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I watched virtual reality porn in public. And yes, it was super-awkward

Esat Dedezade glimpses the future of self-indulgence, purely in the name of scientific research

Hi. My name is Esat, and I watch porn.

The specifics of what I view and how often are strictly between myself and Google, and things will remain that way until I’m dead and buried, thank you very much.

The reason I’m even bringing this up is because mere hours ago, I had sex in public, right in the middle of a pleasant outdoor cafe, slap bang in the middle of Mobile World Congress – with two people observing my every reaction.

Now before you start calling me all sorts of nasty names, I’d like to point out that the sex was entirely virtual, and took place within the private confines of a VR headset and a pair of headphones.

I had just popped my virtual sex cherry for the first time.

Setting the scene

Design done right

My two keen observers were Ian Paul, CIO of Naughty America, and a PR representative.

The name Naughty America may mean absolutely nothing to you, but I’m going to assume that a fair few readers will be acquainted with at least some of the company’s work, given that it’s one of the largest US porn networks in existence.

Before I go into the (heavily censored, don’t worry) details of my virtual romp, I thought I’d preheat the oven, so to speak, with some background information.

Naughty America, Paul tells me, has been working on creating an immersive virtual coitus experience for years, with the arrival of the Oculus Rift really kicking things into motion.

While he doesn’t share the exact details of the recording equipment, it more than likely involves two cameras (one for each eye), with binaural microphones for realistic spatial audio.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’d find it rather difficult to concentrate with essentially a miniature film studio surrounding my head – especially when you can’t move around as much, to help reduce the risk of motion sickness for users.

Paul states that he "has a lot of respect for male actors who can remain engaged despite being surrounded by a big camera rig", and I have to agree with him.

It’s not just the men who have to do things differently though. Female performers have to mix things up compared to a standard shoot too. The 3D nature of VR means that they’re encouraged to move close up to the cameras every so often, which can vary from whispering sweet nothings into your ear or displaying certain…. assets directly in your face.

Another point of view

An overwhelming majority of Naughty America users Paul tells me – 99% in fact – are male, which is why most of the scenes the company shoots are recorded from a man’s perspective.

This could of course change if demand increases, but in the meantime there’s probably a gap in the market, so feel free to fill it if you fancy it.

Weapon of choice

Clear enough

The tech used in the studio is only part of the story. Each shoot is captured in 4K, and the nature of VR videos means they require more complex editing and processing skills, with high end machines required to package it all together.

And then of course, we have the headsets. Currently Naughty America supports almost every popular VR headset, including Google Cardboard, the Samsung Gear VR, and the Oculus Rift.

The Rift, according to Paul, is probably the best tool for the job if money and access is no object, as smartphones tend to heat up after a while. In fact, he half-jokingly tells me that the hotter the on-screen action gets, the hotter a smartphone gets too, as more movement increases the load on the processor and GPU, eventually resulting in a message asking you to take a break – a problem the older generation of connoisseurs never had to face when browsing through the latest Victoria’s Secrets catalogue.

No fly zones

No fly zones

Currently sites such as Naughty America do not have portals for their VR porn on content stores such as Google Play or Samsung’s Gear VR store.

If you have Samsung’s headset, for example, you have to download the videos from Naughty America’s website, before loading it up on your phone and viewing it back on Samsung’s Milk VR video player.

This player is annoyingly only available to download for US users, although it’s simple to use a VPN from the app store to download it no matter where you are.

It’s actually a simple process, but for non tech-savvy users it might be a barrier. I’d imagine however, that most people plunging into the world of VR porn must have some interest in tech in the first place.

Sony is another large company Naughty America would love to get into bed with (figuratively speaking).

PlayStation consoles have long been known to be trojan horses for bringing new technology such as DVDs and Blu-rays into our homes, and PlayStation VR support would be a huge boon for porn sites.

There are obviously serious safety issues to take into consideration however, with minimum age requirements leading the list of concerns.

