Virtual Reality Headsets To Hit IMAX Theaters: Is Upcoming Video Game Technology About To Go Mainstream?

Virtual reality headsets are about to hit the entertainment industry and not just with video games. While Microsoft has yet to jump on the proverbial bandwagon, the PlayStation 4 is getting an upgraded version this year which will feature 4K visual support and the option of going for full immersion with a headset.

The PC gaming market is already attempting the leap of faith with Oculus Rift, though it may be difficult to justify the nearly $1,000 price tag for maybe a handful of games compatible with it. A PC capable of supporting it could also have a hefty price tag. It may be worth it to wait for the technology to go mainstream.

Thanks to plans in motion at IMAX, that jump into mainstream use of virtual reality headsets might be arriving sooner than we thought. For now, it’s just clips of about 10 minutes or panoramic photos which are going to be featured in VR, but the potential is there. IMAX and 3D are just steps toward this possibility, and the actual content isn’t really expansive at this point.

It could also be a little too impractical, much like 3D movies at home are. The departure of 3D TVs from most retailers has shown that people don’t see themselves enjoying everything with special glasses on. Plus, if more than one person wants to watch, everybody needs to have a pair. We’ve already seen special eye-wear fail commercially, though it hasn’t stopped many theaters from persisting with 3D movies. The PlayStation VR headset might not even go anywhere as a peripheral, going the way of Microsoft’s Kinect.

For now, there are plans to put the headsets in six locations a year and a half from now.

IMAX is confident that virtual reality could be a new way to get consumers into theaters, featuring short clips and 3D tours behind the scenes of the latest films such as Captain America: Civil War and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Taking a virtual tour of the Millennium Falcon could bring people back to watch the film one more time, but it will also reportedly cost you just shy of the price of the ticket itself. For an extra $7 to $10, you might get something that you won’t find at home or on bit torrent servers.

It would be content which can’t be downloaded illegally and viewed with budget-conscious technology, possibly bringing the gross back to box office potential.

Google already announced yesterday that they are working on building a camera capable of filming even more immersive experiences, so unless it goes the way of Google Plus, they could be on to the next big thing.

IMAX is also looking to use Swedish developer Starbreeze and technology developer Acer to create headsets with a 210-degree field of view like that of StarVR, rivaling that of Oculus Rift. Starbreeze is the developer behind video games such as Chronicles of Riddick and Payday, both somewhat linear open world concepts, and both extremely successful franchises.

IMAX chief executive Richard Gelfond raved about the possibility.

“Virtual reality in the home is going to be a crowded space, but we thought the idea of doing VR in the multiplex of the future was a place where we can provide a superior experience and a social experience, which are the same reasons people go to movies.”

It could be a while before we see the expansion of movie theaters with full-length virtual reality movies, but the technology is already on its way. The question is whether it will be profitable enough, and if the idea will break though into the mainstream like Blu-Ray has.

[Feature image via Halfpoint/Shutterstock.com]