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Slide: 2 / of 2 . Caption: Caption: When Ela Darling and her collaborators filmed some test footage for the Oculus RIft, what they found wasn’t just titillating, but human.

As a kid, Ela Darling fell in love with the idea of virtual reality. This was the late ’90s, early 2000s; Johnny Mnemonic and the Nintendo Virtual Boy had already come and gone, and VR had moved from brain-busting sci-fi concept to schlocky punch line to faded cultural footnote. But still, Darling was an avid reader and D&D player, and the idea of getting lost in an immersive world—“making visual what I was already losing myself in books for,” as she puts it—was something she found not just exciting but romantic.

It’s not just enterprising actresses who think this way. Call it Rule 34a: Whenever a new media technology appears on the horizon, someone pops into a comment thread to say, “I can’t wait to see what the porn industry is gonna do with this .” And indeed, from VCRs to CD-ROMs to streaming video, nearly every home entertainment platform of the past 40 years was either popularized or downright pioneered by companies that could help people watch other people getting freaky. It generally works out well for everyone: If half of all videotapes for sale in the US in the late ’70s hadn’t been X-rated, it might have taken VCRs a lot longer to reach critical mass in the early ’80s.

Regardless, what we are going to do is find something virtually (sorry) unheard-of in pornography: intimacy. The thing that’s going to take us there is “presence,” that phenomenon that occurs when head-tracking latency, screen quality, and processing wizardry combine to trick your brain into thinking that you’re existing in a virtual space, rather than just watching a screen that extends past the edges of your vision. If your brain believes it, your body reacts in kind—with all the responses that come along with that.

So if you’re standing at the edge of a skyscraper in VR and you lean over the side, you experience vertigo. If you’re in a darkened corridor on an alien spaceship and you hear a rustle behind you, you freak the fuck out—full, heart-pounding fight-or-flight response. If you’re sitting in a musician’s apartment while he noodles on a piano, his dog sleeping behind you on the hardwood floor, you feel serene. (This isn’t speculation; I’ve done all those things in various VR environments—some CG, some video—and I’ve had all those reactions.)

Virtual-Reality Porn Is Coming, and Your Fantasies May.

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You’re lying back on a bed. You look around. A porn star walks in. She mounts you. And as she does, you can feel the thrill of her tight contractions.

Except, you don’t know any porn stars. You’re a hypochondriac virgin. The closest thing you have to a girlfriend is your prized second-generation Oculus Rift developer kit headset.

The key to tricking the brain will be the use of “haptics,” or touch feedback integrated into the VR videos. Lovense has two models: a male toy (called “Max”) and the female toy (called “Nora”), which retail for about $199 and come with a Bluetooth wireless dongle to pair with a computer or smartphone. The male toy uses air pumps to simulate contractions and the head of the female toy rotates to simulate penetration. There is also a clitoral stimulation arm on the female toy that vibrates when the two performers’ bodies collide.

The setup requires a bit of patience, but for the sexually adventurous programmer, it’s perfection.

First, the user positions the Lovense device in their genital area and enables the Bluetooth wireless dongle. Second, he or she puts on the VR goggles. Third, he or she begins the VirtualRealPlayer (which recognizes the Bluetooth device) to enable the POV porno in 180-degree stereoscopic viewing. Finally, as the movie is playing, the Lovense sex toy synchronizes automatically with the video being watched.

VirtualRealPorn is also releasing an Android and iOS app in the next few months, and toy synchronization with Lovense will be available when it is released.

While anyone can purchase the Max and Nora sex toys currently being synchronized with VirtualRealPorn’s cinematic inventory, Lovense is in the process of developing further innovation in the field, although no visible prototypes are ready.

But one key factor will not change VirtualRealPorn's approach: Any improvement in computer simulations of people is of no interest to their company, Kovalsky says.

“It seems like the people are sick or monsters,” Kovalsky says. “The basis of our website is to use real actors and actresses. We want to make porn more realistic and more sensual, and we don’t want to make any kind of porn that involves women or men being humiliated.”

Slide: 2 / of 2 . Caption: Caption: When Ela Darling and her collaborators filmed some test footage for the Oculus RIft, what they found wasn’t just titillating, but human.

As a kid, Ela Darling fell in love with the idea of virtual reality. This was the late ’90s, early 2000s; Johnny Mnemonic and the Nintendo Virtual Boy had already come and gone, and VR had moved from brain-busting sci-fi concept to schlocky punch line to faded cultural footnote. But still, Darling was an avid reader and D&D player, and the idea of getting lost in an immersive world—“making visual what I was already losing myself in books for,” as she puts it—was something she found not just exciting but romantic.

It’s not just enterprising actresses who think this way. Call it Rule 34a: Whenever a new media technology appears on the horizon, someone pops into a comment thread to say, “I can’t wait to see what the porn industry is gonna do with this .” And indeed, from VCRs to CD-ROMs to streaming video, nearly every home entertainment platform of the past 40 years was either popularized or downright pioneered by companies that could help people watch other people getting freaky. It generally works out well for everyone: If half of all videotapes for sale in the US in the late ’70s hadn’t been X-rated, it might have taken VCRs a lot longer to reach critical mass in the early ’80s.

Regardless, what we are going to do is find something virtually (sorry) unheard-of in pornography: intimacy. The thing that’s going to take us there is “presence,” that phenomenon that occurs when head-tracking latency, screen quality, and processing wizardry combine to trick your brain into thinking that you’re existing in a virtual space, rather than just watching a screen that extends past the edges of your vision. If your brain believes it, your body reacts in kind—with all the responses that come along with that.

So if you’re standing at the edge of a skyscraper in VR and you lean over the side, you experience vertigo. If you’re in a darkened corridor on an alien spaceship and you hear a rustle behind you, you freak the fuck out—full, heart-pounding fight-or-flight response. If you’re sitting in a musician’s apartment while he noodles on a piano, his dog sleeping behind you on the hardwood floor, you feel serene. (This isn’t speculation; I’ve done all those things in various VR environments—some CG, some video—and I’ve had all those reactions.)

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.

Don’t get them wrong: People don’t necessarily want to watch VR porn themselves. (Though plenty might, and that's fine too.) They’re simply curious about how it will adapt to this new format.

After all, porn has always been on the cutting edge of technological innovation. Ask almost anyone why VHS beat Betamax for home video supremacy way back when, and most will point out that the adult entertainment industry favored the former over the latter.

Since then, porn has been attributed with helping to push everything from streaming video to easy payment systems into the mainstream -- pioneering those newfangled ideas in the mid-'90s to early 2000s, long before they became ubiquitous.

Virtual reality, though, may present its biggest challenge yet. The technology is having the most public beta test possible right now; all kinds of people -- game developers, filmmakers, the usual marketing rabble -- are trying to figure exactly how to strike gold inside the virtual space.

VR dominated the conversation at SXSW, CES and even Sundance -- but most of what was on display amounted to flashy demos. There isn’t yet one killer VR app.

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