HOLOGRAMS AND ADULT ENTERTAINMENT

By Debra Kaufman

April 7, 2022

Will pornographers soon be creating adult content with holograms? That’s a question that Daily Beast appeared to answer in 2017, enthusiastically writing that “Hologram Porn” is “The Most Realistic Sex Available” and, further, that, “creating live-action holograms, filmed with an extensive array of cameras, will enable users to view a performer from every angle, just as in real life.” However, Utherverse founder Brian Shuster did warn, that it would cost a lot to produce a single minute of porn in this new technology.

More recently, CamSoda, an adult entertainment company based in Florida, advertises its Holo-Cam technology allowing for “mass consumption of holographic performances” from its many CamSoda models. As described in Inverse, “anyone looking to beam a camgirl into their home, will need a smartphone or tablet and a 3D holographic display pyramid,” the latter of which is a “smallish piece of acrylic or plastic that retails, in many cases, for less than $5.” “These stubby obelisks allow CamSoda to fold a multipart video stream beamed out of a ‘capture room’,” it explains, producing “an image of a gyrating woman on top of a phone or tablet.”

Cam Soda's miniature Peppers Ghost pyramid projection.

CamSoda president Daron Lundeen told Inverse that, “the Holo-Cam provides users with a hologram of a webcam model similar to that of Princess Leia when Luke Skywalker interacted with her.” “We figured fans wanted to see a real-life version of this and anticipate those with a science fiction kink to tune in and give it a try,” he said.

Many media & entertainment industry experts presume that holograms are already in use in adult entertainment, but a closer examination reveals that neither of the companies below are producing real holograms and that holography has yet to impact adult entertainment. Shuster’s Utherverse produces virtual reality, although it’s incorrectly dubbed as holography. CamSoda provides an inexpensive miniaturized version of Pepper’s Ghost, a lighting/staging trick used in theaters, amusement parks and other venues to present the illusion of someone who is not actually there. Its origins are attributed to English scientist John Henry Pepper who first demonstrated it in theaters in 1862. An example of Pepper’s Ghost was the appearance of a ghostly Tupac at the Coachella Music Festival in 2012.

But experts aren’t wrong that pornography is often the first industry to adopt new technologies. In Psychology Today, however, Dr.Robert Weiss noted pornography’s first use of “advanced technology” goes back to 1524 when “Marcantonio Raimondi published 16 sexually explicit engravings by Guilio Romano, collectively titled I Modi,” followed by Pietro Aretino’s early pornographic work Sonetti Iussuriosi (1527) and Ragionamenti (1534-36), which used the printing press. In the late 1800s, the relatively new medium of photography was used to create pornographic photos and magazines. The motion picture industry was creating single-reel “stag films” for private viewings as early as the 1920s.

By the 1970s, the porn movie theater was booming; depending on which source you believe, there were between 900 and 1,500 porn movie theaters across the U.S. in this particular “golden age.” Home video changes all that. Attorney/educational consultant Frederick Lane, who also wrote Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age, reports that,“the decrease from 1,000 adult theaters at the end of the 1970s to, by the end of the 1980s, in the tens,” was all about home video. “People who would never go to an adult theater felt more comfortable buying an adult video tape or going into the back room of a video rental store because the chances of having an unpleasant experience was much lower,” he says. Contributing to this Golden Age of Porn was the advent of the video camera. Suddenly, consumers “couldn’t only consume pornography private but also produce it,” says Lane. “That became a well-defined sub-genre of the porn industry.”

Then came the internet and, shortly thereafter, the smartphone. Actual statistics, such as the number of porn sites on the web, are hard to come by, although Statista notes that “only 4 percent of websites are estimated to be porn, but web and mobile searches clock in higher at 13 and 20 percent respectively.” Still, there’s no arguing that the Internet was an even more comfortable and readily accessible way to access adult entertainment than the backrooms of video rental stores, which by this time had almost entirely shut down.

Lane notes that he doesn’t think there has been a significant technological shift since the advent of the smartphone. “Because, of course, that brings video capacity and that’s a known quantity,” he says.“That has slowed down things.”

Ross Benes - Author, The Sex Effect

Maybe. Pornographers are charging ahead, taking advantage of every advance in technology, from 5G and haptics to robotics and virtual reality. Journalist Ross Benes, who is also an eMarketer research analyst and author of The Sex Effect, notes that, “the biggest impact of 5G on porn is that it will allow consumers to download high quality video easily.” “With faster Internet speeds, video resolution will improve, and viewers won’t be bogged down by buffers and failures to load,” he says. “I expect subscription sites will make better use of video quality than free sites will,” which make their money on ads and have less incentive to upgrade.

With advances in sensors, tracking, graphics and other technologies, haptics (the use of technology that stimulates the senses of touch and motion, especially to reproduce in remote operation or computer simulation the sensations that would be felt by a user interacting directly with physical objects are also evolving. Although everything from sex suits (Vivid Entertainment nearly debuted a Cyber Sex suit) to remote-controlled dildonics have been in the news, Benes believes it will remain a niche market. “This market will probably be limited to people who own numerous sex toys,” he says. “I don’t expect them to become as ubiquitous as the common vibrator or dildo.”

Virtual reality has had more success, although Benes notes that it is still limited by bandwidth and the cost of buying a VR headset. Headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, BaDoinkVR was formed in 2015 as a porn creator/disseminator of this new technology. VR content director Lucas Elliott reports that, at the beginning,“there were a handful of products, but VR was the main one.” “We started with one site and kept adding another and then another,” he says. “Adult content has always pushed the boundaries in terms of technology, and we kept that going.”

BaDoinkVR sent its first subscribers Google Cardboard glasses “to give [VR] a try.” Elliott says that “people in the community are a very tech savvy group of people” and that Oculus Quest made the VR headset more affordable and more accessible. “VR being a hyper real immersive experience from a camera POV made porn a natural niche to grow,” says Elliott. Being successful, he adds, is “about understanding the subjective experience of the viewer … and understanding the long-established standards of this genre of content.”

Image courtesy BaDoink VR.com

When queried as to whether BaDoinkVR would consider adopting holography as another means of creating pornography, he noted that “these technologies are still in a very experimental situation.” Even with VR, a more developed technology, he adds, “we’re constantly hitting limitations because of the platforms and bandwidth.” He notes, however, that the hyper real avatars of the metaverse and “the physicality of the character … with a perfect map for tactile interactions … could be the ultimate sexual playground.” Benes opinions that, “Pornographers will find a way to use holograms whenever they arrive just as they’ve found a way to utilize nearly every other technology shortly after its debut.”