It sounds like IMAX’s plans for launching its location-based virtual reality experiences have shifted a little since we last heard about them.
In an interview with Wired, company CEO Richard Gelfond confirmed that the first of its location-based VR installations, appearing in Los Angeles, should be completed in the next two weeks. It’s not clear if that means open for business, though we had previously heard that it would be before the end of the year. The CEO also confirmed that the first ‘pilot station’ for the UK will now be appearing at the Printworks Odeon cinema in Manchester. Back in August the company suggested it would be opening in London along with Shanghai and New York.
The idea behind these pods is to get audiences in to watch shorter, more immersive VR experiences that complement a main feature. According to the article, a trip to just the VR experience will cost between £8 – £10, and the installation features 12 “medium-sized” pods. They’ll be using StarVR, the new headset from Starbreeze. Designed specifically for location-based experiences just like this, it features a 210 degree field of view (FOV) and a dual 5.5-inch 5K display. Among other things, the Manchester site will be showing Overkill’s The Walking Dead VR Experience.
Chief B.D. Officer Rob Lister has also teased new 360-degree films coming to the pods, directed by some of the world’s biggest filmmakers. Eventually, these experiences should be relevant to the films actually in the cinema at the time. Imagine watching Star Wars: Rogue One this December, for example, and then coming out and see a 5 – 15 minute side-story set within the universe.
IMAX itself is giving directors 360-degree cameras that it’s created in partnership with Google. Perhaps these films could also come to the search engine giant’s Daydream ecosystem in the future?
This will be one of the first true tests as to if location-based VR can be successful.