Utherverse: Brian Shuster Looks to the Next Big Wave in Porn
Brian Shuster is a name immediately recognizable to the seasoned veterans of the adult entertainment industry because he was one of the people at the forefront of inventing adult online in its earliest iteration.
The website XPics.com may have been the very first commercially successful adult venture, and it quickly became one of the first affiliate programs paying out more than $5 million monthly to webmasters as affiliate based business models ramped up.
According to Shuster, much of that success was spawned by continuous technological innovation, a claim backed by the fact that Shuster even managed to obtain a patent on advertising methods that introduced the first banner ads to the Internet and turned digital traffic from a bandwidth expense into a viable revenue stream.
Now Shuster sees the next big wave in adult entertainment taking shape and believes he has identified a way to return the adult industry to a period of prosperity that extends far into the future while raising the income of everyone involved.
Virtual reality is becoming more than just another buzzword favored by marketers and dreamers. The technology is garnering billions of dollars of attention from serious investors, and each year the leaps forward from 3D glasses to the goal of a “Star Trek”-styled holodeck are becoming increasingly obvious.
According to Shuster, achieving that goal won’t be the hardest part, for adult entertainment companies securing a place at the table will be even harder and eventually more rewarding.
“Look, we have all been at this long enough to see the pattern,” Shuster explained. “Adult creates a new distribution method, or gets used on the platforms created by others to build a viable market, and then Adult gets cast aside by the new launch vehicle as soon as it reaches a successful orbit.
“Porn was fine on Instagram until it wasn’t, PayPal used to have booths at porn shows until it didn’t need us, television networks, social platforms, app stores and all the rest are built on the backs of adult content producers who create all the heat and educate consumers right up until the moment the platform becomes viable and starts announcing it is now family-friendly, leaving adult companies that have invested millions to scramble for an audience on lower traffic knock-offs while fending off piracy, unscrupulous freemium content competitors and all the rest.
“Virtual reality isn’t just a new way to see or sell content. If done properly, it’s also the first method in decades that allows adult companies to secure their content management rights as well.”
Many adult industry veterans, webmasters and executives lament the fact that so much porn is available for free online. The discussion of ‘what life would be like if tubes didn’t exist’ has been had on industry message boards over and over in one form or another for nearly a decade — and the most common refrain is that you can’t put that genie back into the bottle. However, Shuster’s view is that VR represents a new genie in a completely different bottle.
“Virtual reality isn’t like the difference of going from 640x480 to HD, or from HD to 4K resolution,” said Shuster. “It’s the first truly game changing technology for content in decades and it will eventually have an impact on the way people consume content at least as monumental as the creation of the Internet was for adult years ago.
“The real opportunity here is to create new content for VR that will eventually become a holodeck- or matrix-level user experience while simultaneously resetting the playing field in favor of rights holders who are due real monetary compensation commensurate with the value of their work. To make that happen a huge amount of investment and R&D is needed, but the cost of not making it happen will be far higher for anyone seeking to earn a living from the creativity of their content.”
According to Shuster we are being presented with two paths and if we do not pick one quickly, the decision will once again be made for us by external forces. The first path is “doing what we have historically done” by participating in the run-up of a new technology and making some money nibbling around the edges before the inevitable squeeze-out perpetrated by larger mainstream entities or pirates eventually leads us all back to a failed shell of what adult should be — with a new set of VR tubes paying content creators pennies for what should cost dollars while suggesting everyone should just accept it as ‘the best we can get.’
The alternative path is one in which serious adult companies engage in a coordinated effort to pioneer the underlying technology and preserve content ownership rights in the process.
“A proprietary VR-player developed in a way that controls content distribution and playback while requiring others to license it from us avoids the mistakes we have always made in the past and establishes a new paradigm — backed by similarly engaging content to what always builds consumer interest but allowing this industry to dictate our requirements to others instead.”
What might surprise some producers is just how far VR content has actually come. Shuster segments VR into what he calls “three holy grail versions of porn” that will each be built as evolutions of each other.
