From VHS to VR: A Brief History of Pornography and Technology

Pornography has long propelled a wide range of varying technologies forward. From the early days of motion picture film to the home video format war between VHS and Betamax to DVD, Blu-Ray and now 8K streaming, the standard 2D form of moving image as entertainment has benefited enormously from the desire of porn users to watch people bang in higher quality, with more convenience, and at a more reasonable price. Now with the advent and rapid evolution of virtual reality technology and, predictably, VR porn, it is once again pornography that is making the tech mainstream.

Porn: The Early Years


Images made specifically for entertaining and arousing adults date back at least 3,000 years to the Kangjiashimenji Petroglyphs found in the Xinjian region of China. From prehistoric cave paintings to erotic verse to more formalized painting depicting desirable humans, these early takes on porn are now accepted as valuable historical artifacts. So too are early photographs and celluloid films depicting sexual activity.

After the rapid development and mass expansion of motion pictures and cinemas took hold, adult cinemas became commonplace in urban centers. Once the home entertainment revolution arrived – first in the form of compact 8mm and 16mm projectors and readily-available prints, then as videotape – it wasn’t long before a significant percentage of adult males had a pornographic VHS or two stashed somewhere in their house.

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Home Video Advances


With the home video industry in full swing and putting pressure on cinemas to offer more appealing services, most adult theaters died out leaving a small portion of that communal gathering place of porn fans active. VHS releases became the most common and most profitable means of distributing adult movies. Until DVDs arrived, that is. Offering creators the option to include supplemental material, alternate angles, and more content per release, DVD porn became the strongest and most dominant of all home video mediums.

It too would be threatened by its successor, but only once another format war was fought and won. The victor this time, Blu-Ray, offered High Definition visual splendor, something that is obviously a huge benefit to porn viewers. Being able to more fully observe the bodies of their favorite stars, Blu-Ray users enjoyed the success of the format. Not nearly as much, however, as avid Internet users enjoyed the death of physical media.

Online video capabilities improved greatly during the late 90s and early 00s. From downloads to streams, the advances gave users greater convenience, an instant library of thousands upon thousands of titles, and the opportunity to anonymously connect with other fans. Some believed this would be the apex of porn technology. These people were quite obviously short sighted as the VR revolution was lurking in the shadows waiting for the right moment to pounce. Major porn streaming platforms were fast becoming some of the ‘net’s most talked about sites. How would they handle the arrival of a more immersive audio-visual technology?

A Vote for VR


VR porn is the most dynamic, immersive, and ultimately satisfying way of viewing explicit adult content yet created. Utilizing a head-mounted display that places one small screen in front of each eye of the user, VR headsets and the content created for them essentially trick the user’s brain into seeing an image in 3D. As image resolution has increased and VR hardware has improved, virtual reality porn has become remarkably immersive. Leading studios like VR Bangers and Dezyred push the technology and the artform further with intricate plots, quality performances, and stunning visuals.

Some users have noted their tendency to physically reach for the performer appearing in front of them. Some swear they can smell a person who just isn’t in their actual physical presence. These testimonies point to how vivid and lifelike VR porn can be. With 8K resolution now basically a standard, visual detail is truly stunning. Spatialized audio adds to this immersive nature and can make it really feel like a performer is whispering, begging, or breathing heavily into your ear. And these elements only scratch the surface of VR’s potential.

Pushing the Limits of VR Tech


From interactive scripts that instruct a teledildonic device to move in a way that corresponds to the activities seen in a VR encounter to choose-your-own-adventure-style episodes laden with explicit sex, there’s new tech rounding out the current possibilities of VR porn. Anyone seeking to enjoy heavily customized VR sex experiences most certainly can. The adult VR game industry is also blossoming, providing ample interactive opportunities for adventurous gamers.

Augmented Reality Advances


A leader in developing Augmented Reality pornography, Naughty America, has presented both photorealistic AR shoots of known adult performers in solo tease shows and 3D animated characters performing sex acts. One of the remaining obstacles to truly immersive, naturalistic adult AR content is the issue of occlusion. Obstacles positioned behind a performer are much harder, almost impossible to photograph and then represent correctly in AR.

Once the issue of occlusion is remedied – and if one thing has been proven by the relentless evolution of VR and AR tech, it’s that this issue will be remedied – AR has the potential to not only overtake VR as the most compelling new tech the adult industry can exploit, but to render traditional 2D pornography redundant.

When your chosen entertainment can literally surround you, fill your living space, enter your bedroom, and firmly plant itself in your presence, watching people get freaky on your iPhone screen just doesn’t have the same appeal. Apple, among other tech giants, is banking on AR delivering what VR advocates believed that tech would: the next stage of human activity, interaction, and ultimately existence.

As VR tech evolves and expands into the Augmented and Mixed Reality arenas, expect even stronger outcomes for pornography. Most of us can imagine some ways that AR will radically change our day-to-day experience and very existence. Apply similar areas of the imagination to human sexuality and the future becomes not only bright, but very hot indeed.