Making a touchless vibrator with reverse engineering

Here’s one for the ladies (and men, we guess) out there.

[Beth] recently bought a LELO Lyla vibrator for herself, but found operating this wireless vibrator to be an exercise in mood-killing awkwardness. Wanting a more natural interface, she decided to reverse engineer a remote control vibrator. Here’s a cache; [Beth]‘s blog has been up and down all day.

The LELO Lyla comes with a wireless control in the form of a neon pink remote. [Beth] thought this remote was a little clunky and felt like programming a VCR – something she doesn’t like in a sex toy. With the goal of improving this remote and allowing for a better user experience, [Beth] tore down this remote and began to build her own.

The new vibrator remote would have to be touchless – there’s nothing that kills the mood faster than mashing buttons. By using ultrasonic sensors, [Beth] would be able to control the intensity of her vibrator by simply waving her hand; a much more natural interface. With the control interface out of the way, the only thing left to do was to figure out how to control the business end of the vibrator.

The remote for a stock LELO Lyla comes with a MSP430 microcontroller and a 2.4 GHz CC2500 radio controlled over an SPI interface. Instead of disassembling the microcontroller and figuring out the firmware from scratch, [Beth] decided to sniff the SPI bus and make her own controller.

After attaching some 0.1″ headers to the stock remote and soldering a few wires to the microcontroller, [Beth] captured the SPI data with a Propeller dev board. By streaming the SPI traffic to a terminal, she was able to figure out exactly how the remote works and set out on building her own.

The new remote was built out of an Arduino Pro Mini, ultrasonic sensor, CC2500 radio and a four digit 7-segment display. After printing an enclosure, [Beth] had a very easy to use, hands free vibrator.

In the video after the break you can see [Beth]‘s vibrator in action. She’s still looking for a few more ways to improve it such as predicting the movements of her hand with a phase-locked loop, but for now we’ll just tip our hat to [Beth] for a very awesome hack.

135 thoughts on “Making a touchless vibrator with reverse engineering

  1. I was wondering what all the buzz was about but it seems that HaD is probing previously unexpanded regions of in depth hacking. It’s always nice to see some variety here.

  2. (in the key of office space boss Lumburg): Yeah…….. mmm-k.

    But, it’s an interesting interface idea, I’m not quite clear on how the control method is any better or worse than the original, but I’ll assume Beth knows what she is talking about.

    1. RTFA, the controller the Lyla comes with is TERRIBLE! Tiny buttons and laggy response. Having struggled with Lelo products’ bad interfaces myself in the past [ahem], this comes as no surprise.

      The Lyla could have been an amazing, must-have product, but with the shoddy wireless interface, it’s a dud. Beth used a sensor she already had, and it ended up suiting the application beautifully. The “invisible walls” section is inspiring, actually.

      1. That is disappointing to read. LELO has been my go to brand for this sort of thing as they have good attention to design and make a product that past girlfriends have been excited to own. Hopefully they’ll take note of this hack.

    1. Indeed!
      This is a first class hack, from concept to completion, using solid engineering methods and a lot of clever hackery.
      Very few projects which Hackaday covers are as complete, or as well documented, or as well written.

      1. It’s strange, I didn’t see any comments from you in the Shovel to AK-47 conversion comments. I think that says quite a bit about your “values”. If some misguided female has had the misfortune of engaging in coitus with you, I pity her and any potential offspring that sad, sad union may have created.

          1. Anybody that calls somebody a douche because they expressed an opinion, is automatically a douche themselves. (I am aware of the reciprocity of my argument).

  3. Oh so every device whit the same address? You must keep in your pocket a remote broadcasting every time. Maybe is triggering a device in someones pocket or other storage location.

    1. If they post or hack isn’t up to YOUR standards, you don’t have to read it or comment on it. Otherwise your just being a troll.

    2. Yeah, she shouldn’t be using embarrassing sexual toys, she should get a boyfriend to be her embarrassing sexual toy instead!

      I’m sorry to be the one to inform you, berimors, that you are a jerk and an idiot. Next time you’re spanking it, and you will be eventually, I want you to think about how ‘virtuous and dignified’ your lifestyle is.

  4. Well… the clever approach in this hack is to use a phone battery pack as a power supply ! Ahem… quite heavy way for a remote, but ultrasonic & arduino must sucks many current.

    In fact, this is a so easy way to add simple and huge battery powered supply to a diy electronic project !
    Price started <10$ at AliExpress (ipod connector… lol… must change that) or an heavier one (5000mAh) for 15$ in a credit card size…
    What else ?

  5. Lot of good info in her blog post. Never would have thought about using a portable cell phone charger as a power source.

