Open source project WebVR is the key, and that means that you can watch, at minimum, 360° videos embedded in WordPress blogs.
One of the issues this brings up is a simple question: What is VR? In the annals of VR porn, we don’t think of virtual reality as anything but stereoscopic video. It can be 180° or 360 °, or anything in between to qualify, but if it’s not stereoscopic, the video is not virtual reality.
That makes complete sense. If you’re watching a 360° video, cool and interesting as it is, you’re not immersed, and if you’re not immersed in an alternate reality, then you’re not experiencing virtual reality.
The unedited transcript is posted here in VRBlunt.com. They asked about Todd Glider’s background, and career in the porn industry, as well as the history of the BaDoink brand, as well as the history of new product BaDoinkVR.
Kiiroo’s Onyx, for those who don’t know, provides a haptic component to the VR porn experience. This is awfully important since the key to virtual reality is immersion, or presence, or telepresence, and one can’t say they’ve achieved any of these three things when only two of one’s five senses are experiencing a virtual reality.
When compared with traditional forms of entertainment, how many users are currently already using VR gear to watch adult entertainment?
It’s impossible to provide accurate data. Anyone who says they have that data is being somewhat disingenuous. The market at this point is very, very small because the number of consumers in possession of a VR headset is infinitesimal, compared to smartphones, desktops and tablet computers. Broadly, it’s important to remember that, for all the fanfare, hype and truly inspiring VR programming available, VR as a tech is still incredibly embryonic. All of the excitement it garners is worthwhile and valid and appropriate, but what we’re most excited about, what’s worthy of all that excitement is the signals splintering off the tech. It’s not about what’s here now.
How will this change in the near future? When do you expect that VR will reach user numbers close to what we see today with computers, TV or smartphones?
The release of PlayStation VR is worth celebrating. Google Daydream, even more so. The levee breaks once eye-tracking comes to town. That makes foveated rendering possible. And once video resolution can be managed in a manner that does not require everything in your field of view to be displayed at max resolution, the demands on processing power will drop enormously, and many more consumers will be in the position to afford higher-end devices. When will VR gear be as commonplace as computers, TVs or smartphones? I think we’re a decades out, honestly. Consider that we all know one or two people who live without TV, live without a smartphone. They’re curiosities. They’re noteworthy. We’re still at a point where it’s noteworthy if someone owns a VR device.
Let’s talk a bit about the hardware. The most widely used way right now for VR could be solutions similar to Google Cardboard, since these are the easiest, and by far cheapest solutions. Is the quality of such devices good enough for VR porn?
At BaDoinkVR, we were the first to give away Google Cardboard with every subscription to our VR porn site, but these are, to put it colloquially, gateway drugs. They don’t deserve a place on the shelf alongside your other gadgets. They’re here to give you a taste, and encourage you to purchase something better—like Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive. That’s what makes the release of Google Daydream so exciting. Most people are not going to jump from cardboard to Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. They’ll jump to a mid-range device. Up until recently, that meant Gear VR, and Gear VR, good as it is, works with only a few Samsung phones. With Google Daydream, we see many, many more manufacturers agreeing to release phones supporting the platform. That gives the entire market a nice kick.
What art the minimum requirements a VR headset and the hardware should have to create an enjoyable experience for the user?
Any smartphone released in the last two or three years, with Google Cardboard, or cardboard equivalent, is sufficient to enjoy VR porn. However, the average consumer is not going to watch VR porn in lieu of non-VR porn until, at minimum, they’ve acquired a device that is mid-range or higher.
Other solutions from Oculus, Sony or HTC are far more pricy. Does the user see the difference? And will he be willing to pay the higher price to watch adult entertainment on these devices?
The experience on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift is, hands-down, superior to the experience on Cardboard, or Gear VR, or any smartphone-driven solution. As far as willingness to pay a higher price, I believe that anyone considering the purchase of one of these high-end devices, when listing the pros and cons of purchasing, he or she definitely puts ‘VR porn’ in the plus column.
I doubt that those companies actively support porn on their devices, if they not even try to obstruct it all together. How easy or complicated is it to enjoy VR porn on Rift, Sony VR or the Vive?
