The article talks of porn stars as sexual mentors, with August Ames the first, and by no means the only. Others certainly coming, their talents enlisted to spread the gospel of a sex positive lifestyle through education and VR porn.
Sputnik News does acknowledge that Virtual Sexology, on the face of it, appears to only target men. And how could it not be perceived that way? It’s from a male POV. I wonder, in retrospect, whether we should have split the program in half. Then it would have seemed more gender neutral. Might have been a good idea. But speaking of POV, hindsight gives one 20/20 vision.
Time was a factor though, and splitting the program up into two points of view would have likely required two days of VR porn shooting, if not a good deal more pre-production work.
This isn’t to say that Sputnik was being pejorative in its observations. The article is even-handed, and via quotes from myself, indicated that it is BaDoinkVR’s goal to create more productions tailored more evenly to both sexes.
Parenthetically, props to the writer–anonymous unfortunately–for the fresh observation that the term teledildonics sounds like it was birthed in the Star Trek universe, alongside gadgets like the Food Replicators and Medicinal Hyposprays.
There are also some nice quotes in the article attributed to the Hernando Chaves, the sex therapist BaDoinkVR enlisted to write the script and oversee the virtual sexology production.
So thanks for the coverage Sputnik News! Virtual Sexology has arrived, and the first installment is only the beginning!
More recently, I was interviewed by them again, this time by Lux Alptraum. The article evinces a high degree of skepticism, which is certainly fair. Alptraum takes aim at, among other things, the messaging associated with Virtual Sexology: Become a better, more attentive lover. We’re equating good-loving with having a hard penis which is, indeed, reductive. I don’t agree that that’s what we’re doing. In fact, I’d say she’s being pretty reductive herself.
Alptraum also makes a point of noting that the program, while purporting to be for both sexes, is from the male point of view. This is undeniably true, though I did tell her our second installment in the Virtual Sexology series would be from the female point of view. The fact is that in advance of having a marketing specifically for virtual sexology, traffic to the Virtual Sexology program is overwhelmingly male, largely BaDoinkVR subscribers.
However, thanks to journalists like Lux Alptraum, the exposure grows beyond the male demographic to include adults of both sexes. So, I can only say thanks for the coverage, Alptraum. Know that this was our first attempt at stretching beyond porn into self-help, and don’t forget to have a look at the next production, coming in 2017!
The adult VR market is very, very green, largely because the entire VR space is even greener. Honestly, if you’re someone with a $.99 pair of Google Cardboard, you are an Early Adopter. Early majority? That on-ramp is miles down the road.
Is it ripe to be pursued vigorously by affiliates and content producers or are some other things needed before real growth will be possible?
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.
I recently read, and posted about an article that appeared in CNBC. The writer, while impressed by VR, lamented the fact that he found himself suffering from acute VR sickness. This issue must continue to be addressed, and I think it will continue to be addressed. Higher frame rates and more advanced HMDs are coming. Producers are learning more and more about the production of VR content. And, quite simply, there is too much investment, too much money at stake, for this issue to be ignored.
It reminded me of an experience at SXSW a year ago. After a VR porn panel that featured our content manager Dinorah Hernandez, I was approached by a student, visiting from Germany. An evangelist, he had already conducted several virtual reality experiments, and, sporting a Gear VR rig of his own, asked me to watch the VR program he had shot.
The first segment of the program was filmed in a vast underground, probably an abandoned factory basement. The POV explored the space while I, In reality, stood in the middle of a conference hall beside a bank of HMDs we were using for a demo.
Queasiness seeped in quickly, a curious sensation because I am not all that sensitive to VR sickness; it was a new experience. This video was giving me more than I could handle, and I nearly threw in the towel. Luck was on my side. About 30 seconds later, the scene changed abruptly. I was still in motion, but now I was outdoors, riding a horse.
The nausea fell away rapidly. Spock would call this Curious, and I was reminded of two or three times I had experienced the VR rollercoaster demo. Here I was, on a horse in the virtual space, with the motion even less fluid than it had been in the basement. Yet, I felt fine. So, replacing the Gear VR with my persistently fallible pop-psych hat, I determined that, from a psychological perspective, I was able to suspend disbelief more easily. A horse is an independent conveyance. I don’t expect to control my movement through space.
As such, I was perfectly fine, and I reckon, by the same token, this is why a ride on a rollercoaster in a virtual reality is less nauseating than a leisurely walk through the virtual park.
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.
In a general sense, and speaking specifically to the US audience, where sex ed is non-existent, the realization was always there. Where it is taught in the schools, it’s not taught with much rigor. And at home, it’s one of the most uncomfortable subjects for parents to cover with their kids. Simultaneously, you realize—and there’s no shortage of punditry on the subject—that too many adults are getting their sexual ‘education’ by watching porn. That’s a problem, of course. Pornography is not educational, and pornographers are not educators. It is entertainment, and we are entertainers. That said, the idea of using VR to help adults improve their sex lives came to me well over a year ago. I was attending a VR/AR MeetUp here in Barcelona. Among the startups in attendance was a company offering an exposure therapy program for sufferers of acrophobia. You donned a pair of VR goggles and were instantly transported to a freight elevator, outside a skyscraper a mile high. The experience was convincingly real. So, that got me thinking about what we could do. There are no shortage of sexual hang-ups out there. We thought, with the right guidance—we hired a proper sex therapist to help with the script and direction—we could produce a program to help people become better, more attentive lovers.
This was an experiment. Present a Virtual Reality experience in which an actor reads an erotic story. The actor uses her eyes, voice and gestures to convey intimacy and eroticism. Did not go over very well with the base of BaDoinkVR members.
Still, I do not see this as a failure. There is definitely an audience for this. I say this, reflecting on the fact that, as a species, we’ve been hearing stories much longer than we’ve been reading them. Plus it casts a much wider net since this video, and others like it, are Safe for Work and accepted on video sharing sites like YouTube.
Here’s the complete version, available on YouTube:
Published in Maxim August 12, 2016, and big thanks to journalist Zeynep Yenisey for the coverage. This article in Maxim focuses on VR porn and our virtual sexology product. He expresses support for the effort rather than skepticism. We hope to deliver, Yenisey, and thanks for the support.
I attended a VR MeetUp in Barcelona about a year ago. A startup was in attendance demonstrating its new solution, an exposure therapy program meant to help people overcome their fear of heights. As a result, I began thinking about VR’s applications for addressing other phobias, specifically sexual hangups.