Q&A: BaDoink CEO Todd Glider Talks Virtual Reality, Future of Porn
LOS ANGELES — If there’s a hot button in adult today it has to be virtual reality (VR). What with Oculus Rift technology, new affordable viewing headsets popping up from manufacturers like Samsung, and creators producing content that puts the porn viewer in the center of the action, the industry is once again leading the way by embracing new technology.
Enter BadoinkVR, a website that gives viewers 360-degree videos along with 180-degree films, creating a new immersive adult entertainment experience.
Calling it “the next-step” in the history of porn that drives commercial and technological innovation in a recent New York Post article, BaDoink CEO Todd Glider — a pioneer in getting out in front of what users want — is embracing the nascent technology in an effort to once again lead the way in helping users experience their "deepest fantasies."
Boasting “Real 3D Squirting,” “Surround Pound” and “180 Degrees of Double D” among other enticing videos, BadoinkVR even offers members free cardboard VR goggles to use with their smartphones. The experience will also work with Oculus Rift and Gear VR headsets for the already techno-advanced.
But breaking the barriers of new technology is no simple task, and the necessary technological smarts and financial investment are not for the faint of heart. Staying true to its sister BaDoinkVIP video site’s watchwords, “Porn Without Limits,” the company is blazing a trail it hopes will fulfill the next big dream spawned by the Internet … what Glider calls “the greatest gift to porn.”
XBIZ had the unique opportunity to ask Glider about his company’s VR initiative in this exclusive interview.
XBIZ: What was the impetus behind creating BaDoinkVR?
Glider: As a rule, we stay abreast of new tech gear, new tech toys. Try to familiarize ourselves with everything that hits the market (anybody need a Google Glass Explorer Edition at a cut-rate price? Email me).
We ordered a couple of pairs of Google Cardboard around the turn of the year. We were pretty blown away by how immersive the experience was. When you put that Cardboard together and look at what you’re holding, your first thought is not: 'This will change entertainment.' Nevertheless, I was shocked at the effectiveness of the experience. So we thought, here is something to rally around.
XBIZ: How does it differ from other VR offerings?
Glider: There aren’t too many other VR offerings out there at this point. And what makes us different, I’m not going to get into that. This space is evolving too rapidly. I’m getting nine Google Alerts a day. Half of them cause me to exclaim, 'What’s that?' So anything that makes us different today could be obsolete by the time this article posts.
I’ll talk about our strengths, though. We’re awfully good at putting together a user interface, and have a long history of focusing on user experience. This is crucial with a VR site because it’s so new to the consumer, and experiencing VR porn is not as simple as punching in a username and password and clicking a 'Play' button. As industry vets, we also know what the porn consumer wants to see, and we know what and how to market to the porn consumer.
More significantly, we are, and always have been, first and foremost, a technology company fixated on innovation, so we’re not just interested in producing VR videos. We’re interested in producing the best VR videos in the world. And because VR is in such a nascent phase, it isn’t just about lighting the room, scripting the scene, recruiting the best talent, and adhering to the unique blocking requirements for VR.
To make the best VR scenes, we’ve got to keep our eyes and brains trained on the software, the hardware, all the innovations and updates. Did Samsung release a new version of the Milk VR app? Is 60 fps less likely to cause VR sickness? Will the Odyssey rig be effective for shooting 360° 3D porn, or will the non-spherical nature of its construction make it unsuitable? How will our content look on StarVR’s HMD with its pair of Quad HD panels? Will StarVR even matter?
And that’s just scraping the surface. But the point is: we love tech; we love getting our hands dirty with tech problems, and we’re good at it.
XBIZ: What are some of the technical challenges of creating VR content?
Glider: Doing what you can to minimize VR (motion) sickness is always a challenge. It’s estimated that 10 percent of users experience an uncomfortable dizziness while wearing headsets. The high latency of some devices exacerbates this problem, where latency is the amount of time it takes for a new frame to render and replace the previous frame.
And different users have different interpupillary distances (IPD), which is the distance between the center of the pupils of the two eyes. Some creators support the idea of using a standard distance, while others opt to give the user tools to adjust the experience to their own viewing comfort.
