How VR Porn Is Secretly Driving The Industry

Is adult entertainment pushing yet another technology forward? Katie Greene thinks so in her latest article.

As virtual reality (VR) technology continuously expands, its applicability is being tested in a wide range of markets – classroom learning, travel and tourism, online shopping, virtual cinema, etc. But what’s really driving VR, what’s really raking in the cash, is none of the above. It’s porn.

Sleeping/Bed/SexRight now, the VR porn industry has a kind of wink-and-nod relationship with the rest of the VR industry. In fact, Oculus VR co-founder Palmer Luckey summed it up in this statement, wherein he criticized VR companies for their public treatment of VR pornography.

“It’s this very strange situation where if you talk privately to people who work at major VR companies and you say, ‘Hey, what do you think about VR porn?’ And they say, ‘Oh, I love VR porn!’” [Luckey] said at an industry event in Japan in September. “But then they go to a public panel at a game development conference, and they’ll get asked, ‘What do you think about VR porn?’ They say, ‘What is VR porn? I don’t know anything about that.’”

It’s all for public relations, of course – top VR companies like Oculus, HTC, and Facebook obviously don’t want to be associated with pornography. But statistics don’t lie, and VR pornography sees more traffic than any other VR medium out there.

For starters, let’s look at PornHub, the extremely popular pornography streaming service, which boasts half a million VR views per day – with usage seriously spiking around Christmas season.

And now let’s compare this to gaming platform Steam’s statistics – an estimated 1.5 million PC gamers own VR headsets, yet usage at any given time is less than 1%. Statistics were taken from VRLFG.net, which pulls real-time data from Steam’s API to track people playing VR-compatible games.

As of writing, the top 10 VR-compatible titles on Steam had less than 500 players (each) during peak hours for the past week. This means that of the estimated 1.5 million Steam gamers who own VR headsets, less than 3,000 people actually used them in the past week.

Of course, those statistics could mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme, considering nearly 90% of VR devices sold worldwide are for the mobile platform – not PC. But we should remember the main point, that sales doesn’t necessarily translate into daily use. Companies like HTC and Google might be selling millions of mobile VR units, but how many people actually use their VR devices regularly, once the initial enthusiasm wears off?

It’s difficult to find any concrete statistics on how many people are actively using VR on their mobile devices. It’s true that a large percentage of mobile VR headset owners are primarily interested in gaming, because zombie shooting games in VR are better than not in VR. Popular browser games like Survivio are certainly enhanced by VR immersion, especially since there’s a real lack of VR games on Google Play store – WebVR combined with mobile devices could have a strong future, in that regard.

So we’ll need to look at various poll results to get an idea of just how many people are actually using their mobile VR headsets.

  • AndroidPolice: 28% voted “I used my VR headset once or twice, then never again”, and 7% voted “A few times a month”.
  • SamMobile: 25% of users responded they use their VR headset around once a month, while 3% responded they use it on a daily basis.

These polls are only a few thousand responses, but we do see a trend. While millions of people may own VR, that does not translate into daily (or even weekly) use on the same scale. Unless we turn our attention to VR porn.

It turns out that “VR Porn” is the most searched term related to VR, with 3 of the top 5 VR-focused websites being pornography websites.

Thus we can say that pornography is de facto the driving force behind the VR industry – while other sectors of the VR industry are trying to carve out various niches for VR applications, pornography has already captured a large share of the market, and continues to expand.

In fact, the porn industry is getting ready to unveil what is likely the most “immersive” VR experience yet – combining “sex robots” with VR. You read that correctly. We are on the brink of virtual sex with robots. The company behind this is CamSoda, an adult webcam model site. The whole idea is that you’ll purchase a RealDoll with physical attributes similar to some of CamSoda’s webcam models, plug yourself into the Matrix, and boink away. If it weren’t for the $7,000 price tag, I’d almost say the human race is doomed.

The sort of ironic thing here is that this is the kind of immersive experience people expect from VR – not necessarily sex itself, but sensory immersion beyond sight and hearing. I mean let’s compare this to something like virtual tourism. You can explore tropical beaches in VR on some travel agency website, yes – but can you feel the sand beneath your toes?

With virtual sex, you can actually combine touch into the virtual experience – even if you’re groping a pair of silicone robot breasts. Thus, not only is virtual porn driving the industry, they’re bridging the gap between virtual and reality far better than anyone else. If they could create a device that erases the sense of shame you experience from having just made passionate love to a robot while wearing VR goggles, I think the case could be made that the future of VR is porn, and everything else is just filler content.

The only thing that’s really edging back the VR porn industry from exploding (phrasing!) are the VR headset manufacturers themselves – as I said at the beginning of this article, there’s somewhat of a wink-and-nod, don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy going on, but headset manufacturers have taken active steps to block porn apps from their online stores. Some in the VR porn industry have said that they’ve reached out to headset manufacturers, asking for headset features that could enhance immersion, and their requests fell on deaf ears.

This is of course justifiable for the headset manufacturers – once VR headsets become primarily associated with pornography, the technology could lose a fair bit of mainstream appeal. The mainstream wants to know how VR can be used in classrooms and business offices, not how they can have simulation sex with pornstars. And yet, the latter is exactly what’s bringing in the majority of cash to the VR industry – we could even make the argument that a good majority of adults purchasing VR headsets are buying them for pornography.

It’s VHS tapes all over again, with the adult videos hidden behind a curtain in the rental stores – but everyone knows why you’re coming out of Blockbuster wearing dark sunglasses at 11pm at night.

 

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