Former Imax VR Exec Eyal Kleiner Joins VR Startup Dark Slope (EXCLUSIVE)

Toronto-based virtual reality (VR) startup Dark Slope Studios has hired former Imax VR executive Eyal Kleiner as its new head of business & corporate development. In his new role, Kleiner will be looking to strike global partnerships, expand Dark Slope’s work to the enterprise and seek out potential acquisitions.

Before joining Dark Slope, Kleiner worked for more than 4 years on emerging technologies at Imax. For some of that time, he headed operations for Imax Home Entertainment, which operated VR centers in cities including Los Angeles, Toronto, New York and Shanghai. Some of that work included striking partnerships with companies like Google, HTC and Facebook / Oculus as well as multiple Hollywood studios.

At Dark Slope, Kleiner will get to work in a very similar space: The company, which was founded in 2018, focuses on producing content for location-based virtual reality. One of its titles, “Scarygirl Mission Maybee,” is currently being shown by Zero Latency, a company that operates close to 30 VR centers in 18 countries.

Kleiner told Variety during a recent interview that Dark Slope is also working on an exclusive game for Hologate, a company that operates over 200 VR locations in amusement parks and similar venues worldwide. In addition to these VR projects, Dark Slope is also preparing to launch a new location-based experience for Magic Leap’s AR headset that promises to combine an intricate physical build with virtual environments, and Kleiner said that it may expand into the enterprise world as well.

Location-based VR, which offers consumers access to high-end VR content in customized environments, has been touted by some as the future of immersive entertainment. It doesn’t require consumers to buy VR headsets before experiencing the medium, and it allows setups with physical cues that can’t be easily replicated at home.

However, bringing VR to physical retail spaces can also be challenging, as Imax learned first-hand in the past 2 years. Imax was planning to use half a dozen VR centers to test for a potential much more ambitious expansion, but ended up shuttering its entire VR business earlier this year.

“The business model challenges definitely existed,” acknowledged Kleiner in his conversation with Variety. However, he said that he was also able to observe a lot of validation for the market while at Imax: “People were paying $25 to $30 for a half-hour experience.”

Going forward, Kleiner said that there could be a market for different levels of location-based VR, including not only high-end storefronts but also tennis courts and other multi-use spaces that consumers could use with their own headsets. “People will be able to rent a space” to play with their friends, he predicted. “It will be a much more mass-market product.”

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