The porn of the future is titillating. As virtual reality matures, we'll be aroused in three-dimensional immersive alternative realities, interacting with super-lifelike porn stars customized to our taste. People will look back on our passive and lonely 2D smut and pity us. But… when?
Oculus Rift porn, like VR everything else, has been overhyped for years. Extra-overhyped. It's still being overhyped, even as the pornographers dabbling in Rift development are struggling to get the subjects into adequate 3D scans. Even fewer companies have tackled the interactive aspect of simulated sex with teledildonics.
Some pornographers have realized the teledildonics on the market just aren't good enough yet, as is the case with Oculus game Wicked Paradise, which closed up shop despite heaps of fanfare last year. Meanwhile the customizable 3D avatar games that have been made it to consumers have steps-above-Minecraft graphics that'll give you a headache, and that's after you've gotten over the simulator-sickness.
At this early stage, it's very hard to make quality adult content for VR. The porn makers filming live-action have to Macgyver their own VR-compatible equipment, reinvent the standard adult film process, and program new processing software.
But people are doing it. And like a good journalist, I explored the stuff that's out there today. I found the pickings slim and mostly terrible (at least to me). But they were also a crude, salacious glimpse into how this technology could eventually blow the sex industry apart.
Despite VR devices not even being available to regular consumers, Spain-based porn company VirtualRealPorn is one of a small handful of pornographers developing for Oculus Rift already, by adapting traditional live-action porn for the headset.
VirtualRealPorn films porn clips in an 180-degree immersive experience (so not full-on 3D) and they've played with the Rift's sound capabilities, inserting moments in the scene where the actress whispers in the viewer's ear—a big hit with customers.
So far there are 25 clips in its library, each about 9 minutes long and from the POV of the male. VirtualRealPorn communications director LindaWells said that adding interactivity, including with teledildonics, is one of the many plans for the future. But right now they're still trying to figure out production, along with post-production editing for the Rift.
Both, she said, are time-consuming and expensive. There are many rules the filmmakers "must follow to create a comfortable immersion" experience, explained Wells, which the company has been discovering through trial-and-error. "Traditional adult filming rules aren't valid for VR."
And beyond figuring out a new way of filming, the company had to create its own equipment to shoot the pornos.
"There isn't equipment on the market to shoot for VR with good quality and we had to do much research to create custom cameras and rigs," said Wells. "The custom equipment is followed by a very custom workflow in post-production since the market lacks any good and complete software to do these processes." VirtualRealPorn developed its own software for post editing, too.
This struggle to adapt film and production processes to the Rift is an industry-wide problem. SugarDVD, a massive adult film company that made headlines this spring when it announced it would be making interactive VR porn, has yet to even reveal it's long-awaited Oculus Rift demo, which was supposed to come out this summer.
So far it's "scanned two adult performers and are currently in the process of working them into our demo," wrote press liaison Rebecca Bolen. In other words, it's not done yet.
Bolen did not respond to multiple requests to elaborate, but the company had this to say in a blog post in late August: "We've found that in order to create a more immersive experience, we need to start from the beginning of production in order to perfectly tailor adult content to the VR world."
On the digital side, the technology for scanning and replicating porn actresses is moving steadily along. Veiviev, the NSFW arm of the 3D scanning service Infinite Realities , had the best 3D scans I could find. They call their realistic nudes "sculptures," and themselves "artisans."
A demo of their Lucid Dreams v2 went up this spring and features digitally rendered naked 3D women in provocative poses. A newer version is on the way.
According to a company blog post, Veiviev is only interested in making "frozen moments in time," nothing else. Just stills you can walk around; their sculptures don't move. In the future they promise to make male nude sculptures as well.
Screengrab from Lucid Dreams 2/Vimeo
A Japanese company called PG Productions also has decent 3D scanning technology, and digitally replicated five Japanese porn actresses for its PLAYGIRLS product.
I was unable to determine exactly how interactive PLAYGIRLS is or how much its models move, beyond hair blowing in the wind as they stand on a beach in a bathing suit, as seen in a demo.
Most of the motion VR erotica already on the market comes from Japan, where they're basically hentai. Anime porn that's not trying to be lifelike is a lot easier than digital renderings, after all.
One Japanese game has you look up a girl's skirt, another has you screw the hologram pop star Hatsune Miko while she is fully clothed. Looking realistic is clearly not the goal. The intercourse with Miko was glitchy on all the videos I found on YouTube; her crotch (or your hands?) look like shredded paper blowing in the wind or a WendyVainity video.
But the upswing of creating avatars instead of just filming humans is you can personalize your actors. Creating your own model to get sexy with is a major selling point of VR porn, said Brian Shuster, the founder and CEO of the virtual reality network Utherverse, which makes Red Light Center, an online sex club that lets you minimally design your own character.
