2015: A VR Porn Snapshot

Dec 29, 2015 10:00 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — One of 2015’s hottest topics for operators in the adult entertainment industry was the imminent release of Virtual Reality technology to the consumer market, and how such a technological innovation could or would impact the industry’s long-stagnant revenues.

While much was made about the efforts of early adopters armed with the Oculus Rift Development Kit, the real-world applications of Virtual Reality content can leave much to be desired — with nausea and vertigo inducing video that often provides only a partial sensation of immersion through 180-degree coverage of the action, hampering the user experience. The lack of high quality headset integrated audio that would provide spatial cues has also limited the impact of initial offers; but these limitations may be expected from such a complex technology that is still in its early infancy — functional limitations that are actively being overcome.

A number of high-profile adult companies have already entered the fray, including Red Light Center, BaDoinkVR (which offers free smartphone-compatible cardboard goggles with all U.S. memberships), VRTube.xxx (which offers VRLive cam shows in addition to pre-recorded fare), WoodRocket and more.

Dominic Ford, Huccio, Kink, Marc Dorcel, Naughty America and Utherverse’s new HoloFilm Productions, all jumped into the VR production scene in 2015 — while websites such as MetaverseXXX.com, ViRP.io, VirtualRealPorn.com and VRSexperience.com,  started showcasing this new form of adult video.

Other VR porn highlights from 2015 include the integration of VR with haptic devices and teledildonics, plus live cams, bringing sex toys into the digital age — or perhaps that should now be “the virtual age.”

Leading the pack is KIIROO, with its Fleshlight-fitted “Onyx” male masturbator, which integrates with Red Light Center’s VR realm as well as Flirt4Free’s advanced live cam platform. An example of the latter occurred when popular porn star Lisa Ann performed a live cam show for F4F, using her KIIROO “Pearl” vibrator to remotely control the viewer’s Onyx — including those equipped with Fleshlight’s custom molded “Lisa Ann” sleeve, for a truly immersive experience.

Other players include Lovense, with its remote synced “Max” and “Nora” devices, targeting male and female users respectively, with app enabled video chat and Skype compatibility. Add in a dose of VR, and the future of remote sexual stimulation, especially via live cams, becomes even more intriguing.

The industry seems to agree, with a 2015 poll conducted by adult industry social network XBIZ.net revealing that 42 percent of porn professionals believe that live cams will dominate VR porn, while 29 percent believe that 3D-rendered virtual worlds such as Red Light Center, will be the largest segment, with 28 percent opining that pre-recorded video content will be the pinnacle of the VR porn market.

From harlots to housewives, many are concerned about the impact on relationships and real world sex caused by advancements in the masturbatory sciences, with one example coming from legal Nevada-based brothel Sheri’s Ranch, which is closely monitoring the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, not only to gauge the threat to its business model, but to seek opportunities for expanding it as technology unfolds.

But offering VR porn is one thing, having a market willing to purchase it is another. The first hurdle that must be overcome is putting VR devices into the hands of consumers — a process undoubtedly fueled by this year’s holiday shopping season — although precise holiday sales figures are not yet available.

For example, a visit to BestBuy.com revealed that the big-box retailer offers a selection of VR devices, including the Samsung Gear VR for the company’s Galaxy Note5, S6, S6 edge and S6 edge+ smartphones, at a price of $99.99 — perhaps the most polished of current devices.

BestBuy also offers the 360fly FlyView Mobile VR Viewer for $39.99. This headset is compatible with select Apple and Android smartphones and utilizes Google Cardboard version 2.0 technology, with dual adjustable lenses, and is designed for use with footage from the $399.99 360fly camera. Another offer is the Agptek Universal Virtual Reality 3D Video Glasses, which are compatible with 4-7” smartphones and also use Google Cardboard technology. At a current price of $21.49 (a two-thirds drop from its regular price of $65.99), one must infer that lackluster sales have contributed to its deeply discounted pricing.

Currently out of stock and now backordered, the $120 ZEISS VR ONE is compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 smartphones, as well as Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6s, and appears to be a popular product that is banking on its sleek design and the quality of its optics as a competitive advantage.

Perhaps most intriguing (and a throwback to the earliest days of consumer 3D media viewing), is the sub-$30 Mattel View-Master, which many may recall for its image discs that provided realistic depth to the selected images. This newest generation of View-Master (suitable for users seven years old and up) also provides interactive mini-games, and is compatible with Apple’s iPhone 5 and up with iOS 8 or later, as well as select Android smartphones from HTC, LG, Motorola, Nexus and Samsung, opening the door to VR for even the youngest of users — training tomorrow’s viewers to expect VR content as “normal.”

Conspicuously absent from BestBuy’s lineup is Oculus Rift and the Sony Morpheus, further illustrating the immaturity of the marketplace as we enter 2016. BestBuy is not the only source for the latest technology, with a quick trip to Amazon.com revealing dozens of other choices — most of which are similar inexpensive variations on the Google Cardboard-compatible theme.

Of course, these are all baby steps on a long and fruitful journey, setting the stage for 2016 and beyond, and making 2015 merely a launching point for the things to come, as VR enters the marketplace.

For a measure of current consumer perceptions, a 2015 survey by Vivid Entertainment and XCritic.com revealed that around 60 percent of porn fans would be at least somewhat influenced to purchase a VR headset if adult content was available, compared to around 18 percent that would not be influenced by VR porn; and even if they purchased a VR headset, would definitely not use the device for viewing porn.  

Among those expecting to get a VR headset, 34 percent will definitely purchase VR porn, while 46.8 percent are uncommitted, but willing to buy adult content for the device. As for what type of content they would prefer to view, more than 41 percent stated their desire for VR movies with a story line.

Saying they’re willing to pay for VR porn is one thing, but how much are they willing to pay?

The largest group at 58.2 percent would pay $20 for a VR porn movie, with 24.2 percent ponying up $30, while 4.4 percent would pay $24, and 3.3 percent would spend $50 per video, with around 10 percent willing to go as high as $60 — illustrating the potential profitability of the VR porn marketplace, at least from the perspective of today’s consumers who have largely yet to experience this new form of erotica.

The adult entertainment industry is placing high hopes on the future of VR porn, but at this point, it is still a technology whose time is yet to come. With many observers opining that 2016 will be the year of VR and the expected widespread availability of the highly anticipated Oculus Rift and other new devices set to fuel this growth, the future looks bright — and can only improve from here.

With CES on its way and rumors of new VR porn productions underway, it’s only a matter of time before the mainstream is ignited by a frenzy of media attention and tantalizing new options, and whether it’s in 2016 or not until 2020, it’s a sure bet that VR porn is coming to a headset near you...

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