VR Porn

VR porn: the ins and outs of virtual reality’s XXX future

By Kitty Knowles 10 August 2015
Lea Darling wears the Oculus Rift headset. Photo by Wilferd Guenthoer.
Summary

Porn stars, producers and programmers tell us what lies ahead in the immersive world of virtual reality porn. (It gets racy).

As excitement grows ahead of the upcoming release of virtual reality (VR) headsets like the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus, the adult industry is preparing for revolutionary changes.

Porn companies have long been early adopters of new technology; embracing videos, DVDs, internet streaming and live web chat when these mediums were in their infancy.

Now, porn stars, producers and programmers are looking into new realms of 3D experiences, but what is going on behind closed doors, and what does the future hold?

The Memo asked four experts from the online porn industry what the virtual reality for pornography looks like.

VR porn will be ridiculously wide-ranging

As people begin to experiment with virtual reality, several different kinds of VR porn have already developed.

Most simple, is what’s known as 180° porn. This pre-recorded porn can be shot with just a couple of stereoscopic cameras and produces the same immersive effect as seen in 3D cinemas.

Virtual reality porn producer Ela Darling’s first ever virtual reality experience involved making this movie-file style porn.

“I just talked to the camera and I stripped and I masturbated,” Darling recalls. “When you watch it with the headset it’s like an IMAX cinema for your face – it’s very engaging.”

The entrepreneur has since founded her own company, vrtube.xxx (NSFW).

“Whenever I come across a new technology, the first questions I ask are, ‘can I make porn for it, can I fuck with it, can people watch me fuck with it?

“It was easy to see how virtual reality would incorporate porn,” she says.

Screenshot of VR.tube.xxx.
Screenshot of VR.tube.xxx.

POV (point of view) porn also has a huge market, says Darling. This uses the same 180° technology, but the cameras are worn by one of the performers.

“If the female performer’s fucking the guy, the cameras are placed next to the male performers head, and it’s as though you are that guy getting fucked by the women,” she explains.

“There are also others from the female perspective: it gives you this insight into another person’s experience that you just don’t get elsewhere.”

360° porn works best with orgy scenes

Some companies, like the California-based porn streaming service SugarDVD (NSFW) are also looking into creating 360° porn.

Instead of capturing a forward-facing 3D view, this uses a dozen outward-facing to record a scene from the centre of the action. These are then digitally stitched together into one 3D panorama.

The Jaunt camera. Photo by Jaunt.

“The Jaunt camera looks like a sphere, with cameras all around it,” explains Eddie Cornejo, a virtual reality porn programmer at SugarDVD. “So if you were to put on the Oculus, you could see all the walls around you, and whatever is behind you too.”

But not everyone is a fan.

“I shot one scene like that and it was immediately clear that it was not ideal for porn,” says Darling.

“If I’m watching porn I want to watch the people fuck, I don’t care about the couch to the side, I don’t care about the art on the wall.

“With 360°, you can see the people fucking on maybe two or four of the cameras but most of them are useless.”

That said, both Cornejo and Darling agree that 360° VR would be ideal for capturing orgy scenes.

“I just don’t think that the future of VR is going to be all orgies, all the time though,” says Darling.

In the future, Kim Kardashian’s “body scan” could break the internet

Many companies, including SugarDVD, are also currently working with so-called “scans” where performers’ bodies are motion-captured. These can then be digitally manipulated by in-house programmers a limitless number of times.

The British company Veiviev, for example, specialises in producing particularly detailed high-resolution scans (pictured below).

Body scans captured by Veiviev.

“The scans are 3D models, but they’re still computer generated,” says Cornejo. “You, as a programmer, can then customise them and move them to do certain things.”

While this media offer infinite opportunities, scans are difficult to bring to life, says Cornejo: “Any time you have a living model it’s going to be easier than if you’re working with model manipulation”.

Despite this, Rebecca Bolen, a spokesperson for SugarDVD’s porn streaming service, maintains that scans have huge potential.

“When Kim Kardashian broke the internet it was just a picture of her butt, but the Kim Kardashian of 20 years from now could break the internet by releasing her VR scan,” she says.

“They could even be used to create virtual strip clubs.”

The next big steps? hologram cam girls, augmented reality and haptic feedback

Darling is currently working to create a live streaming VR webcam service, where cam girls are filmed in real-time as a 180° 3D hologram, and then presented in a 360° virtual space.

“Instead of just a video, it’s a real live person placed into a digital environment,” she explains.

“You can speak on the microphone or you can type chat-style to negotiate what you would like from the experience, whether it’s conversation or some specific sex act: the connection between the performer and viewer is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

Unlike other VR experiences, augmented reality allows a 3D object to be viewed within a user’s real-life physical space.

Microsoft has already demonstrated how its Hololens headset can be used to play the Lego-like game Minecraft in this way, and soon you could be watching pre-recorded and live sex acts taking place virtually in your bedroom.

“If there was a model, she could sit down on your chair or on your bed,” explains Darling, “you would be able to move around and see her properly in full 360.”

As immersive as this sounds, porn companies have yet to solve the issue of haptic feedback, the ability to “feel” VR.

