Before televisions became mainstream, there was almost no way to enjoy adult entertainment at home other than on printed media. As with all printed media, the limitations were glaring. Once viewed, there was nothing else to be done, magazines just had to be stacked up in storage somewhere. Then came the era of VHS, a big jump that let you enjoy porn videos at home. The only issue was that video tapes were pretty difficult to store as well, just like magazines and books. Finally, once the internet age hit, digital downloads made everything much easier. But what’s next, you ask?
The answer, is virtual reality. Virtual reality is basically a simulated environment which offers far more immersion and some measure of interactivity with a variety of content. It’s been touted as the next big thing even in the video gaming industry because of the immersion, so there’s no surprise that something like porn would want to go the same way. Virtual reality entertainment requires a specialized headset device which calibrates according to the user, so privacy is another plus point, something which adult entertainment consumers definitely want.
One of the biggest and most popular genres of porn is POV, or point of view porn. In it, the camera is operated in a way to make it seem like the viewer is the male performer, or rarely, the female performer. This is undoubtedly the first thing that porn producers would bank on once virtual reality porn becomes big, because hey, who wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of someone who’s with their favorite pornstar? Simply being a part of the scene would increase immersion tenfold. What if users could ‘walk’ around the environment while the scene is going on? What if they were not bound by traditional cameras and able to see all the action in the way they like? The possibilities are truly endless, not only for porn, but also for any type of entertainment.
Combine the interactive experiences promised by virtual reality porn with digitally connected sex toys, and you literally have an environment that comes extremely close to the real thing. Users who have been consuming porn since a long time and are paid subscribers to existing services probably won’t hesitate too much to pay the amount of money required for this experience, so the business prospects are endless as well. Branding, commercialization, custom content, connected devices, there’s a lot can be done.
Then again, we’re only considering real content, shot with cameras, albeit from different angles. Virtual reality also gives content creators the power to actually create custom experiences using computer graphics, something like what the video gaming industry is doing. Admittedly, adult video games made today aren’t very polished experiences, but virtual reality could push the industry to truly start innovating and creating adult video games in virtual reality. Once the industry figures out a way to stay out of the uncanny valley, virtual reality porn might just become the de facto standard way to consume adult entertainment, in combination with virtual reality porn videos.
Now the other way to see this is how porn can contribute to making the virtual reality platform itself popular. It’s no secret that the porn industry is one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world, and its support can make or break a platform. It’s happened in the past, and it will probably happen again. The infamous VHS-Betamax war in the 1970’s was won by VHS simply because Sony’s proprietary format could hold only 60 minutes of video and Sony wasn’t too keen on supporting the adult industry, which meant that porn videos were sold only on VHS tapes. It accounted for almost 50% of VHS sales, effectively killing Betamax. Similarly, in the HD-DVD and Blu Ray war, the porn industry went with Blu Ray, which then caused HD-DVD to eventually get phased out. Companies that create virtual reality devices would be wise to work closely with the adult entertainment industry to popularize the platform.
Erika Lust, the founder of Lust Cinema, one of the most popular and acclaimed erotic filmmakers in the world, has specifically said that virtual reality is definitely the future of porn, but has valid concerns regarding the challenges it could face. Costs aside, there’s the question of intimacy, or rather, the lack of it. If the industry is moving towards more immersive experiences, we as users also tend to expect much more from it. Sure we would have been content with high quality video content, but now that there’s a possibility of virtual reality, something that is so close to the real thing but not yet there, there might be a disconnect. A disconnect that’s caused by the lack of intimacy. Basically you have an experience that’s so immersive but it’s missing that one small thing which could make or break it. Filmmakers and content creators have to understand that humans naturally tend to expect more, so it’s important not to oversell the experience and come up short.
Regardless of the challenges the industry could face, one thing is for sure, virtual reality is the future of entertainment. The entire idea of video games, movies and whatnot is escapism, what better way to immerse yourself in another place and time than virtual reality? The advertisements for current forms of entertainment offering ‘immersive’ experiences will have nothing on the experiences virtual reality will offer in the future, and for the adult industry, well, it’s an entirely new and exciting frontier.