Imax and Google have put their VR camera project on hold

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.

Google Chrome is officially launching on Daydream VR headsets

Google is officially adding the Chrome browser to its Daydream virtual reality platform. As of today, people using the phone-based Daydream View headset or the standalone Lenovo Mirage Solo can access Chrome from their home screens. The VR version of Chrome mostly has the same feature set as its desktop counterpart, but there’s an added “cinema mode” that optimizes web video for VR viewing. Just as importantly, Chrome supports the WebVR standard, so users can access web-based VR experiences on their Daydream headsets.

Daydream users (and users of other headsets) have had access to VR Chrome and its WebVR components for a while, through test versions of the browser or through Chrome’s mobile Android app. But this announcement positions this version of Chrome as a stable, full-fledged browsing app, not an experiment or a conduit for WebVR.

Daydream’s integration with existing Google products has been a selling point for the company, although Google VR apps have spread to lots of headsets; it released a YouTube app for the Samsung Gear VR just last week. There aren’t necessarily people clamoring to shift all their web browsing to virtual reality. But a full-featured web browser is useful for doing things like looking up tutorials for a VR app — especially in a self-contained headset like the Mirage Solo where you can’t just switch back to normal mobile browsing.