While you can take high-quality virtual reality (VR) porn for granted in 2021, the medium has come a long way in a short space of time. As the number of websites continues to increase, many people believe the VR side of the porn industry will ultimately become a dominant force. We’re taking a look at the evolution of VR porn, from the early days of 3D technologies in a lab to its growing popularity in people’s homes.

Long before VR porn became a proper ‘thing’ in the mid-2010s, one of the first VR systems, the Sensorama, was made by US inventor Morton Heilig. Known as an “experience theater”, the contraption was created in 1962.

The Sensorama was among the first 'virtual' technologies
The Sensorama was among the first ‘virtual’ technologies, but was (obviously) not a head-mounted display.

Through the decades, virtual display systems honed the virtual reality experience. In the late 1960s, The Sword of Damocles was created by Ivan Sutherland. Technically the first wearable virtual reality headset (as it was the first Binocular Omni Orientation Monitor), its name came from it being suspended from a ceiling on top of the head of the wearer. It never made it out of the research lab. Arguably, some considering it augmented reality, rather than virtual reality, and thus not the first ‘VR headset’.

The Sword of Damocles was, arguably, the first head-mounted display that resembled what we consider ‘VR’ today.

In 1978, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created The Aspen Movie Map, an influential computer system offering a basic virtual tour of the city of Aspen. By the 1980s the term ‘virtual reality’ was popularized. Video game companies such as Atari began developing VR systems, and NASA’s collaboration with VPL Research began to bear fruit in the form of the NASA VR headset.

NASA / VPL Research developed VR headset in 2985
The NASA collaboration with VPL resulted in this LCD-based headset in 1985.

By the early 1990s VR began to look like a potential mainstream household proposition. However, some gaming companies got ahead of themselves. The Sega VR was set for release in 1993 but was subsequently cancelled. Nintendo also launched an unsuccessful rudimentary VR system in 1995: the Virtual Boy.

Nintendo Virtual Boy
The Nintendo Virtual Boy was a flop in 1995

The 2000s: a new era for VR

By the mid-2000s, VR seemed like it could finally become widespread. Use of VR in therapy and military training was explored, and systems such as Google Street View developed 3D views that normalized the first-person, VR-style perspective in everyday use.

In 2010, Oculus launched. Via crowdfunding the VR company developed its first device, the Oculus Rift, in 2012. Mobile company HTC announced the room-scale HTC Vive VR headset as a competitor to the Rift.

VR porn wasn’t on mainstream radars at this stage, although 3D-style sex-based video games such as [NSFW] 3DXChat emerged in the early 2010s. That game, some 10 years later, incorporated VR.

With room-scale VR devices requiring powerful PC hardware, Google was among the first companies to bring VR to the masses with the launch of Google Cardboard in 2014. That year Ela Darling, an adult performer, became known as one of the world’s first VR webcam porn performers.

Darling filmed a VR masturbation shoot in a college dorm room. Instead of utilising the ‘fly on the wall’ filming style used for traditional porn shoots, she spoke to the camera, anticipating her viewers to be VR headset users enjoying a first-person perspective. She formed VR porn company VRTube.xxx, later licenced to the firm CAM4VR [NSFW].

The 2010s: VR goes mainstream

[NSFW] VirtualRealPorn, now one of the major VR porn players, launched in 2013, shortly before the ‘big guns’ got involved in the sector. In July 2015, porn studio [NSFW] Naughty America’s first VR video, ‘Birthday Surprise’, was released. In the same year BaDoink, which had operated as a relatively traditional porn site, launched [NSFW] BaDoinkVR, becoming one of VR porn’s biggest sites early on.

Naughty America was one of the first virtual reality porn sites
Naughty America: “Customers have embraced VR porn”, and it was one of the first virtual reality porn sites.

Naughty America said that by the end of 2016 more than 20 million of its VR videos were being downloaded per month. In 2018 ,company chiefs said customers had “embraced” VR porn. Pornhub, MindGeek’s porn hosting behemoth site, got in on the VR act around the same time, debuting VR videos on the site in summer 2016.

As watching porn is a pastime often enjoyed in solitude at home, it’s unsurprising that the rise of VR porn on these sites was properly kicked off by the introduction of affordable home VR headsets, in the mid-2010s.

Google Cardboard was succeeded by the launch of Google Daydream in 2016. The launch of these easy-to-access and use VR platforms also led to the launch of thousands of standalone VR headsets that made use of by-then ubiquitous smartphones.

Also in 2016, Oculus announced the Oculus Go (review), its first wireless device. While it provided more flexibility than previous generations (as it didn’t require a PC) it only offered 3DoF (degrees of freedom). A successor to the Go, the Oculus Quest provides a full 6DoF without the need for a tethered PC.

In the intervening years, alongside thousands of smartphone-based headsets, a few standalone devices dedicated to VR porn alone came onto the market, such as the IrisPVR and VRotica, neither of which required a phone.

In Japan, booths were set up that allowed people to watch VR porn in privacy without owning any equipment, instead charging people by the hour. In South Korea, in 2019, the Pinxy Adult Theme Park launched, again featuring VR as a way to promote adult virtual reality to a wider audience.

In 2021, the trend for virtual reality headsets is towards standalone, untethered, wireless devices like the Oculus Quest 2. They provide a great compromise between VR experiences, budget and additional technology requirements. There is also a growing number of Mixed Reality headsets and augmented reality devices, which provide slightly different experiences than VR.

Increasingly, VR headsets are being used to watch porn. A 2021 report by market research firm CSS Insight found that over two thirds of headset owners in the US and UK had used their sets to watch adult material. By early 2021, there were hundreds of high-quality VR porn sites and services, compared to just a handful five years prior, around the birth of the sector.

Most VR porn videos and virtual reality porn games do not allow the headset wearer to control your movement, with position changes largely limited to viewpoint moves as you enjoy the perspective of one of the performers.

iStripperVR's virtual private room
iStripper has attempted to create an authentic VR strip ‘private dance’ club experience

Some companies, though, are introducing twists on the standard experience. In 2020, VRBangers launched a ‘choose your own adventure’ game-style experience called Dezyred [NSFW]. Releases such as iStripperVR have attempted to create authentic virtual strip club experiences.

Studios and adult VR game makers continually increase the resolution of their new videos, pushing quality higher and higher, and are increasingly adding support for teledildonic devices that sync on-screen (or in-headset) action with the movements of smart sex toys from companies like Lovense and Kiiroo.

VR porn has expanded to the point where there’s little risk it will fade and be seen as a fad. And with headset prices becoming more affordable each year, virtual reality’s slice of the porn pie is expected to swell further.

Read next: How to watch VR porn on any headset

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