Vice Releases Documentary Series ‘The Digital Love Industry’, Ruffles Feathers Along the Way

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Vice Releases Documentary Series ‘The Digital Love Industry’, Ruffles Feathers Along the Way

Virtual reality has become the focus of conversation in the first episode of the new raunchy documentary series called The Digital Love Industry which was produced by the investigative journalist company known as Vice. The 33 minute segment dives into the taboos surrounding love and sexual experimentation that always accompanies emerging technologies.

For the most part, the recent rise in VR has been primarily presented as a medium for games and media watching. Education and wide reaching social communications however is beginning to be talked about in small circles as well, yet gaming tends continue to take the metaphorical cake when discussing VR.

People have largely avoided the topic of virtual reality influencing the porn industry though except for the occasional jokes here and there. Still, as the happy-go-lucky adventure games and 360-degree immersive videos ready themselves to be released, other edgier developers are testing out the waters of what sex looks like in VR. There is even an Oculus Not Safe for Work (NSFW) subreddit that has been created so that people can share their what virtual experiences they are working on.

In the Vice documentary, Jo Fuertes-Knight of Vice walks the viewers through various places that virtual reality sex is starting to appear.

Their journey began by traveling to Los Angeles all the way from the UK to check out the popular meetup group VRLA during their 3rd event at New Deal Studios. The Vice team consisted of Fuertes-Knight, Adri Murguia (documentary filmmaker), a videographer, and a photographer.

After sending out a press request email to VRLA clarifying their intentions, Vice was granted access to what would be the biggest virtual reality event in Southern California’s history at that time. Once inside the building, they began shooting footage of the event capturing speeches of those who got onstage while recording interviews with co-founders. Obviously, being that Vice is known for being edgy, their team was interested in the sexual nature of virtual reality.

Cosmo Scharf (one of the founders of VRLA) was asked about what he has heard about so far. His response was a bit naive despite being touted as the “19 year old ‘genius’ behind VRLA.” Since he hadn’t tried out any of the VR porn experiences, he strayed away from the topic for the most part.  Scharf did have a couple of good insights though. During the interview he said that “the Rift will be as meaningful to the VR industry as the iPhone was to smartphones in 2007.” Scharf goes on to say that “VR is the future of communication,” and he is not wrong about that all. Still, little was said by him in terms of the VR porn industry other than mentioning that there will be a lot of strange stuff that people will make in order to achieve whatever fantasy they can imagine.

Another founder of VRLA Jonnie Ross had a little bit more to discuss about the raunchy  VR topic and even mentioned on stage to a crowd of hundreds of what types of experiences he is looking forward to in the future of VR. Because Ross is at the forefront of the latest boom in virtual reality, he has witnessed first hand what companies are working on nearby. As he says in an interview with Vice, there are people out there venturing into the world of VR porn. Some are approaching it through the motion capture systems that are now within reach of the companies looking to transition into virtual reality.

Since Los Angeles is sometimes called ‘Porn Valley’ due to the fact that a lot of pornography is being shot in the area, there are plenty of people experimenting with many types of porn. That was at least up until the City of Los Angeles started implementing a recent condom law which required actors to wear protection during their shoots. Companies are now beginning to flee towards Vegas to escape the rules and regulations.

Regardless of where the sexual films are being shot, an emergence of VR lovemaking is venturing its way out of warehouses, dorm rooms, mansions, and conferences into the homes of people who are wearing an HMD.

After filming the interview with Ross and Scharf, Vice then approached an exhibitor at VRLA and called up a local porn company to come to the event to scan adult performers into a virtual world and get reactions while still inside New Deal Studios. This caught the attention of Oculus, VRLA, and other organizers which prompted a sudden response to get security to kick Vice off the premises. The cops were then notified as the members of VRLA wanted to get their release forms back so that their interviews could not be used in the documentary.

Being that Vice was now on public property, the police could not legally take what had become the filmmakers’ property. Some papers were shredded while this was happening, but it is unclear exactly whose name was signed on the forms.

I was able to capture the police interaction on a small video camera while outside and snapped a couple of pictures as it all went down. Being that VR porn is a touchy subject, the photo embedded in this post has been cropped in order to conceal the individuals’ identities who were on the scene.

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Cropped photo of Vice being kicked out of VRLA #3 with police interaction outside

Later, I was approached by VRLA to delete the video. Unsure of what to do at first, I obliged.

A couple of weeks after that I ran into the photographer who was a part of the Vice team that day while at a party in Los Angeles. He introduced me to the local Design Director of Vice who was interested in the video that I recorded of their team getting kicked out. They were hoping to incorporate my footage into the documentary. Being that I already deleted it, I said that I was unable to do so. However, I quickly found out that parts of those files were able to be recovered even after multiple formatting sequences when given the right tools.

While piecing together bits of 1’s and 0’s that were buried deep inside an SD card, people in the local community began wondering what Vice would do with the video that they recorded and whether they would include the interviews from VRLA despite being told not to. Turns out they had the guts to release the footage, helping to tell the full story. For as you see, you can’t talk about the expansive growth of virtual reality now a days without mentioning the influence that VRLA has had in the VR community.

