The first IMAX virtual reality theater, originally slated to open by the end of the year, is now expected in 2017. The IMAX VR Center in Manchester was supposed to be the first of a half-dozen such theaters to launch in 2016, offering VR experiences that exceeded what was possible with home VR headsets. But the schedule has been pushed back. “IMAX anticipates opening the VR pilot center in Manchester in early 2017,” a spokesperson toldThe Verge, when asked about the project’s status.
The VR Centers were conceived in partnership with electronics company Acer and gaming company Starbreeze, co-builders of the high-end StarVR platform. StarVR headsets have a 210-degree field of view, which gives wearers a level of peripheral vision beyond the roughly 110-degree Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. The pilot center is supposed to include several StarVR headsets in modular pods, which could be adapted for specific experiences that might last between five and 15 minutes. It’s conceptually similar to the VR arcade that HTC opened earlier this year, but tied to an existing cinema location: the Odeon Printworks Multiplex in Manchester.
IMAX apparently got its first shipment of StarVR headsets in late August, at which point the pilot program was supposed to debut in Los Angeles. But there are plenty of challenges facing VR location-based entertainment, so it’s not too surprising to see the launch date slip.