But figuring out how to make it work could be well worth it according to Paul, who tells me that not adopting the technology could be detrimental to companies such as Sony, and I think he might be right: it’s fairly well known now that Sony’s Betamax tapes were essentially killed off by VHS as it refused to allow pornographic material to be associated with its format. VHS had no such qualms, and the rest is history.

DIY

The release of consumer-friendly 360-degree cameras like the Samsung Gear 360 and LG’s 360 Cam are, if we’re being honest, likely to usher in a new era of homemade porn videos.

Despite naughty America being a pay-site, Paul believes these cameras will actually benefit the company, as opposed to threatening professional studios:

“I think it’s great, as it will lead to the adoption of more VR headsets. We don’t consider it a threat, as our target market is made up of the ultimate fans of these very well known top performers, which is why they subscribe”.

Enough chat. What’s VR porn like?

Enough chat. What’s VR porn like?

Incredibly surreal, and actually really rather good, if I’m being honest.

Because our interview is in a public place, I actually wasn’t expecting a demo, so the offer to try it out takes me by surprise. Still, there’s no way I’m passing up the opportunity.

On goes the headset and headphones, and I find myself in a very nice living room, lying back on a couch.

I look down and am immediately taken aback by my solid six pack and tattoo-covered arms, and the actual 3D effect – the depth of the furniture and the impression that I’m viewing the world through someone else’s eyes – is actually pretty impressive.

All of a sudden, a door opens, and in walks my partner in crime. Hi there.

The usual porn dialogue ensues, and it’s predictably not the kind of acting that’s going to trouble the Oscars. But of course it doesn’t have to be. Before I know it, my virtual nether regions are being expertly attended to, and suddenly the awkwardness hits me.

I remember that I’m literally surrounded by hundreds of people, many of them eating, sipping on a latte, chatting with friends, and possibly wondering what exactly I’m looking at that’s causing me to giggle nervously.

And then there’s Paul and the PR representative, presumably studying my reactions, possibly while making notes. As my onscreen lover begins to jump on me though, it’s impossible for me to tear my eyes away.

I still find the Gear VR’s screen to be rather pixelly, and the resolution could definitely be better, but it’s still very immersive, and rather enjoyable. Or at least would be when you’re not surrounded by complete strangers.

As we transition into another position, I begin to take the headset off in case I’ve allowed myself an embarrassingly long amount of time, but I hear Paul’s voice telling me that there are two more demos to experience.

Oh.

Almost immediately I jump into another scene, this time in an equally pleasant house, with a lavish bedroom that’s nicer than anything I could ever hope to afford. I don’t have much time to admire the drapes though, as three very friendly ladies have decided to explore themselves rather intimately in my presence, before diverting their attention to me in a very explicit fashion.

After a further few minutes, the demo is over, and I disengage myself from my virtual companions. No more six pack. No more tattoos. Back to the real world.

As I take the headset off, I’m surprised by a new, third person at our table. He’s a middle-aged man wearing a suit, perhaps in his mid 40s, with a fairly heavy french accent.

He asks me if he can have a go and, taken aback, I immediately ask him if he actually knows what the demo is.

Apparently the gentleman (I never caught his name) had walked over and asked what I was viewing, and immediately sat down and waited for his turn. I give him the headset and headphones with a nod of understanding, and continue asking Paul questions.

As I chat away, a part of my brain is going over all of the decisions I have made in my life that have lead me to this moment. Less than a metre away, the total stranger was, judging by his gigantic grin, having the time of his life.

Verdict

A better fit

Would I recommend that you try it for yourself? Absolutely. It’s worth experiencing at least once, if only for the fact that you can say you’ve tried it. Although this is obviously assuming you have no problem with regular porn in the first place. There’s nothing here that’s going to overturn any moral objections that some people have.

As the recording technology improves, as the resolution of VR devices increases, and if the porn industry continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible, then even more realistic simulated sex-on-tap is definitely a very likely possibility. And just imagine the weird and potentially wonderful things that could be done with additional VR porn accessories.

But I’m not thinking too much about that at this very moment, because I’m far more preoccupied with hoping that my mum never reads this…