Culture

Virtual reality porn? Oculus founder says he won't stop it

Technically Incorrect: If you want to watch porn on your virtual reality headset, go right ahead. At least that's what Oculus' founder appeared to say at a recent tech conference.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


A more personal pleasure? Nick Statt/CNET

Many of you are very excited about the oncoming rush that is the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift.

You may be asking yourselves one little question: "Just how excited will I be able to get?"

A clue emerged Monday when Oculus founder Palmer Luckey appeared to reveal just how lucky some users will be.

Speaking at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference in San Jose, Calif., Luckey was asked whether his company would block adult content.

Variety reports that he replied: "The Rift is an open platform. We don't control what software can run on it." He added that this was "a big deal."

The word "open" has been some what tarnished in tech over the years. Where once it symbolized an unvarnished nirvana, now it often comes with a few qualfiers.

However, it seemed yesterday that, despite being owned by the pristine bare breast-banners at Facebook, which has a complicated relationship with depicting various parts of the human body on its service, Oculus will allow those who wish to enjoy some adult entertainment on its platform off the leash.

This would have been an interesting departure from the stance of Google and its Glass, the search giant's Web-connected eyewear. Despite Bloomberg accusing me of inventing the whole notion of pornography on glasses, I was still taken aback when Google decided not to allow it.

I contacted both Facebook and Oculus. Curiously, neither would offer me a comment.

Information from Oculus suggests the company will curate the apps and other content distributed through the Oculus store. Oculus will only distribute content that accords with its Terms of Service.

In the spirit of sweaty diligence, I waded through these terms. I could find no specific reference to porn. However, I found: "We reserve the right, in our sole discretion and where technically feasible, to disable your access to Content that we believe presents a health and safety risk or violates our community standards, agreements, laws, regulations or policies."

I asked both Facebook and Oculus to provide me with a list of these community standards. Neither company was able to do so, though Facebook has standards of its own.

Observers of nuance might therefore detect that there's a slight difference of moral judgment between executives at Facebook and Oculus. They might wonder whether Facebook has privately placed Luckey on its corporate knee and spanked him for his apparent openness toward porn.

In the end, Oculus is a more personal experience than, say, Facebook.

There is, however, something potentially disconcerting about a human being one day walking down a busy street, wearing his Rift and making peculiar guttural noises.

There again, how is that so different from half our city streets after 11 p.m.?