Watching VR porn on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift is as easy as watching VR porn on a smartphone, if not easier. In fact, BaDoinkVR even offers its own desktop player to subscribers. Watching VR Porn on PlayStation VR is also possible with BaDoinkVR, though, at this point, the process is a bit more convoluted.
Will the consumers readily pay for VR content?
They will and do. BaDoinkVR is already profitable, and consumers, at large, see VR content as something separate from ‘normal’ porn. At this point, scarcity certainly has a hand in that. But it’s also an acknowledgement of the quality. Video sharing sites, which are the reason that consumers haven’t expected to pay for porn for nearly a decade now, are lowest-common-denominator channels of distribution. They’re McDonalds and Taco Bell. VR porn, by comparison, is sitting down at the best steakhouse in town.
How will the market for VR porn develop within the next year?
It will continue to grow, the result of more devices hitting the marketplace, the result of more people experiencing virtual reality for the first time. Once you’ve tried it, VR porn leaves a lasting impression. The challenge for everyone in the VR space is convincing people to put those goggles on for the first time. Once he or she does, there’s no going back. They never look at porn the same way again.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into the industry?
I hail from the United States, and got my start in this industry in 1998. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and was initially hired by one of the first adult (i.e. porn)Internet companies in the world to write erotic copy for their web properties. This was early on, so content was primarily photographic, and corresponding copy was a necessity. I eventually took the position of Creative Director, and the company itself was acquired by a publicly traded company in the US focused on TV and satellite distribution of adult content.
Can you tell us something about Badoink?
BaDoink.com (we call it BaDoink VIP now) was launched more than 10 years ago as a subscription-based website. Its focus was more on the delivery of content than the production of content. The site had thousands of videos, of course, but all of our R&D was put into tech. We created the BaDoink Ultra App, a companion software for desktop that allowed subscribers to access all the content of the site via the app, avoiding the web entirely. And it had a number of features which were pretty cutting-edge at the time. For example, a DVD burner for creating compilations, a media encoder for converting files to different formats, a download manager, and even a DLNA media server, allowing one to stream any video to any network-aware device in the home. The site was successful, but its greatest success came later, when the smartphone market opened up. BaDoink was among the first sites in adult to be optimized for smartphone, and we optimized it well. The results were mammoth growth for the brand and the company.
Can you tell us something about Badoink VR?
BaDoinkVR is a subscription-based website offering exclusive virtual reality content. We produce all the content, as well as the player software needed to watch virtual reality content on smartphone or desktop. The site launched in July 2015, and has been growing quite impressively ever since. We were among the first virtual reality porn sites to go live, and the first to offer free Google Cardboard with every subscription. At minimum, we add 1 new video every week—often more.
Are you satisfied with the state of the Sex-Tech industry as of 2016?
Well, to me, Sex-Tech IS the industry. Sex-Tech, it’s a more modern, more accurate name for the “Porn Industry.” If your trade is adult entertainment, technology is a huge part of your business (by that I mean software and web development, traffic optimization, design and UX). Any successful company, any new company making a go of it must see tech as key to their survival and longevity. Gone are the days when studios could just be studios—produce great content and tacitly rely upon third parties for distribution. And I would argue that, in the case of all successful companies in the space, the ‘tech’ comes before the ‘sex’ by a great margin. That was an awfully long preface to addressing your question. I am satisfied with the state of the industry. There are a number of reasons to be upbeat. The tech itself, be it virtual reality or teledildonics, is exciting. I can’t speak with much authority on the latter, but where virtual reality is concerned, Sex-Tech is leading much of the innovation. Sex-Tech is the only industry with a VR business model. Another reason to be optimistic: the media has really embraced Sex-Tech in a way that it never has in the past. It’s covered by mainstream presses in an unprecedented manner. This subject, previously taboo, is now part of the pop-cultural conversation. In addition, there’s the changes we’re seeing on the popular free porn sites. Those sites that forced the industry to rapidly grow up, or, taking a more pejorative tack, brought the industry to its knees, are doing a better job of working with studios than ever before. So, again, plenty of reason, to be optimistic.
In your opinion, what kind of challenges does Sex-Tech face, inside and outside the industry?
