June 25, 2002 02:00am
You Gotta Hand It to Porn Coders
Source: Wired News
by: Randy Dotinga
She covers her monitor with Post-it Notes to hide the X-rated action on the screen, but a Southern California computer programmer can't plug her ears.
Such are the hazards of helping to develop a voice-recognition software that one adult-video production company hopes will revolutionize interactive porn.
If it works, the software will allow DVD viewers to control exactly how Debbie does Dallas without ever touching a mouse. But it's not yet clear whether programmers will be able to get around their biggest hurdle -- those pesky things called words.
"The bottom line is that voice recognition tends to not work very well," said Ben Bederson, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland at College Park. "The challenge is for the systems to adequately recognize a broad set of commands."
To make matters more complicated, existing voice-command systems aren't programmed to understand the wide variety of sexual directives that usually end in "baby" or "oh yeah."
At stake is even more growth for the interactive DVD market, already a major segment of the adult video industry. VCA, billed as one of the top three porn studios, said its interactive DVDs allow viewers to watch more than two-dozen versions of a single sex scene, each featuring a different combination of position, camera angle and intensity level.
The scenes are filmed to make it appear as if the viewer himself is having sex. "You are the performer," said Wit Maverick, an interactive video director at VCA who, despite his name, has never been a porn actor.
Producers typically spend four to eight hours filming a "first-person" interactive sex scene, compared to one or two for an ordinary scene, Maverick said. "You have to set it up exactly to make the point-of-view illusion work. You have to be very technically specific."
In the past, viewers could only control the action by clicking a mouse. But this month, VCA's interactive unit will send out 1,000 beta-test copies of The Sleaze Show, a porn DVD equipped with a stripped-down version of voice-command software. Viewers will only be able to play the DVDs on Windows PCs, but VCA will let them know how to hook up cables to a television.
After testing, VCA plans to issue its first official voice-command "FantaSex" porno, called Double-O Blonde, to a general audience in January 2003.
The porn studio has helpfully provided the software developer with a list of commands for various types of sex acts. "We're going to throw in all the variations so the viewer at home doesn't have to think about what to say," Maverick said.
If it works properly, the software will detect each verbal command by homing in on specific keywords like "faster" and execute it on screen. "It's an amazing psychological trip," Maverick said. "It takes the immersive experience 100 times further."
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