VR Porn Buzz @ Hong Kong’s Asia Adult Expo as filmmakers Discuss Immersive Possibilities for the Future of Adult Film in Asia

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Asia Adult Expo 2017: Virtual Porn Studios Discuss the Future of Adult Entertainment / Movie Industry

“Speakers point to VR’s potential to create completely immersive sexual experiences and more female-focused content, while companies work on accessories, from fully fledged sex dolls to VR-connected sex toys”

Check out Virtual Porn Report 2017

From the very first erotic cave painting, almost every advance in human culture and communications technology has had sex at the forefront. Now, a list that includes paper, photography, cinema, home video and the internet has a new addition: virtual reality (VR).

The potential impact of VR, however, is even bigger, as it is far more than just a hi-tech way to view adult content. Promising absolute immersion, and potentially allowing people to inhabit bodies other than their own, VR has advocates in the adult industry enthusing over everything from more creative erotic material to increased sexual empathy.

Hong Kong is in fact already a hotspot for VR porn fans. According to figures released by pornographic website giant Pornhub, the city ranked third for VR searches globally in 2016 behind mainland China and Thailand – quite an achievement considering its population. Hong Kong, of course, has a high rate of consumer technology adoption, alongside a relatively conservative sexual culture. VR headsets are also flooding in from mainland China, where porn is illegal.

VR was in the spotlight at the recent Asia Adult Expo at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Although exhibitors at the trade show were overwhelmingly in the business of sex toys and dolls, the focus among speakers at the event, and in a panel discussion at the accompanying forum on “The Future of Ultimate Pleasure”, was entirely on VR.

For porn producers, VR offers a huge range of intriguing possibilities. “I’ve been shooting the same sort of stuff for 10 years,” says Michelle Flynn, owner of independent Australian production company Lightsouthern, at the expo. “When I first put on a [VR] headset, my mind was blown. This is so important for the adult industry. You can break the fourth wall and really get involved.”

Lightsouthern, which specialises in what might broadly be called ethical porn, is the only Australian company making VR pornographic material. The studio has been doing so for about two years, averaging about a scene a month.

VR is a more intellectual way to create scenes … At the moment there are too many scenes shot from a male point of view with a girl on top. There’s so much more we can do. The sky’s the limit

Michell Flynn says that “the adult industry’s business models are declining” because of the amount of free material available on the internet. But VR, she explains, improves retention, because people are more likely to watch a scene more than once if they know they can turn their head and find something they haven’t seen before.

“And for me it’s really fulfilling,” she adds. “You can create scenes based on motivation rather than just being a fly on the wall. VR is a more intellectual way to create scenes. You’re giving characters a reason to be interacting. At the moment there are too many scenes shot from a male point of view with a girl on top. There’s so much more we can do. The sky’s the limit.”

Concerns could be raised that the realism of VR porn could lead to unrealistic expectations or alienation from real-life partners. Similar concerns, however, have been raised about the sexual applications of previous communications technology. Proponents of VR porn point to all kinds of potential positive impacts, including its use in sex education, by individuals with disabilities, by transgender people, and those in long-distance relationships.

“It’s really cool for people who don’t identify with their own gender, and for people with disabilities,” Flynn says. “You can be in a body you’re not physically in.”

Complete immersion could mean there is not the disengaged, voyeuristic quality typical of traditional filmed porn, potentially increasing sensitivity and empathy. If a scene is filmed from more than one perspective, there is the intriguing possibility of switching perspective and seeing everything from the other participant’s (or several other participants’) viewpoint. As Flynn says, at the moment most pornographic material is from the male perspective and follows a predictable pattern, but the potential for more female-focused VR porn is huge.

The increased intimacy VR offers can be a bit much for some people, especially at first, says Flynn, and not always in predictable ways. “When we put headsets on people, we find they’re mostly more uncomfortable about something like a performer whispering in their ear or looking them in the eye – it’s harder for them than sex. But that means I can build a sexy scene without any actual sex.” She gives an example of a scene she had recently shot involving a game of strip poker.

Scotty Velvet, an independent US blogger who goes by the name of the VR Pimp, agrees that the sophistication of the technology is currently outpacing the quality of the material available. “It’s evolved and got better over the past couple of years, but as soon as the producers get a handle on one thing, another comes along,” he says. “It boggles the mind of users that producers can’t master these things.”

Scale was a challenge at first, he says, with performers often appearing intimidatingly large (although, of course, that could work for some people). The focus this year, he explains, is on how to position the cameras. Instead of putting the camera where a performer’s head would usually be, producers are finding that it needs to be moved forward slightly and angled downwards.

For the almost exclusively male-perspective scenes being shot at the moment, male actors have learned to stay almost completely still, says Velvet. However, that leads to a dramatic narrowing of the erotic possibilities, as does the 180-degree perspective in which almost all scenes are currently shot. “It’s already got pretty stale. Everybody wishes the scenes had more diversity and more intimacy.”

The other big demand, Velvet believes, is for sensory stimulation to accompany the experience. That means so-called haptic technology to provide physical feedback, often in the form of a modified sex toy, giving rise to the wonderfully named new science of teledildonics. A whole range of companies are working on devices to accompany VR porn, from fully fledged dolls to a variety of weird and wonderful VR-connected sex toys.

“The big thing for me is that with VR you’re trying to convince yourself you’re actually there in the scene,” Velvet says. “They give you sight and sound, but there’s no sense of touch. You want that feeling to match what you’re seeing, stroke for stroke. Otherwise, how immersive is it?”

The future possibilities have many others in the industry waxing lyrical. Producer Gianluigi Perrone of Polyhedron VR Studio is an Italian living in Beijing whose background is in horror, sci-fi and erotic films. “VR is going to be everywhere: in the media, in medical uses, in sex,” he says. “We are going to have a whole new approach to communication.”

VR technology, he explains, has become his main focus in the past year. “I realised that it’s not just an evolution; it’s something that’s going to change the face of the world. We are at a moment of transformation of society. It will car-crash the boundaries of what sexuality is, allowing people to do things they can’t do in reality.

“People will have access to every sexual fantasy or perversion that exists. We’re trying to explore how to stimulate the senses in new ways that are not possible in nature.”

He agrees that neither the creativity nor the technology are there yet, but is very confident both will come with time. “Most of the people in VR now are technicians. They come from CGI, video games, the application industry, animation or post-production. The mistake that a lot of people make in VR is to approach it the same way as games or video. And at the moment the technology is too primitive and too expensive.”

He thinks that smart VR glasses will become close to ubiquitous by 2020. “What we’re able to do now is 10 per cent of what we’ll be able to do in five years’ time,” he says.

There are, though, some moral considerations, he says. “There are ethical issues related to VR, because it’s about mind control. It will be a cage, a prison for many people. But then nuclear fission was supposed to be used to cure cancer; it’s not [about] the technology, but the people behind it.”

Perrone’s enthusiasm for the medium is taking him into the realm of quantum physics and beyond. “Our perception is that you can’t be in two places at the same time,” he says. “That could change. I’m experimenting with vibration to create the perception of objects. And if we create vibration, we are creating matter.”

Away from porn, Perrone has just recorded a VR meditation scene with Tibetan lamas. “We’re trying to create through vibration the experience you have through meditation,” he says.

“Understanding the way VR works for creating content brings you closer to understanding how the universe works. With VR we’ve found the empathic key for the subconscious – or we can say the soul. We can use this technology for healing this world.”

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Author: VR Reporter

I am a hi-tech enthusiast, VR evangelist, and a Co-founder & Chief Director at Virtual Reality Reporter!

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