I’m lying on a lawn chair watching a muscular man clean a pool. He’s wearing nothing but a Speedo and a whole lot of ink. He walks over to me. Perches at the end of the chair. Stares into my eyes. Strokes what appears to be my foot—except it isn’t my foot.
I put down the goggles and look around my dark bedroom. I feel how many people probably feel the first time they try virtual reality (VR) porn—a cross between intrigued and freaked out.
By now, we’re familiar with porn (come on, be honest). But virtual reality technology takes fantasizing to a whole new level. Instead of watching other people get it on, users of VR porn become part of the action. And as it turns out, lots of people want to join. VR Smash, the world’s first virtual reality porn site, is expecting to reach about half a million viewers this month. “The traffic’s almost been doubling every month for the last few months,” says John Hartman, content marketer at VR Smash. “It seems to be getting really popular.”
I had to see what all the hype was about. The first step was getting my hands on some goggles, such as the $15 Google Cardboard or the highly immersive $350 Oculus Rift—you can guess which one fit my budget.
I then purchased a video on my phone from a virtual reality porn site and slid the phone sideways into the goggles. The video was shot from my perspective, so it appeared as though I was looking down at my own body—though the actual actress’ navel piercing kind of ruined that reality. When I turned my head in real life, the video shifted too—as if I was really there.
Hartman says the “really there” feeling is the result of multi- lens cameras, which are used to shoot VR porn. Those different angles are then split between right and left eye perspective when the video is edited for mobile. “Both perspectives are slightly different to give you that 3D view,” Hartman says. “And the motion tracking on the phone lets you look left, right, up, and down.”
The visuals were pretty impressive. I certainly didn’t mind watching the tattooed pool guy perform various sex acts on the body that was supposed to be mine. But I couldn’t totally get into it. Having to hold boxy goggles in front of my eyes was inconvenient and awkward. It was also odd to only have two senses available: sight and sound.
Hartman admits the development isn’t complete. “There are people working on sex toys that interact with the videos,” Hartman says. “There’s one that’s like a dildo, and one that’s like a fleshlight. They connect to your computer, and the video will send signals through Bluetooth to the sex toy to replicate the movements in the video.”
To be honest, I’m still on the fence about VR porn. I suspect it’ll be something I get used to—just as I adjusted to watching TV on Netflix instead of cable. Hartman predicts VR porn will eventually overtake traditional porn. “It may take five to 10 years to really be mainstream,” he says. “But when people try it, they realize the extra level of immersion and how much more real it is than just watching a video.”