When VR content is filmed, whether 360º or 180º, camera movements are harder to plan. Issues with parallax abound, too. Parallax is essentially how the eye perceives objects in the foreground, relative to objects in the background. To do a proper flat 360 image you need to avoid parallax, but if you want the 3D effect — key to that immersive experience everyone expects — you need parallax, and stitching videos together perfectly to compensate for that need for parallax, it’s no picnic; there’s no software that really gets it 100 percent right.
XBIZ: Can VR footage be easily repurposed as traditional 2D content?
Glider: Not easily. Converting VR to 2D distorts the appearance of the performers if they’re too close to the camera or the top of the screen. Even after stretching them to a viewable 16:9 screen, it can feel a bit like watching a movie through a carnival mirror. It can be done, but it’s not easy.
XBIZ: Which do you believe holds the most revenue potential when it comes to VR, recorded content, live/interactive or 3D-rendered worlds?
Glider: This is a difficult question to answer because it comes down to innovation and consumer uptake, things that take time and have heavy costs associated with them. VR in the land of the live cam? Sounds like a slam-dunk, and if consumers buy VR headsets in mass numbers, it will be a slam-dunk. But the if statement is key; there are lots of ifs. A lot needs to happen, from an innovation standpoint, before it is practical for the cam model in Brno [Czech Republic] to connect with the Oculus user in Valencia.
XBIZ: How long before VR headsets reach critical mass in terms of supplanting computer screens?
Glider: Supplanting? It’s going to take a while. By the time that happens, I’ll be a jabbering old fool. But if it does happen, AR [augmented reality] will be the driver. That’s where the biggest investments are being made right now, which makes sense since that’s where you see the most immediate and obvious commercial advertising upside; and the bigger the advertising upside; the more likely it is that the HMD becomes a pervasive household item. Something I call the ‘Blade Runner’ effect. It’s pretty reductive, but I like it.
Remember ‘Blade Runner’ — a fantastic dystopian society? Thirty years on, nothing in this world, in our world, matches the technological achievements represented in ‘Blade Runner.’ Nothing, that is, other than billboard advertising. Our billboard advertisements today are not only as good as those in ‘Blade Runner,’ they’re much better.
So, in short, to reach a real critical mass, it’s going to take time, and AR’s going to have to carry the torch.
XBIZ: Do you expect there will be an increase in VR porn production across the board?
Glider: There will definitely be an increase. The degree to which it will increase, that’s up to the innovators pushing the envelope already: companies like mine, giving away free Cardboard; companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, continuing to invest money and energy in the sector.
That’s one of the reasons we’ve been giving away Cardboard; it exposes more people to virtual reality, which is really, really difficult to explain, or even represent visually, without experiencing it.
XBIZ: What can you tell us about your upcoming plans for BaDoinkVR?
Glider: My upcoming plans are to be the first and best at everything.
XBIZ: Do you believe VR will completely disrupt the porn industry as we know it?
Glider: I do not. Not today or tomorrow.
First off, I see VR porn through a generational lens. If you were born before 1982, if you’re somebody who grew up at a time when porn was not in such abundance, when porn was a scarce commodity, VR porn is not for you. If you grew up at a time when happening upon a Penthouse magazine was cause for celebration, VR porn is not for you.
Because if you’re one of those people — I’m one — you’ve already been given the greatest gift of porn imaginable: the Internet. The porn dreams of your youth have become a reality, and they’ve exceeded those dreams 1,000 times over. You are satisfied. You don’t pine for the quantum leap in innovation that VR porn dangles in front of your eyes.
No, VR porn is for people who were born into Internet porn, people who never knew scarcity. VR porn is their porn. If VR porn takes off, they’re going to be the ones who make it happen, who demand it, who seek it out.
Gartner projects sales of 25 million VR headsets to users by the end of 2018. Others project sales of 11 million by the end of 2016, with 100 percent growth per-year thereafter. That’s impressive, optimistic, and maybe realistic. But consider that 1.2 billion smartphones shipped last year. The Economist predicts that 80 percent of the world’s adult population will have a smartphone by 2020. That’s a lot of people. It goes against the notion of 'Total Disruption.'
XBIZ: What about your own free VR goggles? You were giving away 10,000. Has there been a strong demand?
Glider: They sold out in minutes. The promotion was a fantastic success.