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Virtual Reality Porn: Next Big Thing…or Next Big Flop?

Is the hype around VR porn living up to expectation or has it failed to deliver?

Virtual reality has been a concept that most of us have grown up with as a futuristic promise yet the truth for most of us is that VR is still a long way off a convincing alternative. All but dumped in the 1990s, VR is making a comeback particularly in the porn industry. However, with headsets that are cumbersome and can leave the wearer feeling nauseous, are the promises of an immersive porn experience destined to be another disappointment or can the adult entertainment industry finally crack this nut?

In this feature, we take a look at how VR has evolved over the last 75 years and focus on how the development of the technology has brought the prospect of VR porn to the masses. We also consider the question, “is VR porn living up to the hype?”.

A History of Virtual Reality

The initial concept of virtual reality was first invented in 1945 but it wasn’t until the late 1950s with the creation of an interactive multimedia device called the ‘Sensorama’ that VR was specifically designed for entertainment.

history of vr porn

Early VR devices were for entertainment but porn was still a long way off. Image via Wikimedia.

Designed by filmmaker Morton Heilig, his invention featured a spinning chair within a booth that faced a movie screen showing stereoscopic (3D) images.

Far from being an original idea, Heilig’s design was actually just a development of the simple concept of stereoscope imagery that had been in development since the 1830s. The idea of producing two images which could be viewed together to create a sense of depth in (effectively) a 2D image was not new.

However, along with speakers and an oscillating fan, Heilig added devices which could emit odors and vibrate the seat to create the ultimate 4D cinema experience. The Sensorama wasn’t patented until 1962 but despite the fact his invention actually worked very well (certainly for 1960s technology), it was ultimately doomed to fail due to the high costs of producing movies that would be compatible with the device.

Around the same time, the Philco Corporation created a device for training helicopter pilots. This was followed up in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland developing the ‘Sword of Damocles’; a BOOM headset connected to a computer which allowed the user to see a virtual world. Sutherland went to on to adapt his tech to create a ‘super cockpit’; again, an application of VR in which to help train pilots.

By the 1970s, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had created a virtual map of Aspen, Colorado which users could virtually explore.  It was around this time that the term ‘artificial reality’ was being used to describe the experiences created by the technology; a phrase credited to the researcher and computer artist, Myron W. Krueger.

By the 1980s and early 1990s, just about every major tech company had a hand in the field of VR development including NASA, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Sega to name but a few.

history of vr porn headsets

Many people will be familiar with the design of VR headsets. Image via Wikimedia.

Anyone who lived through this era will recall the growing hype as product after product was released to the market which promised an imminent virtual world that could soon be available to all. Products like the DataGlove, the EyePhone (not iPhone), the AudioSphere and VR software like Issac/Body Electric.

However, the hype of the 1990s quickly burned itself out as the technology just failed to deliver the experiences they initially promised.

It wasn’t until the late 2000s with companies like Oculus producing affordable consumer devices that VR started to creep back into the public’s conscious. Since then, numerous companies have been developing products for the mass market including PVR Iris, HTC, Sony, Samsung, Apple and Amazon. Even Google with their low-tech offering of the Google Cardboard device have all helped make VR a commonplace technology.

Virtual Reality and The Porn Industry

Ever since these first forays into VR, the potential applications for this kind of technology have always seemed ‘just around the corner’ and with each development, the potential for the adult entertainment industry has also been just as tantalizing.

It is no secret that the development of VR technology is closely linked to the porn industry. Whilst the major manufacturers may not publicly acknowledge this, the truth remains that, for all the applications of VR that are being embraced (classrooms, online shopping, tourism) it is VR porn that is generating the most cash.

Pornhub, the world’s most popular porn tube site, regularly provides insights into market trends and last reviewed the rise of VR in 2017. At the time, Pornhub revealed that its site receives over half a million daily views for VR content.

virtual reality and the porn industry

60% of VR sites are adult in content. Image via VR Porn.

In fact, a recent study into the user trends and statistics of VR use on the web reveals that ‘VR porn’ is the #1 generic term used on Google to search for content (VR games, VR videos and VR apps followed up in respective positions). Combine this with the fact that:

  • 30 of the top 50 VR websites are adult in nature;
  • it is estimated that 78% of all VR users have watched porn with their VR headset;
  • The number one most visited VR related website is vrporn.com (receiving 8.87 million views per month vs 5.83 million for Oculus.com);

and you can easily see that the future of VR is in the porn industry

So, if the porn industry is the leading market for VR content, how is it driving the development of this technology and which companies are leading the field?

Firstly, a lot of the major porn studios now have a VR offering and, although the content is in its infancy in terms of quantity, the quality is good. From Naughty America VR and Czech VR to Kink VR and Wankz VR, new content is being added to the market all the time.

