released products to help women focus on their pleasure, but the prostate massager makes perfect sense too. That area is kind of a taboo for a lot of straight men, the way vibrators used to have for women. What kinds of technological products is LELO most interested right now? Sexual health stuff?

We’re exploring those materials and seeing how they might benefit our customers. We’re also looking closely at mobile technologies and the app world, to see if there’s any room for improvement or opportunities for fun developments in pleasure. Virtual reality looks set to be an interesting frontier too, but we can’t give away any details at this time.

What do you think will keep people interested in sex with other humans, even as sex toys become more and more advanced? One of the issues I’ve heard, regarding sex toy technology, is that some people think it depersonalizes sex. As technology advances, and robotics allow us to blur the line between “human” and “robotic”, do you think the sex toy industry will expand?

We understand the argument there, and on the surface it seems logical and would appear to hold weight. But our experience at LELO is that the opposite is actually true: the better the technology becomes, the more it has the effect of bringing people together. For example, LELO’s focus has always been on enhancing a healthy sex life, as opposed to replacing it - which means that our pleasure products are inherently humanizing, intimate, and personal. In that respect, the industry will only continue to expand.

As far as actual robotics and lifelike simulations are concerned, we’re confident that nothing is going to usurp sex in the foreseeable future. As before, it’s a mistake to think that sex toys are a replacement for sex: a LELO product is an addition to great sex, not a substitute for it. That attitude is at the core of what we do, and will safeguard us for as long as we exist.

VR sex will not replace physical sex, the same way long-distance relationships haven’t been ruined by instant messaging. As long as we all understand that technology supplements sex and is not an alternative to it, sex is perfectly safe.

What would you say someone who wants to get into the sex toy industry as a developer or engineer?

The pleasure industry is in a better place than ever before, but there is still plenty of room for new, creative innovators, especially progressive engineers who have an instinct for sexual development. There are only a handful of big pleasure brands like LELO so competition is strong, but LELO is always interested in talking to talented people.

You don’t often see toys used in media realistically, especially not between couples. Can you think of any characters on TV or in film who would definitely own a LELO product?

As far as fictional characters are concerned, there were a lot of LELO products featured in 50 Shades of Grey, and more look likely to appear in the forthcoming sequel. So, Christian Grey is certainly a LELO owner.

But if we had to conjecture, I think we’d probably go with Anna Kendrick’s character from Pitch Perfect, Cersei Lannister and Daenerys from Game of Thrones, if they had invented electricity, Grace from Will & Grace — and Will too, now I that think about it.