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IMAX’s first European VR center will open before the end of 2016

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Huge movie company IMAX is focusing on smaller screens – but still keeping things immersive – with a push into public, shared VR experiences. The latest tentpole in that project is a brand new VR Center for Europe, one of multiple pilot locations for IMAX’s new push into virtual reality around the world, including an initial one currently being set up in LA.

The first European pilot location will be in Manchester, England, and will open before the end of 2016, according to an IMAX press release. The facilities will offer a selection of VR experiences that range from between 5 and 15 minutes, and that are sourced both from Hollywood studios and game publishers.

Eventually, IMAX says that it’s going to use the VR Centers to content it’s developing with Google using “cinema-grade” VR cameras, which, since this is IMAX we’re talking about, will probably be narrated by Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and whatever other celebrity happens to be available. IMAX is also partnering with Acer and Starbreeze on panoramic VR headset hardware.

Here’s where things start to get really dystopian – each VR Center will include several “pods,” which can work with either “single or multi-user” content and which “optimize user mobility and interaction in virtual environments.” Plus, the pod configuration are modular in a way that allows the centers to be easily reconfigured.

I can’t help but picture Wall-E style self-propelled mechanical post-natal wombs ferrying people around as they flail about with their arms, but hopefully that’s not what we’ll get out of this.