The ins and outs of virtual pornography
Like it or not, porn as we know it is a few final thrusts away from getting totally in our faces for keeps. On the cusp of a bold new frontier in adult entertainment, niche software developers are designing cutting-edge smut for virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift.
According to Oculus' promotional videos, as early as this year, consumers will be able to strap on a head-mounted display and engross themselves in a world of "immersive stereoscopic 3-D rendering, [with] a massive field of view, and ultra low latency head tracking."
Once both the hardware and software become readily available, experts predict the virtual experience will relegate our laptops and smartphones into lackluster – and eventually obsolete – platforms for firing up and perving out.
"The VR realm is an emerging market that everyone's gonna be watching very closely," says Alec Helmy, president of XBIZ, an adult-industry trade publication. "I believe everyone knows that it'll be a big disruptor of the business as we know it, and those who are in the strongest financial position will be the ones to put forth the research and development budget to experiment with this new area."
Helmy will co-present a session at SXSW with Brian Shuster, founder and CEO of software development company Utherverse. One of its subsidiaries, Red Light Center, is busy crafting interactive adult content for use with select VR headset models combined with Leap Motion technology.
In the short term, VR headsets on their own will endow the user with an immersive 3-D experience of prerecorded, webcam, or avatar-based adult entertainment, while complementary gadgets like Leap Motion, which can transmit hand and finger movements into a virtual setting, will execute the interactive element.
"Right now we're ahead of the demand," Shuster says, "but when we expose consumers to an actual demo of virtual reality adult entertainment – like we did at the Adult Entertainment Expo in January – the demand is obviously there. There's no question that virtual reality is absolutely going to revolutionize the porn landscape in the same way that Internet porn did over VCRs."
With advancements this groundbreaking and complex, the ascension of virtual reality pornography to its natural apex – where users can have aesthetically and sensorily lifelike simulated sex with their favorite porn stars – will take roughly five to 10 years to materialize, according to Helmy and Shuster. But when that day comes, haptic devices will theoretically be able to reproduce sensations of sinful touch through mechanical stimulation.
"There are all kinds of things that these haptics are gonna be able to do that humans just can't," Shuster says. "Notwithstanding the fact that they won't get pregnant; they can't give you a disease; you won't be using a condom. You'll be able to, with a virtual reality component, act out incredible sex that you would never have the stamina for in real life."
So does the future of adult entertainment sound too good to be true? If in doubt: Ask a porn star.
"I can't think of anything that's simulated that's as good as the real thing," says former adult film star Kayden Kross. "I think it can be close to as exciting as a real-life sexual experience, and hit a lot of those things. But really, I know we're porn and we completely discount this all the time, but the truest, most real sexual experiences rely on the emotional component. I mean, it would have to be some damn good technology."
Ready to Wear? Body Informed 3D Printed Fashion Friday, March 13, 3:30pm
The Future of Porn is 3D Virtual Reality Saturday, March 14, 5pm Hyatt Regency, Texas Ballroom
AR and VR: Moving Beyond the Square Screen Monday, March 16, 5pm Four Seasons