Sex in 3D – VR Goggles

(above) VR scene featuring Nikki Benz and Jaclyn Taylor from Naughty America.

Last month in Sex in 3D, we wrote about the history of sex and 3D and some of the current technology. The future, though, is in VR. This month, we’ll cover the basics of the technology that makes VR possible, and point you to the best solutions for watching porn. Next month we’ll look at specific providers of adult VR content, and the launch of Windows Creators Update, and what its built-in VR technologies will make possible.

The concept behind VR is simple. One video stream is sent to the right eye, a different video stream, slightly offset, is sent to the left eye. This creates the illusion of 3D. Motion sensors track which way you are looking, and adjust the center of the video you are watching correspondingly. The video is a 360 degree video or sometimes slightly less, but you only see a section of it based on the direction you are looking. The video can be prerecorded or generated in real time.

The high end VR headsets offer the best gaming experiences. They all offer one the key ingredients for top notch VR- a 90 hz refresh rate. This helps eliminate any lag in how fast the screen keeps up with your head movements. When the headset does not keep up with your head movements, that tiny imperceptible lag can lead to motion sickness.

The HTC Vive is top rated right now, but is also very expensive, running around $800. Part of what is different between the high end and the low end is in the added ability to walk around an environment. You do need a lot of open floor space for this, though. No one does this better than HTC right now. It has 70 sensors with 360 degree head tracking. That later part is important, as it is key to reducing the latency that can cause motion sickness, a problem with the lower cost solutions.

Occulus Rift comes in at a very close second, with some reviewers preferring it to the HTC. It is the headset that started the entire VR industry. Initially funded through Kickstarter, the developer then sold it to Facebook for $2 billion. It is a bit cheaper, around $500. If you want to walk around in your games, you’ll want to get the Touch Bundle, which adds around $100 or more.

Sony Playstation VR is in the middle in terms of quality. At around $400, it is at the lowest end of the quality headsets, but also requires that you own a Playstation PS4 and the Playstation Camera, so you’ll still have a significant investment in it. It has a much smaller field of view than Oculus and HTC. This refers to how much of the scene you can see without turning your head, and is measured horizontally and vertically.  It also does not offer the ability to walk around. The games are designed to be played while you are seated.

There is a much cheaper alternative, inspired initially by Google Cardboard. This is literally a cardboard VR headset that sells for just $15. It also requires a cell phone. It ships flat, you fold it into shape, and insert your phone. The indentation on the right is a button, a clever lever that acts like a touch on the touchscreen. These and similar phone based goggles do not let you roam around an environment. While you can view things seated, that can make it difficult to look all the way around. I prefer to stand with my hand on a solid support so that I do not lose my balance as  I look around.

There are now tons of goggles on the market that incorporate a cell phone. The average price is around $20. They have varying degrees of quality, and work with both Android and iPhones. A quick search on Amazon will turn up tons of options, most made from plastic. Some of the cheapest have no button, which is limiting. Those with a button are generally noted as Google Cardboard compatible. Of course, you’ll also need content that is Google Cardboard compatible.

For goggles without the button, there are many VR presentations where you look at a certain point on the screen, sometimes text or a button or a little dot. Hover over it for a second or two and it is selected.

Another feature to look for is Pupil Distance (PD) and Focal Distance (FD) adjustment. This allows you to use the VR without having to wear your glasses, and provides for a better image for every one else as well. If you have different vision in each eye, you’ll want to look for adjustment with independent eye focus.

We’ve looked at the low and the high end, but there is also a quirky middle. It is distinguished by the fact that these solutions only work with a very limited range of phones, and are definitely not nor ever will be iPhone compatible. Right now there are only two options – Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR.

The big difference is that the goggles and the phone can talk to each other. Both also have a wireless controller that you can use to point at objects and select them, and they provide other forms of control as well, such as volume control.

Your phone options are extremely limited. For Daydream it only works with Google Pixel and XL, Moto Z and Z Force, ZenFone AR and Axon 7. For Samsung, you are limited to Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, S7, S7 edge, Note 5, S6 Edge+, S6 and S6 edge. Part of the reason for these limits are that they want it to work only with certified phones, ones with capabilities high enough to reduce motion sickness. For example, the Google Daydream technology requires a phone with a lot of muscle, including the ability to decode two simultaneous 60fps streams of video with a display latency of 3ms or less and a persistence of 5ms or less. These specs would be difficult for you to determine on your own, which is why both Samsung and Google limit you to specific phones (although Samsung also limits you to Samsung phones, not for technical but for marketing reasons).

In terms of streaming VR video, Daydream works better with YouTube VR videos, and Gear VR works better with Facebook VR videos. They are both similar in the quality of the VR experience, though. Gear has a big advantage for gamers with their access to the Oculus Rift library.

There is one variable that impacts the quality of all Goggles, and that is the fact that all computer displays, including 4K ones, are made up of individual pixels. Goggles essentially bring two magnifying lenses, one for each eye, up very close to a screen. This magnifies the individual pixels, and creates what is commonly referred to as a screen door effect. It exists in all Goggles I have tried, but not to the same degree. Some do a better job of blurring the effect than others, but it is still there. It is not exactly the stunning reality you get from watching a 4K television. There is no near future solution to this, but over time you do get used to it so it is not as noticeable. However, the general rule for phone based VR is the bigger the phone the better (as close to six inches as you can get), but a higher pixel count is even more important.

So, what are the best VR Goggles for porn? Let’s start out with the most used, and according to VR Porn site BadoinkVR in an article in Variety, the most used gear on their site is Samsung Gear VR. They come in at 40 percent. Google Cardboard is used by 23 percent of their users. Google Daydream barely makes a blip with just 3 percent, and that is their main problem. While Googles tech may be great, the limited availability of phones for Daydream and the small number of games makes Daydream’s future somewhat uncertain, perhaps more so than with any other option. Occulus Rift and HTC came I together at about 25 percent. Finally, Playstation VR was just 9 percent. The data is interesting, although not definitive, as it comes from a single source. Google Cardboard probably has such a high adoption rate on BadoinkVR because they give away free Google cardboard goggles with your subscription.

The higher end VR Goggles give you 360 degrees of view and let you move about in an environment. The current state of VR porn does not really require that, at least for now. Almost all of the VR porn I have looked ia offers the main point of interest directly in front of you, with little else to see other than the room. It is cool to be able to look around, even with nothing of particular interest to see, but this ability has yet to be fully exploited, at least as far as I have seen. Leading adult provider Naughty America produces videos with just a 180 degree point of view, but being able to look behind you is not even something you would want to do. For now, the main thing that VR adds is an enhanced reality to the experience. That will change, and is probably changing as I write this, considering how fast technology develops.

So, for now, my recommendation would be to invest in an inexpensive set of goggles that you have made sure will work with your phone. If you have an older or low powered phone, the experience will not be as engaging, but at least you will get a taste of what VR is like.

Whether a more powerful VR Goggle will be worth it for porn really depends on the future of VR porn. When adult content providers start creating VR porn with more enhanced capabilities, we’ll need to look at which goggles support those enhanced capabilities. For right now, unless you are also a serious gamer, then I suggest diving into the cheap side of the pool. It will still provide a pretty amazing and pretty erotic experience.