Experimentation is the key to virtual reality at this early stage in the technology’s maturation — we’re seeing developers experiment with new uses for the technology, and other companies experiment with methods of delivering that content to consumers. Now, Imax has announced plans for a pilot VR center that’s set to open in the United Kingdom before the end of 2016.
Working in conjunction with cinema chain Odeon, Imax will open the center at The Printworks entertainment hub in the city of Manchester. The space will feature modular pods that can be modified to facilitate various different experiences, according to a report from Engadget.
For instance, if you wanted to take in a 360-degree movie alone, you could pay for an individual pod and enjoy the show. Conversely, if you and your friends wanted to experience a cooperative VR game like Star Trek Bridge Crew as a group, the center could accommodate.
The idea is to give people who don’t want to invest in their own VR setup a method of accessing this kind of experience. Someone with a casual curiosity is unlikely to pay for both a headset and hardware capable of running the content, but the price of admission for a session could be much more appealing.
Imax has partnered with Acer and Starbreeze AB, the company behind the StarVR headset, to source hardware for the center. Details on content are sparse, but the company claims to be working with Hollywood studios as well as video game publishers.
For now, Imax is simply looking to test the waters. The Manchester facility will be followed by a similar pilot program in Los Angeles, ahead of centers in Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, and the United States. The company will use these test beds to figure out what works, before expanding the concept to multiplexes, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations worldwide.
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