The trailer for the documentary surfaced a couple of months later, which confirmed that Vice did in fact use the footage from the 3rd VRLA event. Both Scharf’s and Ross’s interviews were included as well as a quote from Jonnie while he was on stage despite being told not to. This was definitely going to ruffle some feathers in the area, but the topic of porn in the VR industry is something that must be documented, even if it causes a couple of individuals to look bad temporarily.

Regardless of whether it was appropriate to release footage that way, the documentary goes on to locate a few people in the industry who were comfortable talking about the love and sex that will soon be flooded into virtual reality.

Welcome to the Edgy World of Teledildonics

During the other interviews, a specific word kept getting mentioned over and over. That thirteen letter word is “teledildonics” which is used when describing internet connected sex toys. These pleasure-filled devices link up over the internet bringing lovers closer together who are separated by a distance. Couples who are on the road or traveling abroad can dawn on a VR headset and stimulate each other through the use of these high-tech adult toys.

Companies like the male masturbation company Fleshlight have created tools that sync up to the rhythms of the virtual avatars (or live action stars) while they perform sexual acts on the other end of the internet connection.

There are also software engineers like those at the Netherland-based company Frixion who are creating a platform to link of devices online; which is pretty much an Internet-of-Things system, but for sex. They are hoping to connect people physically over long distances by linking up these sex toys.

Another company called Kiiroo specializes in long distance sexual relationships. Kiiroo is not strictly virtual reality but more encompassing towards all types of media platforms. One of the consumer masturbation toys they have developed looks kind of like a portable black speaker which could easy sit on a counter without anyone knowing what it was. It contains 10 contracting rings to that move in order to simulate the feeling of having sex with a real woman. This device is synced to a female sex toy on the other end that has 5 capacitive touch rings to capture movements along the edge.

To test out the Kiiroo system, Vice brought in two individuals to try it out. One was a social media expert and the other was a sex blogger. The guy strapped on an Oculus DK2 while the female stroked the end of the dildo. It seemed be working out well until the screen cut to black and everything froze up leaving experimenter a bit confused.

Motion Capture is the Way to Go for Now

Vice also talked to a couple of people in the sex industry who are looking to incorporate 3D 360-degree (or at least 180-degree) film into porn. Sex filmmakers have experimented with Point of View (POV) style porn for a while, but the trend has taken off further now that VR headsets have entered the picture.

A common way to get into the virtual reality porn industry is to hack together GoPro cameras and then stitch the video perspectives later. For example, a couple of college students were shooting VR porn in their dorm room and released the footage on their website called VRtube.xxx.

A 360-degree camera rig like this can be used to capture videos of all kinds, including adult films

A 360-degree camera rig like this can be used to capture videos of all kinds, including adult films

Google Glass is also being used to capture film. It is not stereoscopic or even 360-degree, but it still recorded the perspectives of the actors involved in the shoot. Obviously, that app called ‘Tits and Glass’ was removed from the Google Play store after being released. Still, that didn’t hinder the downloads that much. People want to watch porn and will go out of their way to get it.

Another company that has become pretty popular in the VR porn industry is VEIVIEV which has released a teaser demo called Lucid Dreams that has several models lined up in various stages of undress for the viewer to look at. I’ve tried it out, and the quality is exceptionally good. Granted, it is a bit weird getting so up close to the girls who are very statue like. Yet, it is easy to see how this will be attractive to people looking for a personal release.

VR Porn is Here to Stay

Even though it is still taboo to talk about virtual reality lovemaking, it is surely going to be a big market once more and more people starting using VR headsets. As the industry proliferates, there is sure to be some elbow bumping and possibly the occasion fist throwing as each company tries to stake a large claim in the emerging porn business.

However, it shouldn’t come as much as a surprise though. Porn always finds its way onto new technologies. Phones, laptops, and everything in between has been used to watch sex online. Virtual reality is no different other than it is way more immersive, and Vice did a fantastic job at showing what is out there so far.

Will VR porn erode physical sex and intimacy as additional people start masturbating with internet connected robots? It is still too early to tell, but it will certainly be interesting to see what comes next.

I can already imagine hilarious stories of roommates stumbling in on their friends going to town with VR headsets and headphones on. They won’t be able to tell if anyone walks in on them until they lift the headset off where they will be surprisingly confronted with unsuspecting people watching idly nearby (possible with a cellphone in hand recording the instance as it is happening). Talk a future of awkward interactions. Perhaps, we should all start investing in sensors that will notify the VR user of people entering the house so that the person can pull their pants back on before getting walked in on. Either way, VR porn is here to stay.

Be sure to watch Vice’s documentary embedded below to learn more about the taboo world of teledildonics and what the future has in store for digital love.

(Matt Terndrup is a freelance journalist not afraid to approach edgy topics. He is also available for hire – contact him at terndrupm@gmail.com).

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