Tag Archives: Internet

Porn Drove Tech Boom, Part 3 of 3

Here is Part 1, and Part 2, and Part 3 is down there.

“The means of distribution are transforming,” Graham Travis of Elegant Angel said presciently in 2010, “and potential customers are less and less likely to part with their hard-earned money due to the sheer extent of free porn online.” This meant, clearly, that successful porn companies had to push the envelope again, and harder, to develop products and services that answer the age-old query, “How do we compete with ‘free’?”

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The 21st Century: Brought to you by people like Larry Flynt, John Holmes, and, you know, all those Kardashian people. Same difference! Like, whoa!

IPTV is growing quickly, offering a multitude of alternatives. “Freely surfing the Internet through [any] TV set is just a matter of time,” Travis predicted then. Of course, visionary porn firms did not wait to get started with content, which they began to make download-ready for everything with a screen. Joshua, CEO and director at skinworXXX, was also certain early on (2009) that “digital downloads will become more and more prevalent for movies, and products such as Apple TV will become more and more prevalent” in the future.

“iPorn” sounded about right

Joshua began preparing for the future years ago. “We have already prepared HD digital downloads of [our movies] and will do so,” he announced in late 2009, “with each and every movie we shoot [starting in 2010].” Among the largest growth areas anticipated was the mobile market for—well, everything.

With iPhones, WiFi iPods, Chromebooks and netbooks, Android phones, and tablet PCs, people began taking their adult entertainment on the road as well as downloading it during the journey. The high-tech umbilical cord had arrived, in all its invisible wireless and broadband glory, and one of the best, fastest growing entertainment providers on the web at the dawn of this enlightened era was… the Apple App Store.

It can be costly to make (softcore) iPhone apps for every porn performer in a company’s filmography. Adam & Eve took a thoughtful, measured approach to this particular technology. “We reserve the iPhone apps for our contract stars,” says Katy Zvolerin. Apps named “Adam & Eve’s Bree Olson” and “Adam & Eve’s Kayden Kross” were the debut titles in late 2009, and scores of other “starlet apps” represent both classic and current Adam & Eve starlets.

“The apps include some great images, of course, along with bios and news” about the stars, Zvolerin adds. Users, who pay less than two dollars for an app, can use the images as wallpaper, create custom slideshows, and email favorite pics to friends. The trend toward social networking goes hand-in-hand with the use of apps facilitating “sharable content,” which dovetails nicely into porn companies’ viral, social, and experiential marketing plans, too.

And what about Blu-ray?

Zvolerin had decided by 2010 that Adam & Eve would limit its Blu-ray releases to “top productions and stars,” another smart move given the cost. Joshua from skinworXXX agreed even then, opining that “Blu-ray, as great as it is, is cost-prohibitive for both adult and mainstream,” and did not see it as a big growth area, much less a money-maker. On the other hand, as many salespeople will tell you, there are still plenty of consumers who want to hold a physical product in their hands, and Blu-ray gives them the best viewing experience, bar none (so far).

Andrew Blake, who should need no introduction to film critics or fans, told this writer several years ago that he likes “the physical object as part of my appreciation, whatever the art form. I like to sit down with a physical object, sit comfortably to read a book, watch a movie.” He speaks for many porn consumers, too, when he reiterates his belief “in the physical object, not the virtual one. I want to get my hands on it as well as put my head into it.”

Elegant Angel’s Travis played it smart, realizing that there would always be “a significant market for hard products,” and his firm has maintained a strong, focused presence on the BR-DVD lists. Blu-ray players (not recorders) have dropped to less than $50, and when they hit the commodity-price level of $29 sometime this coming year, tech and porn observers may need to revisit the topic. Perhaps BR will catch on, and maybe it won’t. In Joshua’s original estimation, still as accurate three years on, it “just doesn’t have a strong enough foothold in the business to last.”

Bottom lines

Today’s porn business reflects a very consolidated marketplace with far fewer production studios than just three years ago, and is in the midst of all manner of realignments, including a geographical one. Porn is being made in the Sunbelt, the South, and particularly Florida, now that California has become downright inhospitable to business and L.A. now has sicced the condom cops on the porn studios.

It was the desire for titillation and sex play that drove the development and proliferation of digital video and other technologies, and as the economy recovers, so will the creative energies of inventors and innovators. They know there is a constant demand for quality fare. When skinworXXX’s Joshua talks about making high-quality films, he means to push the envelope of technology “and sex, as well.” This is the attitude that made porn the world-changer that it can still be.