As well as VR as a format, the porn industry has also been developing new ways to expand the immersive experience via the use of teledildonics and (with CamSoda’s Real Doll) interactive sex with an artificial intelligence enabled sex robot is becoming a reality. With each of these new technologies, the world of VR porn is being opened up so that the viewer can not only see the action but also feel it. That’s a highly impressive selling point that will no doubt continue to drive the uptake of new VR technologies.

Interactive teledildonics  like the Kiiro offer users a far more immersive and realistic experience. Image via Wikimedia.

The rest of the adult entertainment industry is also not immune to the potential of VR to generate extra income and VR Sex Cams are slowly developing as a new way to interact with cam girls.

There are lots of other VR porn experiences that have already been richly developed and are opening up new markets. One of the fastest growing trends in this area is the VR adult gaming markets. Sites like LifeSelector VR and Virt-a-Mate are just two specifically designed experiences that offer gamers the ability to do more than just watch porn but have an interactive experience of it.

The Adult VR Fest, held in Tokyo in June 2016, was the world’s first VR porn expo and showcased plenty of innovative, if a little wacky, ideas for further developments. From inflatable sex dolls that contain sensors to machines shaped like hands to deliver a quick five finger knuckle shuffle, the ideas were mostly novelty ones but proved there is still plenty of creativity for the future of the market.

At the end of the day, the porn industry has a lot of form when it comes to driving the development of popular technology and has shaped the formats that have become de facto standard. Let’s not forget that VHS became the dominant market leader for mass produced movies simply because Sony refused to produce porn on its Betamax format. Blu-Ray also may have missed out on wider appeal due to the adult movie industry preferring HD DVD. Oh, and (lest we forget), online streaming owes much of its success to, yes you guessed it, the porn industry.

The Future of VR Porn

So, whilst the future of VR porn may look bright, should we all be rushing out to buy a headset?

Let’s take a small step back here, whilst VR porn remains a trending format, it is far from the most dominant development in the adult entertainment industry. By comparison to VR, traditional porn is still king; Pornhub gets around 92 million visits per day with just ½ million of these being for VR (0.54%). By contrast 4K porn is one of the hottest new trends in porn and offers far more content than VR.

There are some problems with VR porn that need addressing before there is a major step-change in the uptake of the technology.

virtual reality porn is it a flop

VR has its limits at the moment, so what’s next for VR porn? Image via pxhere.

Firstly, there is the obvious issue of costs. According to Next Web, the average cost of producing a traditional porn scene is around $3000 but this double to $6000 when you shoot this in VR. The additional costs are mostly incurred post-production but with a 100% increase in overheads this may remain a big bar to new studios and production companies coming on board.

Whilst the technology itself is coming down in costs which may help, it is also the fact that filming VR is not straightforward which can make it more expensive.

Consider a traditional porn shoot which uses several cameras and plenty of different angles, all of which can be stitched together in the editing room to produce a seamless video. By comparison, VR porn is shot using a static, fixed camera and any errors in the shoot can’t be edited out as easily.

Of course, this price differential means that (at least for now) VR porn remains in the hands of the professional studios. With amateur porn being so popular, the price of home VR cameras would have to decrease significantly and improve in quality to be able to satisfy demand.

Another barrier to the development of VR porn is the popularity of rival formats which include the 4K (and now 5K) porn. As technology in these areas improves, so must VR to keep pace with the demand for Ultra High-Definition content.

Filmed in POV, all VR porn content has to be filmed from a static position in order to achieve the immersive quality unique to the format.

This has some limitations and means that if you want to experience the content in the most realistic way, you have to adopt the same position as the first-person in the scene. Not too much of an arduous task you might think but nevertheless something to consider. This style of filming also has its limitations when it comes to the scope of the virtual world being filmed. Whilst some studios are producing content in 360 degrees, the majority are still turning out content in 180 degrees. We don’t know about you but looking behind us when we are getting a blowjob isn’t that important but the result of this ‘fixed-field’ can be a distraction if you reach the edges of it and glimpse the abyss!

Studios like VR Bangers who are investing in new headsets like the Spider-Eyed Sex Helmet are addressing these issues but the device is still in proof-of-concept and could take a while to come to market; at least affordably anyway.

is vr porn the next big thing or a next big flop

VR Bangers’ current camera setup is pretty surreal! Image via VR Bangers.

At the end of the day, the world of VR porn is still making a lot of promises that, if truth be told, it is not quite delivering on. Yes, the incorporation of teledildonic devices is adding another immersive quality to the format and yes, the visuals are getting even better but there is still a gap between reality and virtual reality when it comes to sex.

Innovations like the Teslasuit which enables the wearer to feel full motion capture and includes bio-metric feedback and heat control might be the solution but more needs to be done to address the basics first.

With financial investors seeing the potential in the VR porn markets and a predicted US $1 billion expected to be injected into the industry by 2025, there is a lot of ground that developers could cover in the next few years to make up the difference.

That’s not to say that we don’t appreciate every step along the way as this concept becomes better and better. What we can say is that traditional porn has nothing to fear….just yet.

Featured image via MaxPixel.

Staff Writer

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