When is the last time you went to the movie theater? We are all comfortable at home with our Netflix, a giant TV (or projector!) and some really cheap homemade popcorn. Annual ticket sales are on a decline, from $1.58B in 2002 to $1.19B in 2014.
So what is next for movie theaters? Stereoscopic 3D was supposed to be the savior of movie theaters. While I regularly see movies in IMAX 3D (the only reason to not stay home with my 11′ projection screen), the general public has been less pumped. In fact, there are a declining number of 3D movies being released, and a declining percentage of viewers choosing 3D over 2D. So how can Hollywood save itself? (Especially with immersive end consumer technologies like Microsoft Hololens, Oculus Rift, Sony Morpheus and Samsung Gear coming out).
Immersive projection of course! Instead of a single screen, how about 3! By creating a mini-CAVE display, viewers can be (almost) immersed in video. In the US, Barco has launched an immersive theater experience named Barco Escape in Sept 2014, and its debut showcased 5 minutes of extra immersive footage for the movie Maze Runner. Barco is envisioning converting your local theater into an immersive projection experience by adding two additional screens.
South Korea’s largest cinema chain has been showing off a similar tech since 2013. Named ScreenX, it is already deployed to over 75 screens in 44 theaters. There is even a McDonald’s commercial for ScreenX.
This idea has been knocking around the research world for a while now. BBC’s research division demoed an immersive projection concept in 2009 called Surround Vision, combining a television and a projector for immersive film.
MIT researchers demoed Infinity-by-Nine (2012), an immersive home cinema that actually takes existing video content and guesses at what the surround content should be.
Then Microsoft’s IllumiRoom (2013) demoed adaptive immersive gaming and film, using a television screen, a projector and a Kinect depth sensor. Editor’s Note: I was the main inventor, so I’m a bit biased. 🙂
And there is even a Kickstarter for immersive video at home. Immersis is a wide angle projector that will fill your walls (assuming they are white) with projected content. They just made their goal of $100,000, so now we just have to wait and see if there will be content / an ecosystem for immersive video.