    And you got to like a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.

  6. Nice work. Clever interface design (the lock feature means you don’t have to ‘conduct’ in front of the ultrasonic sensor constantly), nice work figuring out the radio code, and brilliant modularity of the final unit.

    1. I was just thinking about that. The beautiful thing is how modular the hack really is. Imagine attaching a whole suite of sensors….acoustic, thermal, motion, proximity, etc…and map those signals into motor output in a repeatable but non-intuitive way. It would be quite the augmented reality experience.

  7. I assume she has a good explanation for the choice of sensor (I can’t reach the site right now) but to me it seems like a poor choice. Something like a flex sensor, to me, seems like a more natural interface. Make the controller react to how hard you squeeze it. That would also allow for simple double click actions and the like to maybe jump into pre-programmed sequences and things of that nature.

    I think I need to get into the sex toy business, I think it would be a lot of fun.

  8. Glad to see the field of masturbatory research is advancing nicely. First person to post a USB vag on HackaDay is going to get their house firebombed by “sexual equality” feminists, right-wing religious nut jobs and teenage internet Call of Duty retards. Make no mistake, this hack is more about emphasizing a double standard than it is the actual build.

    But props on the build.

    1. idk about that. if you ever look at sex toys, not that i… uhmm… would do …uh… such a thing, you notice that the majority of toys are for women. there are mens toys as well but the difference in technology is like comparing the space age to the stone age. take a look at one of those japaneese vibrators that have like 32 functions. fine if you have a vagina (or.. uhm.. bi-curious desires), but then you look at the mens section you will see a lot of piss poor ratings. most of which are manually operated “masturbation devices”, which if you ever …uhhm… owned one, had some piss poor quality control and structural integrety issues. there are a couple high tech toys, if you want to drop $300 bucks, and they are not usually well rated. so if feminists start complaining because male toys start improving, id say they dont have any grounds at all for it, and i cant wait till someone attaches a rubber vagina to the end of a delta bot.

  9. Just fyi, this is why I can never link to hackaday.com. Certainly not in any professional context, or for most family and friends. Not going to send them somewhere where there is a risk than an orgasm-maker is going to be the top item when they load the page, and then have to explain that that is not what the website I endorse and visit regularly is about. If they ask me where I’m finding all the cool robots, etc., I tell them “the internet,” and avoid mentioning that I visit hackaday.

    1. I do feel sad for you if you cannot share this sort of thing with family and friends. I would not hesitate at all to show them anything on this site, this included. Not everyone was raised to think that anything related to sex is inappropriate, immoral or disgusting by default because some religious figure or historical old man (and it’s almost always an old man, never a woman) says “if it feels good, it must be evil”.
      Would a remote-control shower head be off-putting as well, since most people also shower alone and in the nude? End of rant… sorry, couldn’t help myself

    2. @Insipid Melon What a sad sad sad life (both personal and professional) you live in where this article would cause any problems.

      The original article title was “Hacking my vee jay jay” which I thought was a much cooler title.

    3. There seens to be two faces to Hackaday.

      The first takes me to places where I can cast metal and make soap, candles, and beer— practical knowledge on which human civilization is based. It links to homemade semiconductors and homemade CPUs. It links to neat robots, art projects, awesome halloween costumes and props, ideas for communications, prosthetics, and agriculture. It links to arduino projects, single-board computers, and toolchains. It links to information on reverse-engineering consumer-grade schlock and turning it into things we really want. These are the reasons I visit Hackaday, and these represent tangible arguments that “hacking” is not just the domain of criminals and degenerates.

      Then we see the other face of Hackaday, as represented by some of the posts seen recently– tools for vandalism, for example. It is profoundly disappointing that the same editors that connect me with other people’s work on homebrew electronic microscopes or fusion reactors thinks that a post on masturbation has the same journalistic value.

      Unfortunately, as much as I like Hackaday, and as much as I like visiting here, I am loathe to recommend the site to others. As well, I really need to reconsider the decision to link to Hackaday from my site. Despite disclaimers to the contrary, a visitor to my site is likely to regard a link to HAD as endorsement of what they will find there. At the very least, I can’t run the risk of visiting HAD on a computer at work if I can expect sex toys to be discussed there.

      Yeah.. I get it… let’s be adults… don’t be a prude… there’s nothing immoral about a vibrator…blah blah blah… I get it. But there is something to be said for exercising a little bit of discretion, and showing a little bit of class.

      1. The technical work of this hack involves reverse-engineering of consumer devices into something better, and it’s technically as worthy as at least half of the arduino hacks posted on HaD. The only difference is in the (prejudiced) eye of the beholder.

