Just as we thought that the future has arrived, the clocks are now back to normal speed. The juicy partnership between Google and IMAX promised a groundbreaking 3D virtual reality technology to be built from the ground up. The new Virtual Reality cameras were to revolutionize the whole film-making endeavor. But alas, if May 2016 was a month of promise, August 2018 is the one of sobering up. The momentous VR camera project has been quietly cancelled, or put on hold at best.
It is not entirely clear why this project had to fail at this stage of development. Sources are not ubiquitous on this matter, though the prevalent theme is that Google was the one pulling the plug. Apparently the company saw more potential in AR rather than VR, and decided to augment their efforts developing the former. Naturally, not a word broke from Google, while IMAX issued an email statement saying that the project was ‘paused’, and that they are looking into their pilot program’s ‘viability’.
By pilot project IMAX considers their multiple VR testing centers opened last year. These are testing facilities for location-based VR experience, seven of which were up and running until two just closed. The fate of the remaining handful is very much in doubt.
Let us wind our clocks back to mid-2016 when Google and IMAX first made their merry announcement. It was, everyone agreed, a match made in heaven. IMAX would bring its world-renowned knowledge on building hi-tech cameras, while Google, who had previously tried their hand at VR cameras with GoPro and Yi, would bring to the table everything else. The new virtual camera project was momentous in scope and ambition. The new VR visual cameras were supposed to exceed all previous efforts in delivering a truly cinematic virtual experience. The filmmakers were getting a powerful, high-res, 360 degrees 3D virtual tool that would set the industry standard for years to come. Either Google lost faith in it or saw a more promising land in the realm of Augmented Reality, but the joint venture between the two seems now dusted. There is little hope that Google will undergo a change of heart.
There is simply, from Google’s perspective at least, more immediate monetary incentive investing in AR. These powerful, overpriced VR camera rigs, though more promising as far as technology goes, have largely restricted uses. A lot of pixels will pass the Instant Apps before consumers get hold of VR sets in any decent numbers. This doesn’t mean that Google is out of the game for VR. Not in the least. They still show much interest in reality film-making technology. It’s just that the pace is slowing down.
For the time being all guns point towards Augmented Reality. AR ads are ready to crowd social media, while Google is equipping its Instant Apps with some AR goodness. The total immersive VR camera experience is left to patiently wait its turn. Until then, it is better to refrain from such pompous phrases like ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘revolution’. Use word ‘patience’ instead.