This announcement was made by all involved parties at IFA 2016, with IMAX’s chief business development officer, Robert Lister, describing it as the future of entertainment. Much like the way James Cameron leveraged 3D cameras to create worlds like Pandora in Avatar, IMAX claimed to be using a brand new technology to create a new kind of entertainment.
IMAX is looking to create its very own content for these headsets too, leveraging the high-quality, 360-degree camera that IMAX developed in a partnership with Google, to create short form entertainment, to act as companion pieces to the main VR movies created with properties like Star Wars and Marvel.
The StarVR headset itself will offer 5K resolution across both eyes and a much improved 210 degree field of view. In comparison to consumer grade VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, this is a huge increase in detail and perspective. Those headsets offer around 110 degrees field of view and just 2,160 x 1,200 resolution.
We had the chance to try a very short demo after Acer’s press conference. The increased resolution is undeniably noticeable. Fine details, like words and numbers on printed money, are visible. On a Rift or Vive, they’d be too pixelated too notice. The wider field of view also improves the experience significantly.
Moving forward, IMAX will leverage these headsets in brand new VR centers, which it plans to begin opening in Q4 this year. They will be small scale – due to the screens being minute compared to traditional IMAX displays – but will often sit alongside those very same locations.
IMAX believes that if people are willing to spend $15 for a movie, they’ll spend $25 to see a film and then be transported in a secondary experience, to that location they just saw play out on a big screen. There will no doubt be specific experiences and feature films created for these VR locations as well though.
The first center is set to open in Los Angeles, with pilot centers opening up in London, Shanghai and New York before the end of the year.
As much as this sort of hardware is something that home-based VR fans are likely to be excited about, you’d need an incredibly hefty system to be able to run it at that sort of detail level, so these headsets are likely to be restricted to bespoke locations for now.