IMAX is best known for its massive, stunning cinema screens that overpower you with both size and clarity, but its next entertainment effort might feel a lot smaller and more intimate: it will be strapped to your head.
News today out of The Wall Street Journal says that the company will install virtual reality stations into cinema multiplexes and shopping malls, allowing customers to pay for a premium VR experience without springing for costly home hardware and software.
IMAX will debut the first of the locations in Los Angeles this year, drawing on the Hollywood proximity for partnerships and content, with another five stations planned for worldwide deployment before the year is up. China is said to be a big target beyond that, although given the hopeful spread of VR, we could see these pop up everywhere before long.
“As a filmmaker, IMAX’s location-based VR offering presents an exciting opportunity to transport audiences even further into the worlds we create," said director Michael Bay (Transformers). "We are in advanced discussions with IMAX now on some fun VR concepts and I look forward to test-driving their new technology.”
It won't be cheap, however: IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond tells the Journal that the experiences should last about 10 minutes apiece at a cost of US$7-10, which is a lot pricier for the time offered than viewing one of the flat, non-interactive films that will be showing nearby.
IMAX will utilize the StarVR headset developed by game maker Starbreeze in conjunction with Acer, as the high-end hardware - which promises a 210-degree field of vision, nearly double that of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive - isn't designed for home consumer usage. Whether it's mind-blowing enough to warrant $7-10 for 10 minutes of fun remains to be seen, however.