The cover photo is courtesy Ars Electronica on Flickr.

While many are still skeptical about whether or not Virtual Reality will be a lasting technological sensation, VR studios are opening across North America and their tech is already infiltrating a number of markets, including the adult industry. Now the question is: will haptic tech follow?

Oculus may have taken longer than expected to deliver a final product (many consumers are still waiting on promised deliveries), but Samsung has put a notable amount of effort behind Gear VR and it’s paid off. Consumers now have real access to VR goggles beyond Google Cardboard, and are utilizing the tech in gaming as well as in porn.

Teledildonics like Fleshlight’s Kiiroo line have given consumers a taste of what may come next: tactile sensation in Virtual Reality experiences.

In 2013 Intellect Motion launched a Kickstarter to fund Hapto (formerly iMotion), a handheld controller that offers users tactile feedback in VR gaming and beyond. The company, based primarily in Singapore with a limited US presence, failed to deliver their estimated November 2013 product completion, but by the looks of it has been continuing to work on their product nonetheless. The company has yet to release a finalized delivery date, but the prospect of what they’re offering the VR market is certainly one to be tempted by.

Hapto’s claim to fame is its ability to provide users with the ability to feel and manipulate surfaces in VR experiences. The controllers are wireless and handheld (they strap onto the palms of one’s hands like an inverted watch). Hapto is compatible with Oculus and Gear VR, but the company has yet to release its SDK, leaving consumers wondering what sorts of VR content will be made available for use with Hapto controllers.

But Intellect Motion isn’t the only company working on haptic tech for VR experiences that is facing the challenge of cross platform compatibility.

“Everything is very much in its infancy,” Anna Lee of Holofilms and Hologirls told MiKandi. “The Haptic devices are now just syncing up to the videos. Videos are still being perfected. It’s going to be some time before everything is in sync.”

Even in a world where standardized software for haptic tech is made available to developers, streamlining the haptic VR experience for a consumer market is another challenge that has thus far proven difficult to overcome. Owners of HTC’s Vive will have access to Steam’s entire archive of compatible VR games and experiences, but those owners will likely be few and far between as Vive requires a room of space for full immersion. (Vive relies on a set of motion sensors to mark a game or experience’s outer limits, unlike Hapto. The space needed for a complete Vive setup is akin to that needed for an in-home theater.) While many consumers are excited for Vive to prospectively fulfill pre-orders next month, the full setup will likely prove more optimal for arcade experiences than for in-home use.

The complete Vive setup, including motion sensors.
The complete Vive setup, including motion sensors.

“The primary barrier of entry is the acquiring of all the hardware: you need a headset, plus a haptic device, plus a decent computer on top of which you then need a fast internet connection,” adds Anna Lee.

While gaming and porn are surely the pioneers of all things VR (as well as many other facets of new tech), each industry has very different trajectories as far as haptics are concerned; Gamers need controllers that manipulate environments and propel objects into motion, porn consumers are more interested with sensations, which is why Teledildonics have been on the forefront of VR compatibility long before other forms of haptic tech were being developed for the consumer market.

Reddit user FarkMcBark’s desires for what they’d like to see being prioritized in adult oriented haptic development reflects this trajectory, including a “tracked fleshlight” such as Kiiroo’s Onyx, which enables users to “simulate touches from different angles to simulate something like a blow job. So what you see and feel is really synchronized and detailed and varying.” Another user, Bigbigban, told me that, “it will be cool when users can feel VR porn. Waiting for that.”

Tech like Hapto promises tactile sensation that Teledildonics tend to not focus on – that which users can experience with their hands, not just their genitals. If successful, endeavors such as Hapto will enable the ability to feel bodies of adult performers in porn, adding an entirely new experience to consuming adult content.

That is of course, assuming that haptic leaders will make their SDK available to adult content creators.

Once that occurs, adult production studios need to be ready to shoot responsive VR scenes, ones that, “no longer have a determined beginning middle and end, but rather a variety of possible outcomes – similar to a choose your own adventure style of entertainment,” explains Anna Lee. “Studios will also have to shoot their performers to react to various possible ‘outside influences’. For example, if the viewer decides to ‘touch them’ in a certain area, one actor will have to be able to simulate that to the other. It is going to take time to be able to figure out all the possible scenarios to shoot for, for just one video. While this is all extremely exciting, studios are still trying to figure out technology enhancements to currently deliver non responsive videos. This will take time to develop.”

Still, adult consumers and creators alike are excited for the future of VR (including haptic integration) and its application to porn. In the future, Anna Lee hopes that VR experiences will, “feel 100% real and from the viewer’s standpoint, look and sound real as well. Equipment and hardware will be streamlined, and maybe even be as small as contact lenses in the eyes and a thin skin suit. Or even more intrusive – hard wired directly into your brain..think the matrix basically centered around an entire VR existence so real that you couldn’t distinguish it from reality.”

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait very long to find out what percentage of Anna Lee’s prediction will come true.

The cover photo is courtesy Ars Electronica on Flickr.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here