Saturday, 28 January 2017

Automation Is Coming for Our Porn Stars

Meet the female porn star of the future. She’s blonde, beautiful, and busty with just one catch: There’s a good chance she’s not human.

Experts predict interactive and virtual porn—along with super-realistic computer generated “actors”—will become the next big thing in the world of adult entertainment. But as the technology becomes cheaper, more user-friendly, and socially acceptable, it’s poised to become (literal) stiff competition for the adult movie industry and the people who work in it, according to futurists, innovators, and porn executives.

In yet another example of automation making traditional jobs obsolete, there will soon be fewer film porn actors, directors, and even gaffers, several experts told Motherboard.

“A human won't be able to compete in this world. A studio will be able to hire a porn actor for a thousand dollars or just rent the software and create one for less," said Ian Pearson, a senior futurologist at the communication agency Futurizon, a former British Telecommunications engineer, and a chartered fellow of the British Computer Society.

A robot that makes virtual reality sex feel real. Image: Motherboard

“As a porn star, you absolutely have to worry about your job in the current climate,” said Cindy Gallop, founder of MakeLoveNotPorn.com, a social platform where people share videos of real sex with their partners. You might know her from her popular 2009 TED talk about pornography. “Porn is so big that it has become conventional—and it’s tanking, much in the way that the music business and journalism did. Unless the porn industry is able to open up to innovation and creativity, it’s fucked.”

The leap from real people to automation is a small one for porn viewers because the genre is already fantasy, said Pearson, who penned a recent report on the future of sex for the sex toy company Bondara.

“Brothels, for example, will still use humans; there is a connection and even some emotion in that setting. But we don't need human porn stars,” he said.

Brian Shuster, CEO of the virtual worlds website Red Light Center, added: “If people actually want to participate in their sexual fantasies—and I think they do— it will eventually eliminate the role of the porn star as we know it.”

Image: Tenga

Right now, users can already have “sex” with virtual characters in video game-like worlds, using platforms such as Red Light Center, Oculus Rift, and Second Life. More advanced porn tech— including custom-made holodecks, CGI and, stimulating body implants—will likely hit the market in the next 10 years, Pearson said.

“One option will be much like a Star Trek holodeck for your fantasy. You decide, for example, what size you want a her breasts to be, what lingerie she wears and how tall she is, ” Pearson said. “And it won't necessarily cost very much.”

Companies have produced early hologram prototypes and products such as the Microsoft HoloLens and the the Sony Ray Modler. The pornography industry—which has historically been on the forefront of new technology, from the advent of the photograph to the internet—will likely be among the first to use it.

The adult entertainment webcam platform CamSoda, for example, has plans to develop a gas mask-style device that releases smells during virtual reality experiences. And BlowCast, a virtual on-demand marketplace, lets users buy a simulated blow job from ammature cam girl.

It won’t be long before porn stars and celebrities begin selling virtual images of themselves, said Jeff Dillon, CEO of the adult entertainment company GameLink. “It will be a lot like what NFL players are doing with video games. If you’re a digital star, you’re licensing your likeness,” said Dillon.

Porn actor Tori Black, for example, has designed a virtual avatar of herself for a pornographic virtual experience in which players live out their wildest sex fantasies, according to a VICE report last year.

Image: VirtualRealPorn

Last July, GameLink began filming 3D, 360 degree virtual reality porn with real actors. “Every single month, it has grown more popular. And over the holidays it grew exponentially,” said Dillon, whose company got its start selling VHS in 1993 and evolved into a stream-to-own and on demand service.

Roughly 15 percent of the company’s pay-per-view porn audience is now plugging into VR, Dillon estimated. He predicts it will become more popular as VR gear becomes cheaper and more user-friendly.

One reason firms are investing in virtual porn is that it’s sometimes less expensive to make than traditional porn movies, Dillon said. Once you buy the special camera equipment, it costs roughly $4,000 to $20,000 to create, slightly less than pay-per-view adult movies, he said. There’s no need to hire on-scene directors or gaffers, who look out of place in the 360-degree footage, he added. The virtual scenes are generally done in one take using natural sound and lighting.

That may be bad news for run-of-the-mill porn actors who need a lot of direction, can’t improvise or “get it right” in one take, Dillon said.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. Porn is not known for having the best actors. VR requires them to be more skilled because it's one-take scenes. It will thin down the talent heard,” he said.

The virtual reality trend may be a blow to the makers of porn but it will also create new jobs, Dillon pointed out. “Who is going to program the stuff and upload it?” he said. “You have to evolve.”

Executives at big porn movie companies are already investing in the technology. Vivid Entertainment, one of the largest adult entertainment companies in the country, last month shot five virtual scenes, according to Michael Klein, Vivid’s President of Broadcasting and Internet. The company—which owns the rights to the notorious Kim Kardashian sex tape—also released a virtual reality remake of the footage in October.

A device that allows you smell your porn. Image: CamSoda

“We are shooting stuff in virtual and we’re going to do more with it,” Klein said. “As prices go down, we expect to get a wider audience outside of just gamers.”

However, Klein said that the company is also aware that VR might not work out, and investing accordingly.

“Everybody was talking about how popular 3D [porn] channels were going to be but interest in that dwindled,” he said.

James Deen, who is among the country’s highest paid male porn performers, isn’t worried about being replaced. He predicts adult films and virtual porn will splinter into two different markets. “VR is not delivering the same content or experience as movies. It is a completely different product, much like hentai or adult cartoons,” he said. “It’s not an apples to apples comparison.”

He doubts he’ll have a harder time getting porn gigs as VR improves. “I don't see it having a significant effect on performer jobs,” said Deen, who is still in high demand, despite sexual assault allegations made against him in 2015.

Adult actress Vicky Vette doesn’t see it as a death sentence for porn films, either. “Virtual sex platforms, in my experience, only increase interest in the real thing. I see it as a bonus,” said Vette, who was inducted into the Adult Video News Hall of Fame last year. “I still believe that fans ultimately want the real flesh and blood of an actor as opposed to a digital recreation.”

One way for porn actors to adjust to the plunge in production and the rise of sex tech is by offering one-one-one web camera shows, said Vette, who runs the webcam business Vickyathome.com. “We all crave real attention from a real human being. I have to think that's better than a digital image,” she said.

To survive, porn actors—who make $200 to $2,000 per scene with no residuals—should hunt down a niche outside the movie industry because the “business model is broken,”Gallop said. “You should be looking around to see what's missing and ignoring what everyone else is doing because they know fuck-all. Start your own company and be the future of porn."

Image: Nick Melillo/Badoink

Technology will also affect Hollywood's crop of clothed actors, said Marcelo Rinesi of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

“Job losses are likely to be part of a wider context of actors in general being replaced by CGI, once photorealistic simulation becomes easy enough,” Rinesi said. “Once you can have virtual actors with the exact looks, body language, facial expressions, and voice patterns you want, in photorealistic scenarios, then anybody who isn't a star is going to have a harder time getting gigs. We aren't exactly there, but we’re not far, either.”

The blockbuster movie “Rogue One,” for example, digitally created Grand Moff Tarkin, the Death Star commander played by the late Peter Cushing. And last year, the TV show The Good Wife came under fire for a CGI scene between actresses Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi.

But it's not all bad news. One upside of having sexual experiences that are increasingly untethered from physical reality is that they might show us what really revs our engines.

“It's possible that, by putting computers ‘in the middle’ and allowing a wider range of experimentation and exploration, we'll end up having a more honest collective understanding of our sexuality," Rinesi said.



from Automation Is Coming for Our Porn Stars

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