VR Porn is Here, But Are We Ready?

Jul 14, 2015 11:08 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — Ready or not, Virtual Reality is now steamrolling its way into the adult entertainment industry, creating opportunities for producers and products for fans.

As a growing number of mainstream companies from Facebook to Google and beyond race to embrace Virtual Reality, the appeal for revenue hungry adult companies is also growing. The buzz around VR porn today is now inescapable — but will the genre’s early offerings, which barely scratch the surface of the technology’s limitless potential, taint consumer perception of its value?

It is a question that all forward-looking content providers need to ask, as they rush headlong to market — and there are numerous examples from technology’s litter heap to look to for a clue. For example, consider the performance of the early hand-wound Victrola compared to the clarity and ease of modern MP3 players.

Eying the former as a harbinger of the eventual success of the latter would hardly provide a fair and accurate analysis, with the technologists of the day scarcely imagining that the large record player, with its accompanying megaphone and handful of available recordings, would evolve into a pocket-sized device capable of storing many thousands of high-fidelity recordings for instant playback — with no hand winding required.

Doubtless, many observers of early home audio technology scoffed at it and determined that it was a fad holding no appeal for them, and indeed, 135 years later, many consumers still eschew home audio.

Does a similar fate await VR porn?

Some of the earliest adopters of VR porn technology have focused on “half view” systems that provide a limited 180-degree view of the scene, which equates to the early adopters of HD video, who embraced the lower resolution 720p format that only offered a glimpse of the higher quality to come. Although the benefits of being first to market can be significant, operating on the bleeding edge can poison the well of what might be accomplished further down the road.

Newer entrants to the VR porn market, such as VirtualPorn360, seek to double the impact attained by firms such as VirtualRealPorn, which offers a 180-degree view of the scene — but does offering twice the view make 360-degree VR porn twice as good as 180-degree porn? Not necessarily, when comparing the amount of space in a scene that is devoted to the depicted action.

In a recent article for Vice.com entitled, “360º VR Porn Is Great If You Want to Watch Anything But Sex,” author Emanuel Maiberg discussed the current range of adult oriented Virtual Reality offerings — and the common problem that they all share: there are just not a lot of other things that are interesting to look at while you are enjoying sex.

“[VR] means that you can look away from the couple getting it on on the pleather sofa, turn around, and look around the creepy apartment that I’m assuming is used for little else but shooting porn,” Maiberg opines. “I am not sure why you would want to do this.”

Maiberg cites “Rule 34” and the notion that some folks can look at nearly anything and can still get off — as long as the sexually charged audio remains — but notes, “This doesn’t seem very useful or hot.”

It is a problem plaguing producers striving to record a 360-degree view of the action, while avoiding the inaction that is prevalent across much of the scene — a problem that is less troublesome to producers of POV or cam shows, where a 180-degree view may suffice.

Additionally, a “fisheye” effect hampers many of the 360-degree views depicted by current VR systems, which distorts straight lines into bulbous, curved images that alters the natural perspective. While this might not be as much of a problem for scenic and sports photographers, it is certainly not the ideal way to present “beauty,” and is another challenge for those attempting to depict erotic scenes naturally.

“Maybe future [VR porn] productions can put you in the center of Caligula-like orgies where you’re surrounded by porn no matter where you look, but for now VirtualPorn360 has the same problem a lot of VR companies have,” Maiberg concludes. “They have the technology they just don't know what to do with it.”

This insightful commentary underscores the reality of Virtual Reality, where its ultimate success will be achieved by the creativity of its application, rather than by the mere availability of this new technology and the efforts of those attempting to jump on the bandwagon, with their horns of hype blaring away.

The future of VR porn is tantalizingly limitless, but the biggest problem it faces may not be one of piracy, but of poor performance by PR-hungry firms that will leave consumers feeling that it is a waste of time, before they even understand what is to come.

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