Google Re-Examines Position in VR Films

Imagine a film in which you can be right there in the thick of the action alongside your favorite Hollywood stars. Instead of just going to watch an Avengers movie you could live the action. Sounds pretty freaking awesome, right? Well, Google thought so at one time, too, until they didn’t as evidenced by a recent announcement in which the company indicated it was pulling out of the nascent virtual reality films industry.

As Quartz reports, Google, once enthusiastic about the potential for VR in film, is leaving behind a partnership with theater giant IMAX to provide budding artists with the equipment necessary to film and produce the next generation of films.

The collab between the two companies was going to take advantage of each unit’s strengths – Google’s 360 immersive video technology and IMAX’s market know how – to produce a range of equipment for VR filmmakers. Launching the project all the way back in 2016, Quartz reports that Google got cold feet last winter and abandoned the project with IMAX though neither company is willing to comment officially on the status of the matter. That’s kind of awkward but Quartz is saying that not all hope is lost for those that want to see what Google can do for the future of VR.

In a likely acknowledgment of rival Microsoft’s increasingly rapid move into the augmented reality space, the collaboration with IMAX at Google has given way to a new venture that pursues AR tech. For its part, Quartz says this could be the end of IMAX’s brief foray into the world of virtual reality as the company has closed 2 of its VR centers bringing their total count down to five nationwide.

Two major problems identified by Quartz seem to ring true of VR at large: Lack of technology to accommodate the vision and a lack of a marketable consumer experience.

Many things sound good “on paper” when it comes to VR but few things work out ideally.

Watching films in virtual reality could offer new levels of interaction and immersion. Indeed, it could be a superior way to view films in the future.

Or it could be the next 3D – a quick fad that is then buoyed by lingering support from a dedicated few.

It makes sense to bridge the gap in gaming between traditional and VR experiences, but the business case for doing that in film might not be there just yet.

Augmented reality, however, is another idea entirely that has a wide range of applications outside of films and gaming. It is no surprise that Google would want to double down on their efforts in that realm given their Glass peripheral and competition for enterprise stalwart Microsoft. What the future for VR gaming or film will remain to be seen but, as of this month, it looks like Google doesn’t want to have any part of it from a hardware/device side of things.

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