There is a constant debate as to how much impact adult entertainment will have on the upcoming rebirth of virtual reality (VR). While some would present the fact that the home video tape rivalry from the 1980s – in which the adult entertainment industry famously aligned with VHS over Betamax – as an argument in support of the power of pornography a more recent example comes with the high-definition (HD) disc war, which saw the chosen format for adult movies lose in a very public fashion. Always eager to jump on new technology, VR is the next battle that is about to commence in the entertainment industries and pornographers are already staking their claims.
It’s undeniably videogame entertainment that is driving VR at this point, however other content is likely to broaden the appeal of the medium in the very near future. Despite there still being a number of months until consumers will be able to get their hands on the first commercial VR hardware of this second wave, adult entertainment companies across the world have been announcing their VR ventures for over a year. Most production houses hold just a small collection of movies filmed at a very low quality and offered in a fashion akin to an individual setting up an Etsy page. However, the tide has recently turned as a number of key players in the field have begun to show their hand. One of which, Naughty America, recently showcased two original works at a private event during San Diego Comic Con.
The divide between the two pieces was that of gender. Both presented a threesome arrangement with the same actors in each scene, but the viewer was cast as a male in one and a female in the other. While Naughty America suggest that this is aimed at male and female demographics respectively, it’s not impossible to wonder about the flight of fantasy intentions that also lie behind this decision; is there an audience wishing to experience sex as the opposite gender? VR, arguably, is the first technology that would allow one to do so.
Sexual exploration aside – there are other studios which have offered similar content previously, such as Virtual Real Porn and BaDoink – the quality of the VR experience is not something to be taken lightly. A 180 degree field of view filmed from a first-person perspective, the footage is presented on the Samsung Gear VR with a remarkably high resolution. It’s no joke that those filming such material have a perfect eye for lighting and environment arrangement; the two scenes from Naughty America clearly had a great deal of expertise and financial investment behind them. The decision to create sharp borders at the edges of the scene opposed to a gentle fade into black may undermine the intended level of immersion, but the well lit scene and impressive resolution will undoubtedly be all the convincing many patrons need to believe that VR is set to become a standardised format for pornography.
Can adult entertainment become a catalyst for VR adoption? Certainly it could, but will it be a key driving force for sales of competing hardware? At this point it looks unlikely. All of the key hardware manufacturers have stated (or already have clauses in place) that pornographic material will not be available directly through their respective marketplaces. This means that most adult entertainment companies will likely adopt a platform agnostic approach: digitally distributing their content in a variety of formats to aid ease of consumption for end users. No one head-mounted display (HMD) will likely benefit from the adult entertainment industry, but with such content already becoming available – and with such high production values – it would be foolish to suggest that it won’t be influential in the adoption rate of VR hardware.