Nick Fast, CTO of the porn behemoth xHamster, found some time in his busy schedule to have a chat on Virtual Reality (VR) and how xHamster is changing the industry with VRHub.com.
Does VR have any chance of growing beyond hardcore geek crowd? The devices are not cheap, and some tech skills are required to get your VR kit up and running.
Many perceive VR as an expensive, exclusive technology, but that’s not exactly true. Thanks to Google Cardboard, all you need to connect is a smartphone and their $10 Cardboard viewer. We’ve even made our own branded version of it. Naturally, if you are really into it, you can spend serious coin and get Oculus, Vive or PSVR headsets. But it’s not required to get started.
So all you need is a headset?
Yeah. While those more expensive headsets generally need to be connected to a powerful gaming PC, the Cardboard just uses your smartphone.
Alright, so you buy all that stuff, and that’s it? Bob’s your uncle?
Well, not really. When you get all necessary components, you just realize that installation and setup can take a while.
The technology has a long way to go yet. The software options are limited, they aren’t always user-friendly. The headsets are massive, inseparable from cable clutter. Cardboards suck phone batteries dry pretty quickly, and the picture quality could be much better, to say the least. But still, it’s worth it. (Laughs)
It’s also one of the reasons xHamster launched VRHub.com. What we’ve tried to do with the site is to take away some of the issues with adult VR, by making the content easily accessible to different devices, and allowing users to browse hands-free.
Nice! What about porn in VR?
The adult industry has been longing for a technology that can bring users and content closer together. This is the reason why we started our project. We see so much potential in VR for people to really feel part of the experience, which is what we want from porn anyhow.
What’s the bottleneck?
Well, no industry standards for VR exist yet, and most videos are produced by non-professionals, which results in questionable content quality. And you have to put a lot of effort into delivering the content to the user.
Last but not least of our concerns is Apple. Sometimes I even have a feeling that killing VR evolution is of highest priority for the guys from Cupertino 😊 the Mac platform is not compatible with headsets, and iPhone has more restrictions regarding VR than useful features. For instance, there is no full-screen mode in the browser, and the address bar often does not hide (which really spoils the picture in the cardboard, believe me). Besides, 720p resolution is the limit - this is extremely low quality for VR. Apple browsers are limited regarding interaction with domains (CORS policies), so we had to be extremely inventive with VRHub.com, so that our users get video via CDN. Android is way easier, let alone Samsung with their GearVR dedication. What I can't understand is why Google enabled compatibility with DayDream only for selected devices - literally, just a few smartphones.
It’s no secret that porn has been a force for progress for, like, forever. You guys make scientific and technological wonders happen on a daily basis. Do you reckon we are gonna witness some VR breakthrough in the nearest foreseeable future?
Well, almost all VR porn is shot with GoPro. Those cams are affordable, although the frame rate could be better. I believe VR revolution is inevitable, we just have to wait for action cam or smartphone manufacturers to present some proper gear.
But there's still hope, wouldn’t you agree? There have to be some positive trends.
Naturally. And there are many! Adult content is a very specific thing with its own requirement set. Take hands, for instance. To begin with, you just can’t see them 😊, then you need your hands for something other than holding your controller, if you know what I mean. So with VRHub, we decided to concentrate on hands-free operation to make user's life as hassle-free as possible. There’s another problem - when you put your headset on, you stop controlling the environment you are in. What if you’re intensely enjoying the latest video and someone barges in? That’s why we added a webcam alert system to our player that notifies you in the VR if camera detects any motion.
It’s not that seamless when it comes to the content – scarily realistic scenes where an actress is literally about to poke your eye with her finger (or not a finger at all!) are not uncommon at all. Once I saw a video shot from low position - the girl in it looked like a 15 feet tall giantess. And don’t forget about the extremely high image quality requirements: a 4k video separated into 2 channels (1 for each eye) and wrapped looks kinda blurry. Just think about bandwidth needed to watch vids online! This is complicated by the fact that there are no standard VR shooting specifications or guidelines. Every producer is inventing their own, using different cameras, angles and techniques. So to be able to play some random video have to do some serious guessing to find the right settings. That’s why we have put a lot of effort into having our player do that work for you.
As I’ve mentioned before, currently headsets are far from being perfectly ergonomic. Some users start feeling nauseous after watching videos for a short time, some need to rest eyes often. It might come as a shock, but headsets are not exactly light, either. This puts considerable stress on the neck. On the other hand, you can always consider that some sort of workout! (Laughs)
All in all, the market is still immature, the crowd that is ready to invest time, effort and money to get to know this technology better is relatively small. And this results in limited software and content options. But we are absolutely positive that this is just the beginning of a long journey, and we are committed to go all the way. We’ve done a lot already, but there’s even more to do. Check out our software for Vive and Oculus headsets at vrhub.com, but beware: adult content inside!
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