Utherverse also working on integrating the Rift and motion technology Leap Frog into future products, so you can use your hands to interact with your personalized porn star.
It wants to create realistic avatars. Shuster told the Daily Beast its Rift porn will be "basically identical" to real porn—but its current Red Light Center offerings don't inspire much confidence.
Here's a SFW Screen cap of Red Light Center gameplay:
The user pages of community designers, who design clothes and hair, looks worse that early 2000's MySpace pages, another Utherverse feature that makes me doubt they can produce a 3D porn experience that will be indecipherable from the real thing, any time soon.
Utherverse's character customization isn't particularly thrilling either, and you have to pay for every change in "Rays," the game's virtual currency. Better hair and costumes, naturally, cost you even more.
At this point, neither Utherverse nor Red Light Center are Rift compatible, or hook up to any teledildonic.
Japan is pioneering interactivity too. The Custom Maid 3D game, where you design your own maid and use a controller fitted around your cock to navigate through the game (and screw your maid), added Oculus Rift support last June, making it the first game ever to use teledildonics with the Rift.
Another robotic sex game appeared at last November's Rift game jam, where a Tenga—a masturbatory suction toy for men—was hooked up to a Falcon, a small white machine with arms that move. Combined, the two beat in time to whatever is happening on the screen, involving a creepily young anime avatar.
Meanwhile, the Austrian-based interactive sex video game company TriXXX released its newest game Chathouse 3D this year, which utilizes the Rift. Chathouse 3D is similar to Red Light Center in that it is a interactive social network where horny people can make customizable sub-par avatars that fuck each other and also utilize a game-specific digital currency. But one reviewer called the game a "disorienting horrible mess" that will give you a headache before it gives you a hard-on.
It also offers teledildonic support for the Vstroker and the Fleshlight, two masturbatory toys for men. The game promises that every time the Fleshlight is penetrated, the thrust will be transmitted into the game via the Vstroker.
What about teledildonic support for women's masturbatory aids?? TriXXX's Nikolaus, who did not give his last name or job description, wrote the company is "always looking for new toys/devices to integrate into our system," but doesn't plan on adding lady-centric gadgets any time soon.
The company is more interested in adding unspecified new features to Chathouse 3D, including "shop system integration"—presumably so it can make more money from the game's virtual currency. The money-making potential of virtual cybersex is huge; Nikolaus said there are currently more than 180,000 users on the TriXXX social network.
Meanwhile, Wicked Paradise, an erotic video game widely touted last year, has been shelved. Top brass Wicked Paradise personnel, asking to not be named, said the game is put on hold until the virtual reality "market matures" and haptic feedback technology—namely in teledildonics—improves to accompany it.
"We realized that the current VR space—especially the hardware—simply is not good enough to make a lifelike realistic erotic VR adventure game" said the source. "We did a ton of experiments and came to the conclusion that without haptic feedback [we] can't create a VR erotic experience worth having."
The problem is that most available teledildonics (and similar remote sex toys like RealTouch) have huge latency problems, which causes a "very noticeable delay in what you see and what you feel," said the source, calling this "a huge problem in VR," and "not very sexy at all."
This delay issue "sends any erotic VR content you might make deep into uncanny valley, resulting in an experience that is more frightening than arousing," the source said.
The shelving of Wicked Paradise is a shame: Wicked Paradise's demo graphics looked infinitely better than Chathouse 3D and anything Utherverse has created. And interestingly, the game itself was garnering more interest from women than men.
So when will we finally enjoy our Oculus-powered 3D immersive interactive alternative pornographic reality? I'm sorry to say it's going to be quite a while.
Creating an avatar you can sex that doesn't look like a cartoon character or plastic doll is just not possible yet. The simulations aren't realistic enough. VR porn for anything other than the heterosexual male does not exist, leaving women to roam glitchy sex simulator games if they want to get their VR freak on.
No company has bothered to make their product compatible with sex toys for women, nor plans to do so any time soon. The technology to make live-action 3D porn is still DIY. The Rift isn't widely available, and probably won't be for years. Then you have the simulator-sickness issue, common among most new Rift users as the device requires an acclimation period.
"The porn industry seems to be more conservative; usually they wait for a technology to be spread among the people before creating content for that technology," Wells told me in an email. If it's years until Oculus goes mainstream, it could be even longer for adult entertainment on the Rift to be enjoyable for the average guy, much less the average girl.
As revolutionary as the future promises to be, VR porn right now is more trouble than it's worth. I for one am quite happy sticking to the plebeian, passive 2D porn already on the market. For now at least.
Illustration by Jim Cooke