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‘Teledildonics’: Welcome to Virtual Reality Porn

LAS VEGAS – “I don’t really know what I’m doing here,” said the man holding the frog-shaped sex toy.

Zeev Sela is a businessman, an electrical engineer with an MBA from Tel Aviv University who got his start in retail. Now he stands on the floor of the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, one of the largest porn conventions in the world, and, for sex toy shops like Sela’s 4MoreLove.com, one of the busiest weekends of the year.

“We all have this need,” Sela explained. “It is what it is. Even Hasidic Jews, they need it too. We’re all a little freaky, I guess.”

That seemed to be the prevailing sentiment at the AEE Novelty Expo in January, where sex toy manufacturers, distributors, and retail operators set up shop to show off their latest and greatest pleasure gadgets to enthusiastic attendees.

“This is the wired version. Next year they’re coming out with a wireless version that connects to your computer so you can stream the video wirelessly,” an ElDorado distribution rep said while showing off the Gaga vibrator, a vibrator with a high-resolution camera attached to the end.

“As you’re using it you’ll be able to see muscle contractions, in, as you can see, pretty good detail,” the rep explained while demonstrating the product in a rubber vagina. “It’s also got image stabilization in it, so when it’s vibrating, the camera doesn’t shake.”

The Gaga vibrator was hardly the only advanced piece of sex technology on display.

The Smart Mini Vibe, from China-based Magic Motion, allows intrepid women to program their miniature vibrator with a corresponding app, using an onscreen drum set, voice controls, and music to set the pace. Meanwhile, two scantily-clad women demonstrated the Shockspot Pleasure System, a $2,000 NASA rocket-shaped dildo machine that a user can program remotely with “unlimited move profiles.”

“It’s perfect for the troops!” one woman said cheerfully.

Indeed. Every new futuristic sex toy is “perfect” for a specific demographic–this one is “perfect” for the troops, that one is “perfect” for involving a partner, the other one is “perfect” for a discreet solo session. The sex toy industry is worth $15 billion in annual global revenue; with the industry’s embrace of innovative technology, that number is only going to grow.

However, one product could significantly impact the rate of the sex toy industry’s growth, and even introduce an entirely new category of products to the market; that product is the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

At the Expo, one of the most well-trafficked exhibitions is a little cordoned-off area where men, and some women, strap on the clunky virtual reality headsets and enter the Red Light Center, a virtual meeting place where users can have virtual sex or else just ogle 3D-animated models.

Once inside the Red Light Center’s virtual interface, users can select a male or female avatar and dress, or undress, them to their specifications. Users can take their avatar to visit the “Night Candy Gentleman’s Club,” the “Bareback Bordello,” and the “Nightstick All Male Gentleman’s Club,” among other more generic locations like “the beach” and a nondescript “theatre.”

The resolution of the models and the environment is more comparable to video games than anything resembling reality, but the groundwork for the technology is solid. The app also features a messaging client for inter-avatar chats and propositions, and a robust customization client where users can select almost every physical attribute of their characters.

Red Light Center, owned by and operated by Uthervese Digital Inc., has been available on desktop computers for almost a decade, but with the rumored release of the Oculus Rift headset in mid-to-late 2015, virtual reality early adopters will be able to access Red Light Center 2.0 using the headset as a control mechanism.

“Right now it’s a little awkward to do the social components with the headset on,” said Utherverse CEO Brian Shuster. “You would only put it on when you’re ready to have sex or get a lap dance. But our next development cycle will add Leap Motion technology. You’ll be able to see your hands through the headset. We’ll have a virtual keyboard you can use without taking it off.”

According to Shuster, virtual reality sex has a number of significant advantages over real world sex: no risk of sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy, no pressure or necessary skills, and no inconvenient time commitments and expenses.

Virtual reality sex, on the other hand, allows people to get intimate with no geographic restrictions, and users can act out any fantasy they can imagine.

“You can invent any scenario you want,” Shuster explained. “You can behave like a porn star, even if you don’t have the stamina to do that in real life. It’s going to create bonds for people and closer relationships, and I think ultimately that’s a positive thing.”

And virtual reality technology is improving every day.

“Haptic feedback will also be part of our next development cycle,” Shuster continued. “In virtual reality, for example using a Fleshlight with a VStroker attachment, if the woman adds pressure, the man will be able to feel that in a way that’s really precise. And this is just the first generation in teledildonics. As we get to generation four or five, it’ll be full-body. That’s when things will take off in ways nobody will be able to predict.”

“We’re on the cusp,” said Katy Zvolerin, a spokeswoman for the Adam & Eve online sex toy shop, winner of the 2014 AVN Award for Best Web Retail Store. “Generally, the technology is here already; I think the price point needs to come down, but that’s the direction we’re going in.”

Adam & Eve has its own production division, which recently won two 2015 XBIZ awards for its film Grease XXX, a parody of the 1978 John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John musical.

Zvolerin said the production team was “looking into” virtual reality, but had not yet made any plans to produce it.

A cursory survey of several porn production companies reveals the same trend: most are interested in pursuing virtual reality content, but the technology is not yet at the place where consumers are demanding it.

Utherverse’s Shuster says that is likely to change, and soon.

“We’re ready to go right now,” Shuster said. “It’s like virtual reality has opened up a golden door for a new age. There’s no question that things that seem bizarre now are going to become mainstream.”

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