Porn Pushes VR Forward

It has long been believed that sex drives commercial, technological, and societal progress about as much as any other human need. Whether it’s the expansion of resources to accommodate an exploding global population or something as seemingly simple as international live audio-video broadcasting, it essentially comes back to sex. Virtual Reality technology may often appear to be concerned mostly with rendering real-world locations for remote viewing, gaming, business applications, and the rather uninspired act of watching Netflix in a virtual theater. More than any of these newly available features, the appeal of VR has consistently been sexual. The fact that leading virtual porn site VRPorn.com can garner more monthly visitors than Oculus.com should help convince any skeptics that, as is so often the case, porn is playing a huge part in the growth of this tech.

Baltimore's Apex Theater plays adult movies.
Baltimore’s Apex Theater (Image: Baltimore Business Journal)

Sex Breeds Tech Trends

Adult star Jesse Jane 2003
Digital Playground’s Virtual Sex with Jesse Jane (2003)

From the early days of the VHS/Beta format wars and the global adoption of the Videocassette Recorder to DVDs allowing producers to offer viewers greater interactivity and variety – remember how impressive alternate camera angles and audio tracks once were? – the porn industry has historically pushed tech forward in major ways. The introduction of VHS tape and home players meant porn viewing experiences were no longer engaged in communally at some dingy, dirty downtown theater. Now, anyone could enjoy adult movies privately at home. The arrival of consumer-grade VCRs, of course, meant both legal and illegal duplication ran wild.

“Interactive” sex DVDs saw viewers choose from various angles, positions, and acts to customize their encounter. Compared to even the more primitive VR sex fantasies, this tech seems extremely limited. (Not to mention the obvious disconnect you feel when staring at a TV screen with a remote control in your non-dominant hand…) Copyright protecting Digital Rights Management (DRM) and even online video streaming also came about at least partly because of porn, the latter an innovation claimed by Dutch adult studio, Red Light District.

A Virtual Lover IRL

The first post-2010 wave of virtual porn studio successes made it clear that a revolution was taking place. Committing to the continued development of their VR programs, such studios as Naughty America and BaDoink unveiled their attempts at bringing together the sexual fantasies of their fans and cutting edge VR tech. Also, maintaining an AR (Augmented Reality) program despite shifting interest, Naughty America offers fans holographic performers that can be placed in a real location to dance, strip, and seduce a viewer. While to some, this may seem a bit limited, it did push the idea that VR doesn’t need to be such a huge commitment for viewers. Instead of isolating yourself in a VR headset and detaching completely from reality, Naughty America’s “holograms” turn your actual living room into a virtual strip club. What’s more, anyone with a smartphone, Google Cardboard (or an equivalent), and a strong libido can get in on the fun.

Naughty America AR
Naughty America’s AR efforts on display.

The transition of porn from an objectified experience to a more subjective encounter has created opportunities for all kinds of devices and tools and toys. More importantly, though, it will personalize the virtual sex experience to a remarkable degree. Data gathering and analysis won’t just help tailor porn to individual preferences; it will further aid all kinds of content targeted to audiences in similar ways. Though this is already happening – when was the last time you made an online purchase free from subtle influence or overt prompting? – the essential intimacy of sex will demand serious attempts at capturing a real sense of physical presence, and that means listening to what users are saying.

Unwired, Undressed, Unreal

Haptic feedback in VR
Haptic feedback is essential to advancing VR and VR porn both.

As VR devices continue to get smaller, more affordable, and more ubiquitous among all classes of consumers, and as hardware sales race towards the eight million-unit mark, more consumers of all kinds of media will be turning to VR. Porn, however, is already well and truly immersed in Virtual Reality. And with haptic devices, advanced full-body tracking systems, and VR systems requiring little to no wired connection, all adding to a less restricted virtual experience. There’s every reason to expect the bridging of the physical and the virtual will have consumers once again using it for sexual gratification. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the primary customer demographic for both porn and virtual reality is the same: males aged 20-40.

What’s on the VR Horizon?

The social thrust of many recent VR and porn advancements is no coincidence, nor is it Facebook’s doing. Connecting people has always been the primary purpose of online communications. Hence, it’s no surprise to see VR giants aiming to integrate their take on the tech into our everyday lives. While Facebook is still aiming to advertise and Microsoft seems to care largely about industrial and business applications, the next waves of advanced VR are being pushed by something we all share: human sexual desire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.