While contemporary virtual reality solutions are currently primarily focused on gaming and education, the entire entertainment industry sees a lot of potential in this emerging technology. Back in May, the Canadian film company IMAX announced plans to open six virtual reality theaters by the end of the year. According to initial reports, the Ontario-based company planned to open the first facility in Los Angeles, followed by five more similar theaters throughout the United States. In addition to that, the firm intended to open a similar theater in Manchester, followed by an expansion to China. However, 2016 is nearing its end, and we're yet to see a single IMAX VR theater anywhere in the world.
Now, according to a statement sent to The Verge by one of the company's spokespeople, IMAX postponed these ambitious plans to 2017. However, the delay shouldn't be too long, as the Ontario-based entertainment conglomerate is planning to open its first VR center "in early 2017." The said pilot facility will open in Manchester, and more VR theaters are expected to open soon after. Unfortunately, IMAX didn't explain what caused this delay. However, latest reports suggest that the company received the first shipment of StarVR headsets too late to meet the August deadline for the mentioned Los Angeles center. These head-mounted displays are provided by Starbreeze Studios, a Swedish game developer and technology company which designed the StarVR platform.
The idea behind IMAX VR theaters is to provide users with a level of entertainment that's not achievable using widely available consumer hardware like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Namely, the said headsets offer a field of view amounting to approximately 110 degrees, while the StarVR headset is capable of almost doubling that figure and provide users with peripheral vision. The pilot center in Manchester will open within the Odeon Printworks Multiplex, an existing cinema complex in the city. The center will provide users with VR experiences in specially designed pods, while the movies themselves will last from five to 15 minutes. Unfortunately, no pricing details have yet been given.
In addition to Starbreeze, this initiative is also supported by the Taiwanese tech giant Acer which recently invested $10 million in a VR content fund established by IMAX. All in all, more information on the upcoming VR theaters is expected to follow shortly.