Commentary

Let's Talk About VR Porn

It’s hard to talk about the emergence of VR without talking about VR porn. So let’s talk. (Note: due to the “not safe for work” nature of the things discussed here, no outbound links will be provided. But Google will get you there if you really want to visit.)

The porn industry has, historically, been cited as a deciding factor in various technology “wars.” In truth, this misconception is patently false, but many believe it to be so, due to the common confusion between correlation and cause-and-effect.

The reality has always been that the porn industry, a fiercely competitive one where the content is so indistinct and relatively inexpensive to produce that it’s uniquely commoditized, has always looked to technology for a leg up on competitors. So indeed, at the time that a particular format wins a format war, porn has already embraced the winning format and gets some degree of credit for the victory. But, in the annals of tech warfare, we frequently forget that they’d embraced the loser too. After all, porn embraces everyone.

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So, too, we see the porn industry embracing VR.

Pornhub is probably the biggest name that’s thrown its weight in a serious way behind VR. The company has a dedicated category for aggregating VR videos, which typically come from VR-specific publishers.

 Search volume on Google Trends for VR porn has grown exponentially, and has now eclipsed searches for “3d porn.” And the growth curve does not appear to be tapering off — it’s grown six-fold in just the past 12 months.

It’s important to note that there’s three distinct groupings within what’s on tap for VR pornography. The first grouping is 360-degree video, which, while  being the easiest to produce and providing some degree of immersion, is much like its non-pornographic relation, and barely qualifies as VR (360-degree video is neat, but lacks depth perception that enhances presence).

Then there’s  some work being done taking 360-degree scans of models, and importing those models as 3D-representations in a virtual environment. This is more immersive and truly VR, but currently lacks motion.

The third grouping is pornographic animation in VR, which provides the greatest degree of immersion from a VR perspective — but is literally cartoons, so certainly has a more limited market appeal.

VR video is currently the only one of major significance, but because of the relatively low technical hurdle, there’s already “VR Cam” sites set up, which points to an eventual mass amateur market for this type of VR porn, likely within a year of VR devices becoming mainstream.

The 3D scans solution offers the greatest chance at a “professional vs amateur” market, but is still early in development. And the animation is already getting a lot of traction within its’ market segment, but will never grow beyond that segment.

Regardless of what content the pornography industry delivers to VR devices, any degree of immersion is a big sell for the product, and the industry’s embracing of VR is a driving force behind the popularization of VR, particularly mobile-format VR devices (such as the Google Cardboard), which have a low cost barrier to entry, are unfit for high-end immersive experiences, but are perfectly adequate for 360-degree video.

Whether the symbiosis between porn and VR is a good or bad thing is left up to the reader. But the two industries are, without a doubt, pushing each other forward.

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