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Virtual Reality Porn: What it Tells Us About the Future of Media

Written by Jason Stutman
Posted March 25, 2016 at 8:00PM

Star Trek producer Rick Berman once jokingly commented, “Without porn and Star Trek, there would be no Internet.”

It's a notion most people are familiar with already — the idea that pornography can act as a driving force towards the adoption of new technological innovations. And in many respects, it holds true.

Following the invention of the printing press, for instance, there were two things that drove initial demand. The first was the mass printing of the Bible. The second was racy poetry and stories.

When photography was later introduced in the 18th century, it wasn't until the industry began selling nude photographs that sales really took off. Sure, these photos were marketed as “artistic models,” but considering they sold in the tens of millions, it's no secret what was really driving initial demand.

Following still photographs in the late 19th century were silent erotic films. Production of these films began almost immediately after the invention of the motion picture. The first film studios were built in 1897, which was the same year French director George Méliès later produced After the Ball, the world's first motion picture containing nudity.

Porn is also said to have been an influencing factor in the adoption of VHS vs. Betamax and HD DVD vs. Blu-ray. It's even been claimed that we have the porn industry to thank for the fast broadband connections that allow us to download large video files in seconds.

As for how true these legends are, well, that's a subject left to much debate, but there's little arguing that, at the very least, pornography tends to signal/precede the adoption of newly introduced forms of mass communication.

Porn's Next Conquest

As strange as it might seem to be reading about porn in a financial publication (I hope I'm not offending too many people with this piece), there's a legitimate reason I'm bringing this topic up today.

Earlier this week, pornographic video-sharing website PornHub added a new channel to its website dedicated specifically to streaming virtual reality adult videos. The story was immediately picked up by a number of mainstream publications, including Engadget and Forbes, which isn't especially surprising considering PornHub is the single largest pornography site on the Internet.

Here's a statement from Vice President Corey Price:

At Pornhub it is our duty to provide our global audience with the latest in cutting edge technology... Now, our users are not only able to view our content, but be protagonists in the experience and interact with their favorite porn stars [...and] users’ wildest fantasies will come alive as they slip into a world of heightened titillation.

And a general description of the VR porn experience from Digital Trends contributor Will Fulton:

POV (point of view) is already a major keyword in online porn, but VR takes the genre to a whole new level. You find yourself in a room, unable to move. You can look around freely for 180-degrees in front of you, the room just ending in a hard black plane around the periphery of your vision. Looking down, you see your toned, virtual body, sitting or lying back passively as sex happens all up on you...

It’s difficult to communicate in writing just how jarring the experience was. More than just being up close and personal with a POV video, VR porn is a different beast all its own. Even having experienced a lot of virtual reality over the previous few days, my imagination could not prepare me; porn calls upon very animal parts of the brain, so to encounter it in such a personal way is visceral. The sense of scale was perhaps the most striking part. Unless you watch on a very large screen, people in porn videos are almost always quite small, relatively speaking. It’s startling to encounter them at true, human scale — sweaty, doubly-artificial breasts bobbing inches from your face.

I know, I know: It's a pretty ridiculous — and maybe a bit shameful to consider this progress — but it's inevitably how countless people will be masturbating in the near future.

VR Porn Guy

PornHub says that these videos are optimized for mobile virtual reality on Android, iOS, and Samsung's Gear VR. They will also be playable in Facebook's Oculus Rift and most other PC-based VR headsets.

Currently a $12 billion industry, porn has no shortage of individuals willing to dish out extra cash to get their “Hand-Solo” on. The ability to watch fully immersive, point-of-view pornography will no doubt be a driving factor in the adoption of mobile VR headsets.

In fact, MarketWatch reports that by 2025, X-rated movies will be the third-largest market ($1 billion) for virtual reality, behind only video games and NFL broadcasting.

VR segments

Piper Jaffray analyst Travis Jakel has a similar outlook, forecasting that adult entertainment will be the number three driver of all VR content behind movies and games.

And further supporting the notion that pornography precedes adoption of mass media, another Piper Jaffray analyst (Gene Munster) concludes:

Whenever there’s a shift in content conception, it’s typically adult entertainment that’s the first monetizable app... History repeats itself and we’ve seen adult entertainment drive sales of VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, high definition, mobile, and online video over the years.

Pornography, of course, will only be one aspect of the virtual reality industry, and the truth is there's little reason for retail investors to be interested in this specific market. It would be wise, however, to recognize the merging of both worlds as yet another indicator that VR is poised for rapid expansion.

According to a recent Tractica research report, it's anticipated that the overall investment in VR by global tech giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook will grow the combined global revenue for head-mounted displays, VR accessories, and VR content from $108.8 million in 2014 to $21.8 billion by 2020.

For perspective, this is one of the more conservative forecasts I've seen, and it represents a stunning compound annual growth rate of 142%. As an investor, you'd frankly have to be crazy not to have any skin in that game.

Considering the recent endorsement of VR from the world's largest adult website, alongside a long list of bullish industry forecasts and upcoming product releases, I highly recommend keeping up to date on this emerging technology. Fortunately, we're just now entering the earliest stages of commercialization.

Until next time,

  JS Sig

Jason Stutman

follow basic @JasonStutman on Twitter

Jason Stutman is Wealth Daily's senior technology analyst and editor of investment advisory newsletters Technology and Opportunity and The Cutting Edge. His strategy for building winning portfolios is simple: Buy the disruptor, sell the disrupted.

Covering the broad sector of technology and occasionally dabbling in the political sphere, Jason has written hundreds of articles spanning topics from consumer electronics and development stage biotechnology to political forecasting and social commentary.

Outside the office Jason is a lover of science fiction and the outdoors, and an amateur squash player at best. He writes through the lens of a futurist, free market advocate, and fiscal conservative. Jason currently hails from Baltimore, Maryland, with roots in the great state of New York.

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