“SynthHologram video is the like current 360-degree video available but goes a step beyond what many associate with Oculus,” he said. “Yes, you can see the environment as if you are in the center of the room like Oculus, but SynthHologram also allows users to move around the room and maintain a truly holographic perspective. It is the first technology capable of giving a participant a ‘sense of presence’ in the space. While this technology will be great for prerecorded porn, live cams, and other kinds of content that already exist in two dimensions, it will require a new data package that necessitates proprietary tech to store it, encrypt it and distribute that data.”
“Any content creator who chooses to piggyback onto other VR-Players will immediately become subject to the exact same piracy problems, but if we have a secure and proprietary platform – the tools used by pirates for things like screen capture will not be able to snatch VR files the way pirates now do with traditional content.”
The next step forward in the evolutionary chain will be holographic video, capturing performers rather than furniture and locations.
“Fully spherical recordings that will play back using things like Microsoft’s HoloLens or Oculus to create holographic scenes of real performers will finally bring a sense of being with real people engaging in sex while the viewer is right there ‘with them’ in the virtual display,” he said. “The ability to create real holographic adult content exists, at a cost of about $50,000 per minute of footage. I know, because my company Utherverse is streamlining the technology and recording pornstars including Anaka Albrite, August Ames, and Manuel Ferrara right now for VR porn tech demonstrations that will be available in Q4 of this year!”
The eventuality is that interactive holographic avatar content is all but inevitable at this point. This third, most exciting and most challenging form of VR content will be completely immersive lifelike VR sex similar to what the holodeck pre-imagined. The technology to make it happen is also a lot further along than many might expect, according to Brian Shuster.
“Getting to complete life-like movement is something I have invested nearly 12 years of my life and many millions of dollars in doing,” he said. “The tech now exists in a meaningful way, but it is still another few million dollars away from becoming commercially viable. Creating a fully holographic scan of each performer and turning it into a VR realized avatar with new state of the art techniques that utilize three kinds of motion capture — gross body movement, facial motion capture and soft tissue motion capture for things like jiggling or sway without any hand animation — are the milestones along the way from Oculus to what VR will soon become.”
As part of the continuing effort to bring this technology to consumers and restore the proper balance of power for adult content creators, Shuster is launching what he believes will quickly become the largest crowdfunding campaign in history.
“We’ll be using #GivePornAHand to reach out to fans, performers, and industry insiders along with other B2B investment channels to surpass our initial target of $750,000 in funding with a stretch goal of $1.5 million, and an eye toward breaking the record with what I believe will eventually become a $20 million effort. Even at the $750,000 level we can create SyntHologram content and make significant progress at bringing down the production costs of Holographic Avatars.”
“Today, a state of the art Hologram rig can cost more than $1 million to construct. We will soon be doing a few shoots each week in SynthHologram and are going to undertake a very ambitious scanning schedule to create a database of models for holographic porn, while pushing the R&D forward and bringing down the production costs of hologram content from $50,000 per minute to a few hundred dollars per minute in the immediate future. My goal is to work with studios to make rigs available for their use, and work together to unveil a fully protected VR-player that secures the position of adult content in the VR-focused world we are all about to be living in as consumers move far beyond their flat screens in favor of much more immersive VR alternatives.”
To all the critics and naysayers, Shuster had a very blunt and powerful message worth considering.
“The status quo the industry is in now is a dead end that everyone acknowledges,” he said. “While I’m happy to enter into discussions with studios about player rights, licenses and all the rest, funding this technology alone would only lead to getting steam-rolled by mainstream once again. We need the entire adult industry to be using these technologies so that we have so much amazing content that all of the fans use our industry VR-player. Opening up the funding of this project is as much about building a real coalition of companies with skin in the game as it is about gaining financial leverage over external forces.
“I’ve already invested millions in VR and have put years into consolidating the available technologies in ways that can reach commercial viability,” he said. “The real question is whether the adult industry wants that work to continue within it or without it. My hope is that we can restore the luster of adult as a technological leader with things like holographic performers, enabling the talent to earn residual income for as long as their avatar remains in use.
“While some worry about an unfair platform or a greedy approach, that would only serve to invite competitors, and my entire assertion is that VR is a vehicle we can use to finally get out from under mainstream to reestablish the kind of sovereignty that made us all so successful a decade ago.”