Advocates of “slowed-down science”—more accurately, a moratorium on scientific progress, famously (or notoriously, depending on your perspective) promoted by Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy—may wish to reflect that the true price of their proposal is a joyless, dour, pornless, parochial, paranoid police state. Halting progress to clean up the Internet and “stop war” is a much faster and more dependable way to bring about The End Of Life As We Know It than any possible Frankenfood, irradiated children, or computer war games gone bad.

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Porn Drove Tech Boom, Part 2 of 3

If you missed Part 1, read it first, because that’s why I made it the first part.

The first haptics-based sex simulator with a 21st-century pedigree, Real Touch, was a product of Internet video technology leader AEBN, one of the pioneers of Video on Demand (VoD). The device itself is a cross between a football and a rocket model, somehow appropriate as it was developed and tested by a former NASA scientist. Its array of heating elements, moving parts, belts, and assorted gadgets work together to mimic authentic sexual acts—fellatio, vaginal and anal intercourse, manual stimulation, and more.

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The device can be used as a standalone sex toy, albeit a costly one at $199 retail. Its signature purpose, however, is to synchronize over a USB cable with online, streaming media that is available exclusively at a Real Touch web page. As users watch the screen, signals are sent from the site to the Real Touch unit, putting the viewer literally in the middle (or top or bottom) of the action.

Just in time for “twerking”

At 2008’s 30th Exotic Erotic Ball in San Francisco, ScottCoffman, CEO of AEBN, was already lamenting that “people could only experience movies through two senses, sight and sound.”Coffman’s answer was to have his firm “bring the sense of touch, arguably the most important element to human intimacy, into the equation.” Within two years it was on the market.

Studios and independent content producers continue to work with Real Touch to expand the list of available titles, both “retrofitting” existing titles and encoding new productions for the device. It is still not a Vulcan mind-meld, or “holographic” virtual sex, but it is another step closer. Holographic images, of course, may get a real tryout within a few years—beyond the resurrection of dead rappers on stage—but the first such monitors will be very expensive.

Bring it on home

The proliferation of streaming media to the full range of consumer devices (phone, computer, TV), and the continuing convergence of the television with the PC (PCTV? IPTV? TVIPPC?), will make for a very interesting near future. “This is a transitional period for porn,” Graham Travis of Elegant Angel said when haptics first hit the headlines, “and I don’t think it’s possible to know exactly where we’re heading.” Echoing the view of several other industry veterans, Travis believes that a return to “quality adult brands” and an emphasis on excellence are required no matter where the technology leads.

At the same time, of course, there are real business challenges to confront. Travis thinks there are a few Internet maneuvers that can make the next few years ones of “opportunity”for the industry. From online media that is “free at the point of use” but incorporates in-player advertising, to “live adult chat”and other interactive technologies, he sees nothing but ongoing change—some proactive, some reactive.

Watch for Part 3, the conclusion of this magical mystery tour through puritanical culture!

Porn Drove Tech Boom, Part 1 of 3

According to a New York Times article in October 2000, still in the World Wide Web’s first decade, some 20 percent of AT&T broadband customers were paying considerable amounts of money to watch real, live, red-blooded, all-American sex online. With speeds now considered glacially slow, cable and DSL service cost upwards of $60, and viewing a short video clip could set you back $10.

By 2003, a study by Nielsen/NetRatings was reporting that pornography and music/film piracy were the most influential factors driving broadband penetration. In other words, what everyone in the porn business knew intuitively, and could discuss anecdotally, finally got its scientific imprimatur. By 2010, another decade in the Web’s adolescence, this was all common knowledge, though it was quite distasteful for some of the Religious Right to admit.

Necessity, the mother of invention

Because of a huge audience willing to spend hard-earned cash on personal, media-centric sexual entertainment, innovators and entrepreneurs coalesced to create the content and the tools that consumers needed. Porn-driven advances include modern means of credit card clearing; methodologies for discovering and plugging browser security holes; as well as traffic optimization, mobile services, promotion of the open source movement, and encryption technologies.

Today, one of the biggest areas of development in the porn industry is adding the sense of touch to technology, called haptics. Even with the advent of live chat, the porn experience was insensate and two-dimensional, at best. Certainly, porn consumers wanted to be on the receiving end, but the first use of haptics headed the other direction.

Shrinking Violet? No way

“Teledildonics” is the term author and sex educator Violet Blue, proprietress of the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) site Tiny Nibbles, gave to the first generation of tech-enabled peer-to-peer sex work. Adding a remote-controlled sex toy to a live webcam session was a natural progression, with Blue telling PC World magazine that it may herald “the death of the pimp.”

Although that hasn’t happened, Blue assures interested parties that “it remains in lucrative commercial use.” In coming years, though, you can expect a two-lane highway, thanks to another frontier in haptics.

Next time in Part 2: Interactivity, innovation, introspection…