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Is Virtual Reality The Future Of Porn?

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Tom Hale

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

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Note: It goes without saying that most of this article is NSFW.

Virtual reality (VR) porn; the inevitable conclusion of humanity’s advancement in technology. By all accounts, this twosome of primal biological urges and immersive high-tech gadgetry seems to have grabbed the world's curiosity.

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The Adult VR Fest 01 in the Akihabara region of Tokyo was recently called off due to fears of overcrowding. This news was paired with data from Google Trends that showed that searches for VR porn have been up 10,000 percent since 2014.

But is this apparent fascination just nosiness at a gimmicky fad? Or is the world really queuing up to plug themselves into the Matrix and have it off with Siri? And, for self-pleasuring Luddites among us, what the hell even is VR porn?

Virtual reality itself has been a concept since the rise of computer’s got imaginations ticking in the early 20th century. But the “The Sword of Damocles” is commonly considered the first proper attempt at a virtual reality system, created in 1968 by computer scientist Ivan Sutherland. While he went to go on to invent the “revolutionary” computer program Sketchpad, the dreams of creating a viable virtual reality system somewhat stagnated over the decades. Numerous companies toyed with the ideas, but ultimately they were held back by a lack of technology.

But then around five years ago, technology appeared to catch up and a renaissance of virtual reality kicked off with the advent of commercially available VR headsets: Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard, and the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.

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A prototype of Ivan Sutherland's 1968 headset. Image credit: Pargon/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The porn industry has been quick to jump on this new medium, offering a 360-degree experience. Pornhub added their own virtual reality category (NSFW) to their empire, which features over 50 videos after just three months of being live. So far the bulk of users will only be able to enjoy 360-degree videos, whereby viewers can click and drag around the interactive screen to see around the scene. The end hope is that, eventually, we’ll be able to physically move our heads to give the impression we’re looking around the scene. The process involves a huge amount of graphics or numerous cameras to capture every single angle. As VICE reported in their “behind the scenes” with Tori Black’s first VR porn shoot, the shooting itself requires over 70 cameras.

Of course, like most avenues of sexual desire, there are devices for the more “acquired tastes”, so to speak. For example, the Tenga Novint Falcon device; a bizarre hybrid of VR goggles with a robotic fleshlight sex toy. You can see this grueling device in the video below from the VR Jam 2013 festival. Japanese developers have also combined the Oculus Rift VR headset with a LeapMotion pressure sensor to create a bizarre “breast touching simulator”. Pressure pads on a mannequin's boobs pick up on the user's touches and grabs, to which the character featured in headset's responds in real-time.

While that may not be to everybody’s tastes, many technology and business analysts believe that cybernetic sexy time could provide the boost VR needs to break into the mainstream. So far virtual reality has lacked the relevant appeal to get out of the bubble of techy geek circles. But if there’s one thing that’s always helped new technology and mediums break on through, it’s sex.

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There’s an urban legend that the videotape supremacy war between VHS and Betamax was won by VHS because Betamax were reluctant to license adult films. That story has since been questioned, but a similar tale is also been told which says the two things that drove demand for the printing press was first The Bible, closely followed by erotica. Many commenters are expecting a similar story from VR.

Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and financial analyst firm, has said that adult virtual reality is set to be a $1 billion industry by 2020 and become the third biggest virtual reality sector, only behind video games and National Football League content.

According to Gene Munster, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, this isn’t far off the truth. “Whenever there’s a shift in content conception, it’s typically adult entertainment that’s the first monetizable app. History repeats itself and we’ve seen adult entertainment drive sales of VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, high definition, mobile, and online video over the years,” he said, Fortune reports.

Dr Ian Pearson, a "futurologist" and engineer, recently said that the majority of people will enjoy virtual reality sex by 2030 as casually as they use conventional porn today. In a paper called “The Rise Of The Robotsexuals”, he even went as far to say that sex with robots could replace human relationships by 2050.

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Image credit: MikeCogh/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

His prediction may seem extreme, particularly as most people have barely got to grips with virtual reality pornography, let alone robot sex. Nevertheless, a recent small-scale survey looked into people’s attitudes towards having sex with robots and surprisingly concluded “more than two thirds of all men are in favor (40 men in favor vs. 17 against) while almost two-thirds of all women are against (16 women in favor vs. 27 against).”

Although stranger things have happened, it's tricky to say if Pearson's projection or this survey is on point. Predicting the future can often end with a lot of hilariously wrong guesses in retrospect; the world is still drastically behind on our flying skateboard technology. But now the technology is in place, it seems the coming decades will be the true test for virtual reality. If it does manage to saturate into the zeitgeist, then sex will no doubt play some part.


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