An Imax spokesperson has confirmed to Variety that it will no longer be building a VR camera in partnership with Google. In the emailed statement, Imax said, “We’ve currently paused the development of the Imax VR camera while we continue to review the viability of our pilot program.”
Imax and Google’s VR project first began in 2016. The two companies had plans to develop a cinema-grade VR camera “to enable today’s leading filmmakers and content creators to deliver the highest-quality 3D 360-degree content experiences to audiences worldwide.” In 2017, Imax opened seven VR centers for its location-based VR pilot program. It’s recently closed two of them, and the fates of the remaining five are up in the air.
A source close to the matter tells Variety that the decision to discontinue the VR camera program was made by Google, as it continues to shift efforts toward augmented reality, not VR. The Imax VR camera was supposedly much more ambitious and immersive than Google’s previous projects — like the Yi Halo, a $20,000 VR camera that captures 3D VR footage via 17 individual action cameras.
Google has been focusing on utilizing augmented reality over the past year, with the company’s ARCore standard opening up tools like the Measure app and Instant Apps to a multitude of Android-based devices. The company still has interest in immersive imagery. Earlier this year, it purchased Lytro, an imaging startup that specializes in light-field technology. At the time, a source told TechCrunch it was an “asset sale,” and although a portion of the employees joined Google’s team, it’s unclear what the company plans to do with Lytro’s tech.