        And by the way, ‘class’ is just a concept created to control people – particularly women – by creating stigma on actions that the people in power disliked. It has no place is civilized society.

      2. Oh please, grow up. You’re visiting a site called “Hack a Day” with a freaking pirate symbol for a logo. If you’re coming here at work in the first place you risk being disciplined (depending on your job of course).

        It’s assholes like you who want to destroy everything useful and good because some twit somewhere might get offended. Get over yourself, Nancy.

        1. The only assholes around here are beating up on others for expressing their opinion. Yours is not the only valid one. It is an ‘opinion’ after all.

          1. There’s a difference between expressing an opinion and trying to tell a site what they can or can’t publish based on your personal views. I’m sorry but demanding censorship goes far beyond free expression, in fact it is the opposite.

            Just my opinion. ;)

      3. Did you actually read the blog entry or just jump immediately to conclusions? The entire build was outlined exceptionally tastefully. IMHO, this was one of the most professional, well executed product modifications (there is nothing hackish about the build) I have seen on this site

      4. If you’re going to complain about such subtle references to sexuality, saying that it’s imoral or might upset some readers, keep in mind that 2 of the world’s 3 largest religions follow books which say eating pig products is spiritually unclean, yet we’re not all complaining about a bacon alarm clock.

        Just because you were raised in a country founded by puritans, that doesn’t make this hack “un-classy”, and doesn’t make it inappropriate.

    4. Just to contrast your experience. I’m currently out of a job and my sister said “You should start selling sex toys. People make good money doing that.”.

    5. That’s the problem with our society: we’re perfectly ok when children play with death devices simulations (toy guns) but don’t feel like letting even adult relatives looking at life devices simulations.
      I’m not in favor of articles like this one, albeit the level of engineering is truly remarkable, just wanted to share an opinion.

  10. She buys a sex toy and then she hacks it, now that’s my kinda woman!!!! The only sex toy hack I ever did was duct taping a pocket pussy to a sawzall, not a success.

      1. She changed her surname, then again she uses her middle name as her first name, so don’t know, maybe she just doesn’t like her name.

        I’ll leave the cliched joke about having less sex when you’re married as an exercise to the audience.

      2. Many people with active sex lives masturbate; it’s not just a clutch for the sexless.

        Also, many others use toys like vibrators with their partners, during sex.

  11. I don’t know about you guys but was a litle hard to ignore the other videos that YouTube suggested after the end of the one above. Good thing that I was not in the office. :-p

  12. This article sure made a few prudes come out of the woodwork

    I enjoy reading this and it was not the least bit inappropriate, there was no nudity, if you found this offensive.. you need to evaluate your sensitivities.

  13. Sounds good but.. bad idea. So, now when she is with a man “or woman if that’s what she is in to” and she needs her partner to change technique she will be conditioned to start waving her hands around. She is setting herself up for poor in-bed communication. And she WILL be thoroughly conditioned.. that’s what pleasure does, ask Pavlov.

    If her usual partners are young and inexperienced (not an accusation, I don’t know how old or experienced she is herself) then the awkward, hard to control original vibrator is the perfect training tool. Sorry HaD, nothing to see here.

    On the other hand, if she is in a dedicated, healthy relationship then she might consider voice control. (Yay, another great HaD article!) Training every lover should have too! You know… actually saying what she wants.

    Either way will leave her better prepared for the real thing!

  14. Seriously Had? There are 12 year old kids who read your site. You could have used a more discrete title, like “Motor controlled by proximity sensor”. So these kids go out, in their innocence, on Google to search what’s a vibrator and what it does, and it is not funny at all. I know you must seek hacking articles in everything, but come on…

      1. Maybe they are ‘growing up faster’ due to the fact that places like HAD are posting stuff without any form of discretion. The fact that it’s a hack seems to be the only rule. It seems to me that the internet culture is using the freedom of speech it gives as an excuse to do/say whatever one wants. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And remember this, abusing freedoms is what will eventually cause us all to lose them. Mark my words.

        1. “The fact that it’s a hack seems to be the only rule.” This is where your argument falls flat on it’s face. The linked article is a thoroughly documented hack of a consumer product, involving several methods and procedures usually only written about on their own (reverse engineering, arduino, 3d printing).

          The fact that the product is an egg shaped vibrator does not make it any less valid than a similar article about an mp3 player.

          Children of any age can walk into the local Spencers and buy a phallic vibrator. They can enter ‘tits’ in any web search. They can chat with strangers of all ages on hundreds, if not thousands, of social platforms.

