IMAX unveils virtual reality 'pods' for movie fans
Cinema-goers are to be given the opportunity to step into their favourite films as part of a new virtual reality experience unveiled by IMAX.
The entertainment giant has announced a pilot scheme built around specially designed "pods" where groups of movie-goers will put on virtual reality headsets and be carried into the world of the latest blockbusters, where they will be able to move around and interact with the virtual environment they see.
The first pilot centre in the UK will open in Manchester later this year at Odeon's Printworks venue, complete with 12 of the VR pods.
IMAX chief executive Richard Gelfond told the Press Association the aim of the pilot is to create something unique.
"Virtual reality 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," he said.
"We thought that in the home it's quite expensive to buy a headset and it's quite expensive to buy a computer, and the computing power is limited and you're also limited by the fact that your mother may be in the next room when you're trying to use it, making it somewhat less immersive.
"So 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."
He added that IMAX is to take advantage of the relationships it has in the film-making industry to help "create and secure the right content" for the experience, which he said would also include video game-inspired opportunities.
"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. So you could race Tom Cruise to the top of the Burj Khalifa.
"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."
IMAX revealed that it would use Swedish gaming studio Starbreeze's StarVR headset for the Manchester trial, which is one of six globally and is expected to run for six months, after which a decision on whether to expand the programme will be made.
"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?" Mr 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 its going to evolve is probably going to be wrong. I think over time there'll be different variations of virtual reality."