Google and IMAX give up on building a VR camera together: report

The Yi Halo is a different VR camera that works on Google's Jump platform. (Google)

Google and IMAX have given up on their ambitious plans to build a “cinema-grade” virtual reality camera as Google turns its attention to augmented reality.

Variety reported the news and IMAX confirmed it.

“We’ve currently paused the development of the Imax VR camera while we continue to review the viability of our pilot program,” the company told the publication.

The IMAX VR pilot program put virtual reality centers in Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai and Toronto, but as Variety recently reported, that program is struggling. IMAX shut down one of its VR centers in New York and the one in Shanghai, according to Variety.

As the report points out, IMAX said customer reactions to the VR centers was mostly positive but that the initiative wasn’t living up to financial expectations.

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When Google and IMAX originally announced their plans to build a VR camera together back in 2016, the idea was to design a high-resolution camera to capture 3D 360-degree content for Google’s Jump VR platform. Cameras like the Yi Halo and GoPro Odyssey are already available for use with Jump.

While the Google/IMAX VR camera project falling by the wayside doesn’t particularly boost confidence in the future of VR, the Consumer Technology Association suggests the market for VR hardware will continue to grow.

CTA’s Sales and Forecasts report says virtual reality technology has become a $1 billion sector in the U.S. The organization estimates 4.9 million VR units will be sold in 2018, up 25% from 2017. The sales will generate $1.2 billion in revenues, up 18%. CTA attributes the growth to increasing popularity among gamers and a competitive market for AR/VR accessories.

Despite the early struggles IMAX has encountered trying to sell VR experiences to the public, the report said it was Google that ultimately nixed the VR camera plans so it could focus on AR.

Earlier this year, Google announced ARCore, and in May the company updated the platform. ARCore is a platform for publishers to create AR experiences. Google has turned on collaborative AR experiences and Vertical Plane Detection to allow AR content to interact with more real-life objects and surfaces