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Google and IMAX halt work on cinema VR camera

From gaming to education, virtual reality promises much in the way of new immersive experiences, and with the likes of the HTC Vive Pro and Oculus Go, the hardware is more accessible and powerful than it's ever been before. However, those hoping for immersive VR cinematic experiences have today been dealt a blow.

Variety is reporting that the high-end VR camera that was in development between Google and giant-screen cinema company IMAX has ceased. IMAX states that it has "currently paused the development" of the 3D capture hardware.

Google declined to comment, but it's thought it pulled out of the project late last year, with a mention of a "final contractual payment" from IMAX to Google in a recent quarterly earnings call also pointing to that fact.

AR vs VR

The reasoning seems simple – like a growing portion of the tech industry, Google reportedly sees more value in investing in augmented reality systems. Able to tap into the many millions of Android phones already in people's pockets, technologies like ARCore are accessible without additional hardware, like headsets.

Google still has an interest in 3D filming, having brought in staff from Lytro before it too fell away. 

However, virtual reality is increasingly looking like a niche (if fiercely interesting) tech area with a small, slowly growing hardcore fanbase. There may not be enough potential to inspire a cinema revolution, but live events like the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire experience shows that incredibly cinematic experiences can still be delivered in VR – with or without a new wave of video capture hardware.