Why the future of VR will be shaped by porn

Here's why the porn industry leads the way in developing virtual reality.

The porn industry leads the way in developing virtual reality. (Credit: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
The porn industry leads the way in developing virtual reality. (Credit: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Say what you will about porn, but it has undeniably affected the development of the Internet. There from the start, porn has led to pioneering improvements in streaming video, online payment systems, and other features of e-commerce. Now, for a number of years, the industry has turned its focus to virtual reality and has been one of the principal engines of the spread and further innovation of this technology.


This link between VR and porn has not gone unnoticed by the public. 'VR porn' is the #1 search item that’s associated with virtual reality, found a study by VRPorn.com. In other words, if you are searching for virtual reality, chances are you are searching for VR porn. The site VRPorn.com is, in fact, the top VR site by monthly visits, beating out Oculus.com, which sells the top equipment technology associated with VR—the Oculus Rift headset.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Brian Shuster, the CEO of HoloGirls VR, a top studio for VR porn content, sees this dominance by the porn industry in the VR sector as natural since the producers of VR porn can “innovate and develop filming and CG techniques for a real customer base, and the result is that VR porn companies are years ahead of non-adult companies in our understanding of what customers want in VR, and how to create it. In turn, VR porn is the biggest thing in adult entertainment since the Internet itself.”


(Credit: VRporn.com)

The New York Times reported that according to the statistics from the porn juggernaut Pornhub.com, it averages about 500,000 views of VR porn on a daily basis. The numbers have shot up 275 percent since the feature debuted in 2016. And some days, like on Christmas, the numbers go up even more dramatically, as shows this graphic from Pornhub:

Porn will be the third largest section of VR by 2025, says a report from the investment and management firm Piper Jaffray. Video games and NFL content would be the only two industries ahead. Certainly, not many would be surprised if it turned out that porn was, in fact, the largest such VR section in the near future.  

“Sex sells, and where there is money to be made, there will be entrepreneurs who want to adopt it and make money from it,” said Mark Kernes, senior editor at AVN Media Network that covers the industry, in an interview with The New York Times. He added that one way VR will spread will be for free, as some creators will offer it that way to increase clicks. 

As the reprinting of erotica helped popularize the early printing press, porn looks to drive innovation with virtual reality. Mr. Kernes is confident this is already happening, adding, “I’m pretty sure there is more porn VR out there than regular VR.”

If you’re wondering where VR is most popular, Thailand and Hong Kong appear to lead the way, report Pornhub statistics for 2017:

Among U.S. states, the greatest growth in VR porn popularity has been in Eastern states like New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Jersey. 

Why does porn seem like a good fit for VR? Virtual reality has been called the “empathy machine” for its ability to connect people to the action. The goal of a virtual reality sex experience is to make the viewer feel like they are there in the room, participating in the scene. Somatic psychologist Holly Richmond called this connection “neurological”.

You aren’t just watching and thinking about it,” explained Richmond. “You are feeling it, and it’s not just your genitals. There is literally a mind-body connection.”  


2016 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. (Photo credit: JOHN M. GLIONNA/AFP/Getty Images)

Some worry that combining VR and sex will open up new avenues for abuse.  Bryony Cole, host of the Future of Sex podcast, thinks there will be new lines to consider:

“What are the lines between reality and fantasy and what can we do in this space?” asked Ms. Cole. “What does consent mean in virtual reality? Can you do something to your girlfriend in virtual reality that you wouldn’t do in real life? If you are using someone’s likeness in virtual reality, do you require their permission? And what about revenge porn? That will be even harsher in virtual reality,” she says to the Times. 

And what would cheating mean in the age of VR if, let’s say, you are caught in a VR space with an exact reproduction of somebody other than your significant other? While the VR technology is sure to continue to change us and offer us new challenges in exchange for new possibilities, one thing is for sure: porn will be a part of its future.

 

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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