Anna Lee is the President and Executive Producer behind Holofilm Productions. Holofilms has an adult entertainment brand: HologirlsVR. Lee directs much of the new VR porn coming out of the studio. Lee is a pioneer of the sex-tech movement and is also the President of Utherverse Digital Inc. Utherverse is a social network of interconnected virtual worlds. She also helped launch one of the web’s first virtual adult experiences, Red Light Center.
VR Observer was thrilled to sit down Anna Lee and get her insights in this in-depth and candid interview.
VRO: Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background with Virtual Reality (VR)?
AL: In order to explain how I got into VR; specifically Adult VR, I am going to take it back to the beginning. As I was in theater/film school during my university days, I was running a fairly successful phone sex company to finance my education. It was at this time myself, and my business partner were looking for new ways to market our company. We discovered a newly formed Virtual World called Redlightcenter; marketed as a virtual playground for adults. We brought our girls into the virtual world where they became the first “Virtual Working Girls” who solicited virtual sex for virtual currency.
Redlightcenter was really ahead of its time, and my involvement in that led me to a full-time position as their Business Development Manager and then eventually its President of which I still hold that title. This was my first foray into Virtual Reality and Virtual World technologies, and since then I have spent 12 years working in this field.
Fast forward to January 2015 where we unveiled Redlightcenter VR at the AVN Expo. We had made a digital avatar of Tera Patrick, complete with motion-captured sex animations and while it was really well received, the biggest comment from the public was: “I wish this was live action porn.”
We listened to that comment, and in the summer of that year, we shot our first scenes with superstars Manuel Ferrara, Anikka Albrite, August Ames, Karli Montana and Adriana Sephora. Since then we have produced close to 200 scenes and have gone to be the recipient of the 2017 AVN Award for Best VR Innovation/Site and Best VR Scene.
VRO: In regards to how the adult entertainment industry has impacted technology, what do you see as the biggest impact it has had? Maybe something people don’t realize they use every day, but do not know it was initially driven by porn?
AL: Two words: The Internet
VRO: Where do you see the future of adult entertainment and VR heading?
AL: I think the way that the adult industry currently handles VR is just the beginning of what is possible and what is coming around the corner. Right now you are watching either live cam or prerecorded Porn scenes on your VR headset. I feel that the future is definitely pointing towards AR, or augmented reality porn – where now you can have the girl or action happen right in your own living space and even possibly on your own lap. Combined with haptic devices and forced feedback technology, the possibilities for virtual sex with your favorite pornstar is limitless.
VRO: What excites you most about VR?
AL: Several things excite me about VR; firstly the way it’s shot and the types of porn that customers are asking for. As a director and as a woman, I am getting the opportunity to create very intimate, very real experiences. Customers love the GFE or Girlfriend Experience type scenes. In fact, I directed a scene called Get Flix and Chill which is one of the first, true GFE scenes to feature VR kissing.
Secondly, shooting VR merges two of my loves; film, and technology. VR Porn producers are breaking ground on extremely important film techniques that will be adopted by mainstream companies in the future. Being on the forefront of this as well as one of its pioneers is an extremely exciting position to be in.
Lastly; the performers are so thrilled to be a part of something so new and exciting. I am fortunate enough to work with some of the biggest names in the industry, and I am so grateful to be able to work with such a high caliber of talent in a new medium that just gives us so much room for creativity and risk taking.
VRO: What insights do you have around the confluence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), VR and haptic devices (sex toys) and the potential there?
AL: As I stated above, all of these factors are and will come into play in regards to the way Porn is consumed. While I feel 2D, traditional porn will always be the main staple in the industry, combining AR, AI, VR and Haptic technologies are going to bring the porn consumers experience to a level that is close to or quite arguably better than real life “fantasy” experience – OK! So I know what you are thinking. How can virtual sex be better than real life? For starters I said “fantasy, ” and I want to emphasis the difference between that and “real” experiences. While nothing can replace real human to human contact, being able to fully control your sex fantasies is something that just blows my mind.
Imagine being in your own bed with the star of your dreams as she or he speaks to you and responds to you talking back to them. Imagine being able to feel them and have them respond to your touch. We are still in the very infancy of what types of Virtual Experience that one can have……..I can only imagine where we will be 20 years from now.
VRO: Do you have any plans to partner with a sex toy company, or even developing something in-house to work in conjunction with your VR videos?
AL: Yes – it is a natural progression. We are currently in development with Kiiroo who are encoding over 75 of our scenes as we speak in order to have them sync up with their devices so that you can have a tactile experience along with your visual and audio one.
VRO: What do the actors think about VR?
AL: Most of them love it! Well……they love the breath of fresh air that it has brought into the industry, but it isn’t easy. In POV scenes, performers are often relegated to lying, kneeling or standing quite still with very little use of their hands and completely silent. It’s a tough job that has really created a new breed of performer that I capable of doing that job.
Subsequently, the other performer in front of the camera is left to do a lot of the physical and vocal work. So it’s tough on the performer, but also an opportunity to get really creative in a new medium. I try to really make the performer’s experience on set a fun one where we work together to try and come up with new concepts, take risks and try new things. When you get the chance to work with a performer who really embraces the medium, the results are amazing!
VRO: How have VR videos performed so far?
AL: Really well. Obviously sales are dictated by headset sales and so currently VR porn is still a modest share of the market. We saw a really nice spike in Q4 of last year due to Holiday gifting of VR headsets along with the release of PS4VR. One important thing to note, retention is amazing. There is still so very little content being offered for the amount of customers out there. The VR space is really still very wide open and a profitable space to be in.
VRO: What impact will VR have on porn?
AL: It has already impacted the industry. It’s created a new breed of performer. It has brought more work to the industry by way of production and created a solid revenue stream for content producers.
VRO: As the technology improves and VR becomes even more immersive and interactive, do you think it will affect real life social interactions? For example, relationships and dating.
AL: I think it will have an effect, but to what extent I am not sure. I do feel however VR cams will really impact online dating. Imagine now, instead of just chatting on your phone or computer with a potential match; you can now actually have dinner with them or sit with them in a Virtual Space in real time and have a face to face date with them where you are immersed in your environment with them.
And then, of course, there is the fear that if VR sex becomes too good that people will want to stop having the real thing. There was a study done in Japan where they have actually documented that real physical relationships between young people have actually decreased significantly. Personally while actually physical contact may decrease, people still want that intimate connection…..although it is possible, they could also get that from a really well executed AI bot.
VRO: What is your favorite VR video right now?
AL: That I have done? It would have to be the Porn Star Experience with Cherie DeVille and ShreddZ. We shot that one in January and Cherie just really gave it her all in that scene. In it she plays a very sexy housewife who decides she wants to spice up her relationship with you – so she goes all out. Gets her hair and makeup done. Wears an amazing outfit and rents a hotel room……and then proceeds to pretend she is the porn star of your dreams.
Cherie gave me such range in that scene. Moving from a shy and cute wife, to a full on porn star and then back again to your loving wife. It is also one of the longest scenes that I have shot to date; with the final cut coming in at 52 mins. She blew me away with her performance and we worked to deliver something that is extremely intimate and highly erotic. Check it out!
Visit HologirlsVR and follow them on Twitter: @HoloGirlsVR