          If you think for one second that a well written article with exactly zero sexually explicit text or imagery is in any way contributing to children ‘growing up faster’, you’re insane.

        2. And “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Growing up, my parents made their views on masturbation completely clear. My mom’s exact words: “don’t do it in public.” They, like many people, consider it to be totally normal and healthy. Maybe you don’t share these values. That’s ok, but it doesn’t mean that people with different opinions are using free speech as excuse for wanton hedonism.

          Freedom of speech is protected *specifically* to protect speech that some would find objectionable, as innocuous speech needs no protection. What threatens our freedoms is ignorance of the role those freedoms play in society, and what it means to protect them.

          I find the implication in your post that people who are behaving legally and hurting no one are somehow a threat to society on a large scale disturbingly authoritarian.

        3. ‘abusing freedom’.. OK, we have a insane person on our hands.

          Try saving for a ticket to saudi arabia, and start by getting rid of your internet. And don’t just write this statement off as snide, it will obviously make you happier if you do these things. Although I would totally not be surprised if vibrators are discussable in SA, so you better check beforehand and if that place isn’t working maybe some other place will, vatican city perhaps?

        4. “Abusing” freedoms ins’t what causes legislation to change. It’s when people stop demonstrating their freedoms in a safe and responsible manner (such as this article). In the 19th century, gun ownership was a freedom allowed by the 2nd amendment, and many many people had a rifle to hunt or defend against outlaws, so lawmakers wouldn’t change it. Today nobody needs guns, and the lack of opposition has allowed the law to change and strictly control the ownership of firearms. The same will happen to the internet if we don’t all appreciate and demand to keep the rights we have with it.

          Additionally, my freedom to browse the internet and view legal content should not be affected because parents refuse to take responsibility for their own children. If you have a child in your care, it is yourR sole responsibility to keep your gun in a safe, keep a fence around your pool, keep poisons on a high shelf, have your hot water tap below a scalding temperature, put them to bed before inappropriate shows come on, and filter their internet access.

    1. That’s a parenting fail, not at all HaD’s fault.

      It’s the parents’ job to monitor their child’s online activities. Failing direct supervision, even the most basic internet filtering software would prevent this page from loading.

      1. Bingo! If you can’t monitor/filter your child’s PC then you have no right to complain.

        I love the fact that HaD doesn’t censor itself. I come here to see all hacks, good or bad because they all usually have an element that I like or could use in other projects. It seems its the prudish and/or lazy parents that don’t like this article.

        1. I doubt any of the complainers actually have children themselves (if alone since it requires sex to conceive one)..
          It’s more about using what they hope will work to further their position.

          At least that’s what I expect is the truth here.

    2. You think a 12 year old doesn’t know what a vibrator is? If your worried about your child seeing naughty things, keep them off the Internet, this is a well done hack, and will inspire many non-vibrator related hardware hacks!

    3. so what! Will a vibrator make the 12 years old scarred for life?. dont think so, this is a super good hack to make life better!. and do we need to say that internet is full of shit thats not good for kids?. be realistic!

    1. Maybe they cleaned it up, or maybe I’m just used to worse, but I thought this was pretty decent. There are far fewer vulgar comments than I expected to see, and lots of people are defending this as a very-well executed hack. I’ve certainly seen worse comments in posts about Jeri Ellsworth’s projects.

  15. These comments are embarassing. Half of them are overly-excited by the mere mention of a female, the other half seem to think this content is inappropriate.

  16. Sex is NOT bad. Knowledge is not bad. A good parent will be able to look at ANY thing there kid may find on line and have a discussion about it, appropriate to the developmental level of the the kid. Sex or porn or any other such things should NEVER be labeled as bad. I prefer it labeled as private or not some thing I want to see, but never bad. Kids need to learn about it at some point and how to properly handle it.

    1. The problem is that all too often the tiny minority gets its censoring way in this world, and especially the US, which forces people to give a lot of counter-noise to prevent it, or to try so at least.
      I for one wish you could just shrug such efforts off, but I’ve seen many a site go to hell over bowing down to the censors.

  17. Comment on the immatures&trolls seems merely feeding them. Starve Vs Neuter trolls rhetoric set aside for now.

    . The “Real” aspects to consider here are:

    Beth took it upon herself to reverse engineer the protocols both RF and Data.

    She did so and validated the work. That’s a stand alone honorable job of Hackery.

    Creating her own control device to HER specs is even more made of pure WIN. Totally setting aside “what” she’s controlling, This is a proof of what dedicated applied HACKING is all about.

    As for the “what” she’s controlling?

    If you’ve something against humans having orgasm?

    Karma would be served by you never having another orgasm.

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