Adult entertainment and technology have gone hand in hand throughout history. That’s why Utherverse Digital is announcing today that its 3D animated virtual world, RedLightCenter.com, will soon run on the Oculus Rift virtual reality platform.
RedLightCenter.com is an X-rated world where players can engage in virtual sex and all sorts of other adult fun. It has been around for more than a decade, but with version 2.0, the world will be viewable with virtual reality goggles such as the Oculus Rift. That means the animated world will be a lot more immersive and feel like you’re really there, said Utherverse chief executive Brian Shuster, in an interview with VentureBeat. The X-rated world may very well be the first massively multiplayer online world to debut on the Oculus platform.
Utherverse is unveiling the PC-based 2.0 version of RedLightCenter.com at the Xbiz 360 adult entertainment conference in Los Angeles this week, and Shuster said the new virtual world should be ready to launch at the end of the month at the Adult Video News (AVN) show in Las Vegas. So far, the relatively poor animations of the RedLightCenter.com have proven a potent attraction. RedLightCenter.com has had 12.5 million registered users since 2004, and its related franchisees outside the U.S. have drawn another 12.5 million registered users, making for a grand total of about 25 million registered users, Shuster said.
“This is a spectacular market for virtual reality,” Shuster said. “As soon as the Oculus consumer version comes out, we’ll be ready. You’ll be able to do pole dancing, lap dancing, and full-on hardcore.”
Vancouver, Canada-based Utherverse’s main competition is Internet video porn. But he says the quality of the 3D-animated art has steadily improved to the point where the avatars, or virtual characters, look real.
“You’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between real people and the avatars,” Shuster said. “We use motion capture, and it looks realistic. The idea is that it makes you feel like you are actually there. You walk into a gentleman’s club and you feel like you are there. You can make it rain on the strippers on stage. And they are real people. That gets people worked up. Knowing there is a real person on the other end — that’s more stimulating than just watching porn.”
Shuster said that his company has invested about $40 million into making RedLightCenter 2.0. With that kind of investment, there’s a good chance that RedLightCenter.com will have animated characters who look as good as soldiers in a high-end Call of Duty game.
Utherverse started development in 2003, and it opened its doors for the first time in 2005. Now the erotic community site consists of virtual nightclubs, hotels, bars, movie theaters, and stores. It also offers parties, classes, meeting rooms, live music with dancing, and art-gallery openings. It’s not unlike the virtual world Second Life, operated by Linden Lab, but this world is all about sex. The site has about a million monthly active users.
While other virtual worlds have died, Shuster said his world has thrived thanks to multiple revenue models. You can download the 3D browser for free, but you can pay $20 to $30 a month for subscriptions. You can also buy virtual goods and services. Utherverse receives a franchise fee from foreign franchisees, and it also generates a lot of ad revenue. Users can also generate their own accessories and sell them for virtual currency. They can also cash out that virtual currency.
The company has 45 direct employees and about 400 contractors. Utherverse has been privately funded to date.
As for technology and sex, Shuster said, “Porn built the technology for the Internet. It delivered the critical mass of users. The same thing will happen with virtual reality. Porn and sex and social interaction is universal. It appeals to almost everybody. This is yet another example of porn and sex leading technology forward.”
As for what is coming next, Shuster said he is excited about technologies like Leap Motion, which allows you to make gesture controls with your hands, as well as haptics, or touch feedback that gives you the sensation of touching or being touched by someone in a remote location.