Top image: Still, ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ (1995) dir. Robert Longo
Ever fancied emerging yourself in your favourite film (and we aren’t talking about week-long Netflix binges)? Well here’s your opportunity. Yesterday, Richard Gelfond, chief executive of big-screen company Imax Corp, unveiled the company’s debut virtual reality centre on Los Angeles’ Fairfax Avenue – now open to the public – whilst outlining his ambitious plan to take the technology mainstream.
“Whether it’s the lack content or consumer access to headsets, the industry has been in a holding pattern, slow to go mainstream,” Gelfond explained (via Variety). “It’s a complex ecosystem that’s in need of a jump-start, and we’re here to start to provide the spark.” With plans to open six pilot centres this year, including the LA location, Gelfond hopes to create an accessible platform that allows the public to experience the thrill of virtual reality.
At the LA launch guests were invited to experience fourteen pods, each containing different virtual reality situations, including “Star Wars: Trials of Tatooine,” where users are transported to the planet of Tatooine as Luke Skywalker, and games based on movies such as John Wick and The Walk, which dared users to step on a virtual tightrope between the Twin Towers like in Robert Zemeckis’ film. Gelfond’s plan is to place these new gaming systems at Imax cinemas, attracting a new audience.
Realising the new technology in relation to gaming is something tech-heads have long been working on, and it is poised to be the biggest shift in the games industry. However Imax is also keen to spread the technology from initial gaming facilities at movie theatres to the actual movies themselves, believing that we could be collecting a virtual reality helmet alongside our popcorn in the near future.
While VR may not be entirely ready for prime time at this moment, we’re excited about the opportunity,” Gelfond said. “Someone needs to shake things up.”