IMAX which is widely known for being an entertainment technology company with its giant movie screens is making a push into virtual reality with its plans to bring virtual reality to physical theaters. The announcement follows news that the company is working with Google to produce a VR camera rig capable of shooting cinema-grade 360-degree videos which are expected to be released for commercial use within a year and a half from now and its plan to offer an IMAX app for Google's newly announced Daydream VR platform.
According to the Wall Street Journal, IMAX reportedly plans to open six VR theaters by the end of 2016 in multiplexes, malls and similar places around the world with the first one to be located in Los Angeles but with no date given when it will open. After that, the company plans to expand to China. As for the hardware, the venues will be using Starbreeze Studios newly announced VR headsets, the StarVR which was developed as a joint venture between Swedish-based company Starbreeze and Taiwanese firm Acer. The Star VR boasts an impressive 210- degree field of view compared to the 110- degree field of view on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Starbreeze will also be providing its software platform to IMAX.
As for the content and price, IMAX chief executive Richard Gelfond says the company will offer short 10-minute experiences which will most likely be related to current blockbuster movies for $7-$10. This may seem pricey for a 10-minute movie experience but Gelfond is confident people will pay for the unique experience offered by the company. The idea, suggests Gelfond, is to create a VR experience that's better than what you can get at home. Gelfond also suggested that virtual reality in the home is going to be a crowded space, but the idea of doing VR in the multiplex of the future was a place where a superior experience and a social experience can be provided, which are the same reasons people go to watch movies. IMAX will also look to Hollywood studios and filmmakers to provide virtual reality movies for its six movie theaters, and, in its announcement, listed Hollywood director Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures as possible contributors. While the technology offered by IMAX may be superior, it is not clear if IMAX plans for content are as engaging as stated.