The industry itself is made up of literally thousands of small companies around the world. Add to that the fact that so many of these companies are scratching and clawing to grow, to survive, it makes it difficult to build consensus, to bring everyone under one umbrella—for example, for the purpose of lobbying, and affecting legislative change. As well, as refreshing as it is that the mainstream media is fascinated by us, and talking about us, VCs and Silicon Valley tech companies continue being very hands off, pretending we don’t exist.
Most of the VR movies you are offering are 180° movies. By when do you think you will have a higher amount of 360 ° movies?
That’s difficult to say for a couple of reasons. We are shooting 180° 3D stereoscopic videos because the consumer is not requesting 360° versions. Our member base is very vocal. We know this because we maintain a feedback forum for members behind the paywall. The 360° 3D stereoscopic videos we shoot are great for trade shows; they convey the WOW factor, but the fact is, from a practical standpoint, most users are lying prostrate when watching our videos, so seeing what’s going on behind them is not so interesting. Further, 360° 3D stereoscopic videos are more expensive to produce, and because of limitations in camera and stitching technology, the quality is never as good as you want it to be, never as good as what’s possible at 180°.
We can’t use a camera like the Nokio Ozo—as one example—because the frame-rate on a camera like that is only 30fps. That’s fine if you’re shooting landscapes, but if the subject matter is a few inches away from you, and indulging in speedy gyrations, it’s insufficient, and bouts of VR sickness would be pervasive.
An article published by The Guardian says: “It’s an old adage that any advance in technology – be it the advent of film or the invention of the VCR – will soon be applied to pornography. This seemed to be the case at SXSW, where a panel discussion had the subject VR Porn: Future is Upon Us, What’s Next?”.
From your point of view: How high is the potential of this technology for the porn industry? Which are the main benefits of VR for adult entertainment? Do you agree with Peter Rubin (Wired) when he writes this?: “Historically, we’ve found titillation at a remove. In erotic woodcuts, DVDs, even streaming webcam shows, there’s a frame—whether a book, a Polaroid border, or a screen—through which we experience whatever it is that turns us on. VR is more than just another iteration. It doesn’t just change the frame. VR erases it”.
Can you outline how BaDoink has been using VR to change/enhance adult entertainment?
We’re effecting the industry in a few ways. The excitement surrounding virtual reality, because it’s so new, so starkly different from conventional adult video, is causing a bit of a renaissance in production. The starlets are excited because it requires a different type of engagement with their scene partners, a different choreography. As well, it’s a way for them to connect more closely with their fans. The shooters are excited because there is so much experimentation involved: DIY rigs created with 3D printers; testing interaxial distances between lenses; an entirely new spin on blocking.
It’s also exciting because, for the first time in a while, adult entertainment is leading on the tech front. There are a lot of very exciting things happening in VR. Every industry is looking into it. There are startups galore. All of this is fantastic. But at this point, adult is the only industry in the space with a proven business model.
I just returned from a visit to the Yucatan peninsula. Most of the time, I was under the spell of a colorless, all-inclusive hotel in Cancun (Cancun is Mayan for Snake’s Nest). However, yesterday I took a tour bus to Chichen Itza.
Yucatan, amusingly, is Mayan for ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.’ When the Spanish conquistadors asked the locals what they called this land, the locals didn’t speak Spanish. They responded, ‘Yucatan.’ It stuck.
What impact do you feel virtual reality is currently having on the adult entertainment industry?
The industry, as a whole, is excited because, for the first time in a long time, we’re ahead of the curve from an innovations perspective. Right now adult entertainment is the killer VR app. It will remain so for the next year. It will, eventually, be dethroned by gaming; however, VR gaming isn’t there yet. It’s so early, and the VR games available now are rather anemic when compared to today’s most popular console and PC titles. On the other hand, in adult entertainment, if you compare VR videos to non-VR videos, it’s an open and shut case. The difference is undeniable. It’s a leap forward without a shred of ambiguity or doubt.
Right now, adult is simply the killer app for virtual reality. Games will eventually carry that torch, but it’s going to take a couple of years for that to happen. At this point, porn, and porn alone, is the entertainment field that best illustrates the power of VR content over non-VR content. The difference between VR porn and non-VR porn is vivid and unmistakable. The wow factor it elicits is massive. Palmer Luckey ought to consider extending a finder’s fee on every sale of his Rift to every adult VR studio.