GameLink wants to use Microsoft’s RoomAlive to bring you virtual reality porn

If you were wondering what people were gonna use Microsoft RoomAlive for... well, here's your answer. 

 

EJ Dickson

Tech

Published Nov 14, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 5:12 am CDT

Picture it: You’re sitting in your house, and no one else is around and nothing good is on TV, so you decide to partake in some Internet pornography. But instead of heading to your laptop and typing in your favorite search terms, you click on a button on a panel in your living room and it transforms into, say, a giant BDSM dungeon, or a plush mansion in the San Fernando Valley. You sit on your couch and watch two nubile young blondes with impossibly long fingernails go down on each other from a mere few feet away.

This is the future of pornography as envisioned by GameLink (NSFW), an adult video-on-demand website and store. While other pay porn sites are struggling to compete with free tube sites like Pornhub and xHamster, GameLink has announced plans to develop 3D virtual pornography using Microsoft RoomAlive, which combines Kinect motion-tracking and LCD projectors to create an interactive augmented reality experience in the comfort of your living room.

Microsoft’s technology, says Jeff Dillon, the vice president of business development for GameLink, will create an all-immersive viewing experience that’s similar to interacting with a partner IRL. “We’re looking at 10 years, 20 years down the road, and we’re wondering, how do we use this technology to create a new, unique experience?” he told the Daily Dot earlier this week. “We’d like to create this whole world that’s all around you, rather than trying to restrict images to this little monitor.”

The porn industry has always had a reputation for being an early adopter of new tech. Dillon says adult producers were one of the first to roll out Windows Media Player as a way to stream content online, and the porn industry has also been credited with determining the victor of the VHS vs. Betamax wars back in the 1980s. (However, that claim has been widely contended by tech blogs.)

GameLink is also not the only adult production company to toy with the idea of using VR technology to create an all-immersive world of porn. The adult distribution company SugarDVD has also developed a demo for Oculus Rift, the VR headset distributed by Facebook, and the virtual reality social network Utherverse is also planning to combine Oculus Rift with Leap Motion technology to create an all-immersive virtual world that’s navigable without the aid of a keyboard or mouse. (In other words, it’s totally hands-free, which is a major plus while watching porn for obvious reasons.)

But GameLink’s plan to use Microsoft RoomAlive as a platform for pornography is a little different. Unlike Oculus Rift, for instance, RoomAlive won’t require the usage of a headset to watch virtual porn. “It’ll be a more organic experience,” says Dillon. “You just sit in your living room and watch TV and you don’t have to wear glasses or a headset.”

This is also far from the first time the adult industry has dabbled in 3D film technology. Although adult industry insiders previously believed that 3D porn would be the saving grace of the troubled industry, which has struggled financially in the wake of tube sites and torrents, the technology has failed to take on, in part because of the inherent ick factor of seeing a three-dimensional, four-foot-tall yawning vagina or leaky phallus on a big screen.

“I think the trouble with 3D was that when 3D TVs came out, it required people to put on a pair of uncomfortable bulky glasses and just sit there… it wasn’t a compelling experience for users,” says Dillon. “You put the glasses on, you got bodily fluids shooting at you, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s weird.’”

Dillon doesn’t think RoomAlive porn will be for everyone. He predicts that just like the prospective audience for porn on Oculus Rift, only a handful of “high-end” consumers will be interested in using the technology, or about 10 to 15 percent of all porn viewers. He estimates this is about the same number of fans who are actually paying for porn.

“These are not your casual fans,” he says. “They like to interact with stars on social media, they develop relationships with them. They have multiple subscriptions to [paid] sites and develop a library of content.” This small percentage of fans will be more than willing to pay top dollar for a heightened, more interactive experience with their favorite performers.

The fact that RoomAlive likely won’t be cheap also prices a lot of potential porn consumers out of the market. Although a consumer version of Microsoft RoomAlive isn’t yet available—Microsoft just released a proof-of-concept tech demo back in October—a DIY RoomAlive setup will set you back about $2,200, according to an estimate by my colleague Dennis Scimeca last month. Compared to the $350 cost of an Oculus Rift headset, it’s unlikely that even the most hardcore of porn fans will be willing to shell out thousands of dollars for such high-end tech.

That said, RoomAlive is still very much in its infancy, and Dillon predicts that just like any other technological innovation, prices will likely drop over the next few years. He even suggests that in the future, the technology could be used for group masturbation experiences: “Maybe it will facilitate people getting together, like they would for video games, to have an adult entertainment experience with their friends.” (When I express skepticism that porn consumers will soon be organizing RoomAlive circle jerks, he concedes that “down the road it’ll probably be more of a couple thing,” which seems more accurate: If you’re looking to experiment with, say, a third party in the bedroom, there’s no emotionally safer and more hygienic way to do it than with a virtual avatar.)

But if porn fans are actually receptive to the idea of all-immersive VR porn, how receptive will Microsoft itself be to hosting it on their platform? Dillon doesn’t seem that concerned with Microsoft booting adult content in the same way Google prohibits developers from uploading porn apps to Google Glass: “We’re just taking the technology and utilizing it for us. We don’t have to put anything on their servers or anything like that.”

When the Daily Dot spoke with SugarDVD spokesperson Rebecca Bolen earlier this year, she expressed a similar lack of concern about putting porn on Oculus Rift. “We’re on XBox, Playstation, and Nintendo. All of those companies say they don’t want hardcore porn, but obviously we’re still on there,” she said. “They don’t want porn associated with their public brand, but they’re more than happy to take money from us.”

Which leaves one final question: Given the widespread availability of free porn on the Internet, are even so-called “high-end” porn fans willing to spend thousands of dollars for what’s essentially an all-immersive, ultra-naturalistic masturbation session? Dillon is confident they will be, but either way, he concedes, the traditional pay-per-view adult industry doesn’t really have a choice but to invest in such technology, as a way to compete with the Pornhubs and Redtubes of the world.

“We have to take risks and develop our own content and these unique experiences you can’t get through piracy,” he says. “You can’t pirate hardware. So we’re trying to be more innovative and create more experiences that can’t be replicated through the tube sites, torrent sites, and file lockers.”

It’ll be a good six months before GameLink starts shooting their interactive content: They still need to figure out the technology, and any release will be contingent on Microsoft’s schedule for their virtual reality platform. But ideally, they’d like to roll out a demo by Christmas-time next year, so the beleaguered porn industry can reclaim the early adopter mantle.

“Someone once said, ‘If there’s new technology, consumers will find a way to watch porn on it,’” says Dillon. “We’d like to prove that once again.”

Photo via @agentcikay (CC BY 2.0) | Photo via Sabine Mondestin (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

Share this article
*First Published: Nov 14, 2014, 12:00 pm CST