IMAX wants to merge films with a virtual reality experience

IMAX to introduce virtual reality pods

Image credit: Maurizio Pesce

IMAX are launching virtual reality (VR) pods that will allow movie fans to virtually step into films and interact with the environment.

The technology will be first introduced in Odeon’s Printworks venue in Manchester later this year. Initially, 12 pods will be available, each capable of accommodating a small group of movie-goers.

“VR has been launched in the home with things like Oculus Rift, Samsung and HTC Vive, but we believe that there was a niche outside the home,” said IMAX chief executive Richard Gelfond.

“We thought we could create a much better experience than you could get in the home, and at a much lower cost because you would pay on a per use basis rather than owning it.”

IMAX will develop special content based on some popular movies, but are also looking for inspiration in the video-game industry.

“Our plan is to develop content consistent with movies. I’ve been using, by way of example, Mission Impossible 4 - Tom Cruise climbed the Burj Khalifa. You could race Tom Cruise to the top of the Burj Khalifa,” explained Gelfond.

“In time – the technology’s not there for it now – but you could race me and Tom Cruise up the tower and someone else could be standing at the top shooting down at you – hopefully one of your friends. But the idea is to take some of the talent and experience in a movie and create a fun environment around it and enjoy it.”

The visitors will be using headsets developed by Swedish gaming studio, Starbreeze. The project will run for six months, after which IMAX will decide whether to extend and expand the programme.

“One reason we’re doing what we call these pilot centres is so we can learn [are] there differences culturally, what do people think of the design, does it work in reality like we thought it would?” Gelfond said.

“One of the really important points is, I don’t really know how this is going to evolve, and anyone who tells you how it’s going to evolve is probably going to be wrong. I think over time there’ll be different variations of VR.”

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