THE SXSW ISSUE
The week of March 8, 2015

I tried Oculus Rift porn, and it was weird

By Rae Votta

As soon as I enter the strip club, I’m surrounded by dancing women and men sitting beside me, doling out bills for lap dances. Next, I’m transported into an orgy, where people are having sex all around me on a sun-dappled roof deck. I almost gasp when I turn my head to see a couple going at it, thrusting just a few inches away from my head.

I’m not witnessing this lurid scene IRL. I’m on an Oculus Rift VR headset at XBiz 360, a sex and technology conference in Los Angeles. The virtual sex show is the brainchild of RedLightCenter, a company that takes the idea of an X-rated virtual world and creates a full immersive experience for the user.

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Red Light Center

“People naturally come together and want to interact, and we can provide them more life-like experiences,” Brian Shuster, the CEO of RedLightCenter, told me at the conference. “The general reaction is mind-blowing. … There’s hours of motion-capture hardcore sex, lap dancing, pole dancing, swimming and walking. Everything.”

But Shuster doesn’t want to give porn consumers to imagine they’re having sex in a virtual-reality sex world. He wants to give them the opportunity to feel like they’re having sex as well. Because while solo exploration and the ability to meet others in virtual sex worlds is one thing, the ability to increase digital interactivity through touch is quite another.

Brian Shuben, the COO of the male sex toy company, wants to give consumers the ability to have sex with their favorite adult performers and camgirls, or women who interact with their fans via streaming cam shows online.

The Shock Spot is a motorized contraption that calls itself the “Rolls-Royce of f**k machines.”

“We have a new kind of consumer, the cam consumer,” Shuben said in an Xbiz360 panel discussion. “We may have even lost that consumer at one point, but with interactive products we have the ability to get them back.”

One option is a Fleshlight attachment called VSTROKER that controls a Shock Spot sex machine, a motorized contraption that calls itself the “Rolls-Royce of fuck machines.” The VSTROKER monitors the speed of your strokes and wirelessly transmits them to your computer, essentially allowing you to have sex with the person on the other side of the screen, for a fee.

However, that technology doesn’t allow the star on the other end to send pleasure back to the viewer. Enter Kiiroo, a teledildonics company that has pioneered a connected sexual experience thanks to capacitive touch.

Originally positioning itself as a company that makes connected sex toys for couples in long-distance relationships, Kiiroo is now expanding to the one-to-many market of camming. The company’s new Pearl dildo sends signals to a male, Fleshlight-like device called Onyx, which features 10 rings that expand and contract around the inserted penis. The rings are designed to mimic the sensations being transmitted from the other end, from light fingers to tongue to insertion into a body.

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Kiiroo

Kiiroo launched the Pearl in February and uses Fleshlight as its worldwide distributor. Kiiroo claims it had pre-orders in the thousands before it’s even been demoed, and popular cam girls are urging their clientele to get the device for more interactive sessions.

“We’ve all been looking for this product for literally a decade,” says Greg Clayman, the cofounder and president of the adult website Flirt4Free.com, which is using these devices to bring interactivity to its camming network. “We’re having a technology shift. We’ve always had the vision for this interactivity. The conversion rates on models who have the interactive logo are much higher, the hold times are much higher.”

I demoed the Kiiroo with a few other testers at xBiz 360. When I touched inside it, it had the mechanical feel of a Brookstone massage apparatus, except that someone else was controlling the motions. As we stood around a table, testers helped each other out, manipulating the dildo while someone else put their fingers inside and felt the sensations.

“It doesn’t feel like sex, and it doesn’t feel like wanking either—it’s totally different.”

Controlling the Pearl was much easier than expected. There was no vise-like grip required to send a sensation to the device. Because most of us testers were women, we could only imagine what the contracting rings would feel like around a penis, but it seemed like the sensation was promising. As one tester explained in a Vice video: “It doesn’t feel like sex, and it doesn’t feel like wanking either—it’s totally different.”

As of now, the Pearl dildo is designed as a one-way sex toy: It vibrates, but no signals get sent back from the Onyx male device. Robert Doornbos from Kiiroo says the next step will be to allow Onyx users to control the vibrations of the Pearl, and it already has a patent to extend the same expanding ring technology inside the male device to a female device.

However, the Kiiroo isn’t just limited to long-distance heterosexual sex. One Onyx can control another male device, thanks to capacitive touch sensors along the top of the device. This opens the door for a multitude of male-on-male cam interactions as well.

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“It’s a way for males who are out, who are in the closet, who are coming out, to explore their sexuality in private and experience what it’s like with another man,” Clayman explained. Clayman said Flirt4Free is also considering offering promotions for military wives and husbands with loved ones overseas. “We appreciate the military, and they’re the perfect consumer for it,” he said.

But what about people who don’t have significant others and just want to know what it’s like to have sex with their favorite cam performers or porn stars or even a virtual-reality stripper? Kiiroo is working on an Oculus Rift API now to allow interaction in the virtual reality space, and Shuster says their companies work closely together.

“Integration with Kiiroo and Fleshlight is ideal. What we’re seeing now with haptics is the very, very first generation, because there’s hasn’t really been a platform to use this. When you’re using virtual reality, you’re not seeing the haptics devices, so they can look like real body parts. That’s much more appealing. Once that happens, there will be revenue-positive feedback, and that will justify huge reinvestment in next generation technology.”

The future of haptics technology is “not just genital stimulation. It would be nice to make out a little bit.”

As far as virtual sex goes, however, Shuster has a more PG-13 vision for the future of the technology.

“Where I envision haptics technology in the next five to 10 years, it’s not just genital simulation,” Shuster said. “It would be nice to hold hands, to hug, to be able to make out a little bit. When you think about doing that with a device, the whole idea is kind of unappealing. But if you imagine fifth generation from now, [where] every little sense is transmitted [and] you’re seeing your partner, I think it’s going to become more appealing.

“We’re at the very beginnings. I’d compare a Kiiroo right now to a calculator to a smart phone. And I’m looking forward to when the smartphones are like [the] iPhone 6.”

 

A version of this story originally appeared on the Daily Dot on Jan. 16, 2015. 

Photo via Red Light Center