Live Sex Shows Will Turn VR Porn into Hard Reality

VR porn is one thing, but putting cam girls in virtual reality has the potential to create a live, immersive experience unlike any other.

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May 11 2016, 11:00am

Ela Darling performs in the first first ever VR cam show (Image: Imgur)

As virtual reality has evolved from 90s fever dream to an actual, viable format, a number of companies have begun to explore how immersion might transform their media offerings. PlayStation, Microsoft, and Facebook have all invested in VR hardware; Google premiered VR video Pearl at the Tribeca Film Festival; and, of course, the porn industry has dived in genitals first.

Most of the stories on XXX VR offerings have focused on pre-recorded content: Pornhub's recently debuted VR section, BaDoink VR, and VirtualRealPorn, just to name a few VR porn endeavors. And it's easy to see the logic behind this strategy. Porn is an immersive medium, asking viewers to get physically invested in the media experience; VR's an immersive platform, enabling viewers to feel like they're actually a part of the action. They're two great tastes that taste great together (and, the industry hopes, is a way of wooing back paying customers).

But what if there's a better way to eroticize virtual reality, one that combines the benefits of immersion with interactivity, and minimizes the sense of physical disconnection that VR can produce? A handful of companies are betting that live cams, not pre-recorded content, are the true future of XXX VR. There are a few good reasons to believe they might be right.

"Spending quality time with a cam girl in VR" is the leading pitch for VR camming right now.

Like VR porn itself, VR cams are still pretty new. Right now, there are just a handful of players experimenting with the medium. The most notable is award-winning, international cam network CAM4, which recently announced a partnership with XXX VR pioneer VRTube; less established, but just as eager, is the exclusively-VR cam platform AliceX.

To understand the promise of VR live cams, it helps to look at the pitfalls of pre-recorded content. The immersive nature of VR might make POV porn even more arousing, but without the physical feedback of fucking, there's still something lacking from the experience. The disconnect could, potentially, cause an uncanny valley effect as the XXX experience gets so close to—yet remains so far from—the experience of IRL sex.

There's also the lack of interactivity: Yes, you can get up close and personal with the action, but you can't actually impact it; "realistic" as it may seem, the scene will always unfold in the exact same way, arriving at its predetermined conclusion every time you load it up on your headset.

Live cams neatly avoid those issues. As a peep show analog, they're already operating on a "look, but don't touch" model, making the fact that you can't actually reach out and touch your cam entertainer far less of a deal breaker. And because the performer's present throughout the whole experience, interactivity isn't an issue. There's no need for the tech to anticipate your needs and program a bunch of pre-recorded responses when there's an actual person who can respond to your wildest requests on the fly.

Filming the sex sequences of Badoink's VR porn. Image: Nick Melillo/Badoink

There's also the fact that live cams could very well be more economically viable than pre-recorded porn. One of the big draws of virtual reality, so far as pornographers are concerned, is that the format's a lot harder to pirate—for now. But since piracy tends to find a way, it's not that hard to imagine that, a few years from now, those same pre-recorded VR scenes will find their way to BitTorrent, negating one of the major selling points of switching to VR.

Live cam shows, on the other hand, are pointless to pirate: sure, you can find a way to screen capture a show and upload it online, but when the live aspect's the primary point, the pirated copy just can't live up to the original.

Of course, it'll take some time before the true promise of VR camming is realized. We're still a ways away from an Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, or even Google Cardboard in every household, and until there's mass adoption, it may be a challenge for any kind of VR endeavor to find a foothold. (On the supply side, CAM4's Ela Darling has told me that the company plans on providing proprietary VR cams to models interested in broadcasting in VR, likely for a small fee.)

But if it does manage to find success, there's something fitting about cams—an area of the adult industry known for sparking creativity and innovation—being a leading force in the brave new world of virtual reality. And on the human end of the equation, there's something almost heartwarming about the idea of VR live cams as the future of adult content.

We're constantly being told that porn and tech are itching to make us less human, to drive us away from one another and make it harder to relate. But if the endpoint of all this technical innovation (and smut) is people paying to share an intimate moment with a performer in a virtual version of their actual bedroom? Well, that's almost sweet.

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