The Shockspot sex toy. Photo by Shockspot.

A number of companies, like VirtualRealPorn, Kiiroo and Shockspot, have however, designed responsive sex toys, or “teledildonics”,  that can react to the speed and activity in VR scenes.

“Right now, guys can have a fleshlight, and girls can have a vibrater, and you can either pre-programme these, or if you’re chatting with somebody then they can interact with it live,” says Cornejo at SugarDVD.

“There’s also a lot more effort going into the whole live doll situation,” the porn programmer adds.

Photos by Lovense (left) and Kiiroo (right).
Photos by Lovense (left) and Kiiroo (right).

VR could bring back a “golden age of porn”

VR has the potential to revolutionise the porn industry, says Darling.

“If we establish that VR porn is worth paying for, we can make money from it.”

“This is a new avenue of job opportunities,” she adds, “there’s potential for this to bring a new golden age of porn.”

VR could also limit security breaches.

“It’s also a lot harder to pirate,” says Darling. ”You can’t play our holograms on a standard holographic player you have to have ours.”

Even performers who aren’t drawn to the idea of watching virtual reality porn are open to being involved.

“There are a lot of different non quantifiable elements to human adult content that I don’t believe I will enjoy as much with virtual reality,” says prominent porn star James Deen, a leading voice in the pornography industry.

But for the most part I think the adult world is looking at VR stuff as a cool new thing that we experiment with.

“If somebody called me and said ‘hey we’re shooting a scene, it’s going to be virtual reality, it is going to be shot a little differently’ I would try it to see what the experience was like.”

Curious programmers and developers are also increasingly keen to be involved, says Cornejo.

Especially with the advent of VR, people are finally realising that within the adult industry you just have so much more freedom to really innovate,” he says.

“At other companies you’re always trying to meet the constraint of the budget or the company image, but we have much more freedom to play around with new technology.”

Something for everyone

While most VR porn available now is aimed at men, this also looks set to change.

“Ideally users will be able to customise their own experience,” says Bolan. “We want to get to the point where regardless of your personal preference there’s going to be an experience that’s for you.”

According to Bolen, women are twice as likely to spend their money on SugarDVD, and “you cater to those who will spend more of their money”.

The Oculus Rift headset. Photo by Wilferd Guenthoer.
The Oculus Rift headset. Photo by Wilferd Guenthoer.

Darling also hopes that once VR headsets are more widely accessible, there will be a market for more female-friendly porn.

This doesn’t mean creating “emotional” or “softcore” content, she explains, but rather what she considers to be believable “good porn”.

“When you’re watching sex on camera and the girl is having an orgasm in a position that is completely uncomfortable, doing something that definitely would hurt, or at least wouldn’t be stimulating, it takes you out of it,” she explains.

“It’s not about getting the performers to kiss more, it’s about getting him to fuck her in a way that would feel good.”

VR porn won’t replace real sex

No one involved thinks VR will ever stop real-life interaction:VR will never replace real life,” says Cornejo.

“You can take a VR tour of the Smithsonian Museum or The Louvre, but it doesn’t actually replace going to them.”

“It’s mass hysteria and very ridiculous to think that the virtual reality experience is going to remove people from the reality of the universe,” adds Deen.

The Oculus Rift headset in use. Photo by Yakiv Gluck.
The Oculus Rift headset in use. Photo by Yakiv Gluck.

For Darling, the whole idea is “a scare tactic”.

“Could people use this rather than engage with people in real life?” she asks.

“Certainly. But that’s a possibility with anything life.

“People immerse themselves with hours watching season of Netflix or playing World of Warcraft or checking Facebook: they are adults and they have choices, and they can decide to engage with people through whatever means they feel most comfortable in.”

VR cam girls could even help people to forge new relationships, she says.

“If you don’t have that [real life relationship] at all, it might help you learn how to foster those connections. It’s not replacing, it’s supplementing what people have or don’t have.”

Does VR spell the end for “regular” non-VR porn?

Probably not.

“Two dimensional porn will always have a place,” says Deen.

Action shot of Grand Theft Auto. Flickr photo by AXLiberty.
Action shot of Grand Theft Auto. Flickr photo by AXLiberty.

“Are people going to stop going to the movies because a video game like Grand Theft Auto has come out? No, because they are two different experiences.

“In one you are active, racing cars around, the other is a visual experience where you sit down and enjoy the movie: it’s two different markets.”

Porn companies however, will have to embrace virtual reality in some form if they are going to succeed, adds Bolan.

“There are a lot of adult companies that aren’t really keeping up with the technology and I feel like they are probably just going to die out,” she explains.

“It’s like taxi drivers,” she adds. “Uber and Lyft are phasing them out: if you don’t adapt to the new technology, you’re not going to survive in this world.”

Darling, in turn, remains undecided: “Maybe someday VR will completely wipe out the way we consume entertainment right now, but that’s a very long way off,” she says.

Virtual reality could really step up the quality of performance however, she says. “There is a far greater requirement to be engaging and convincing.”

“Porn is not known for its good acting, but VR is going to set the bar higher: you have to be a higher calibre of performer.”

You heard it here first.