A joint Google-Imax venture to build a line of virtual reality cameras that’s been in the works since 2016 has been axed, according to a report on Monday from Variety.
According to Variety’s report, while Google declined to comment on the matter, an Imax spokesperson told the magazine that the company has “currently paused the development of the Imax VR camera while we continue to review the viability of our pilot program.” Imax runs a number of pilot Imax VR arcades, two of which it shut down this summer, leaving the future of its VR enterprise unclear.
The camera in question was intended to allow filmmakers to capture 360-degree 3D footage. Variety writes that a source said it was Google that made the call to shut down the project “late last year as part of an apparent shift of focus toward augmented reality.” Imax, which manufactures high-end film and digital cameras, and Google, which provided a “cloud-based stitching solution for VR content dubbed Jump,” had about 60 people including contractors involved with the effort, the magazine added.
Google previously partnered with GoPro and the Chinese camera maker Yi on VR camera development. The most recent result of these collaborations was the Yi Halo, a $20,000 VR camera that captures 3D VR footage with the help of 17 individual action cameras.
The Imax VR camera has been described to Variety as a lot more ambitious, capturing a more immersive 3D experience. Signs that the partnership may have ended first surfaced when Imax included a mention of a “final contractual payment owed to Imax related to the previously announced Imax VR camera” in its most recent earnings report.
There’s a number of reasons Google is emphasizing augmented reality, namely that there are numerous more practical applications that could be rolled out to millions of Android users. (The Google AR focus is not new, though there’s been somewhat of a struggle by the company and its competitors to transform their interest in monetizing AR into broadly used platforms.)
As Variety noted, Google has continued to invest in and develop advanced light-field camera tech, so news it has stopped working with Imax does not necessarily signify the demise in their interest in filmmaking tech in general. However, Imax scaled back last year on even 3D films, and its VR centers apparently failed to pull the numbers necessary to continue investing in them, so this is yet another indication that the company’s VR ambitions are being trimmed somewhat.