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Google shuts down its Oscar-nominated VR storytelling unit

According to inside sources, division employees were given opportunities elsewhere at Google.

Published onMarch 14, 2019

Google revealed today (via Variety) that it has shut down its VR storytelling unit known as Spotlight Stories. The division was responsible for an Oscar-nominated VR short film called Pearl.

Spotlight Stories started within the Motorola division, back when Google owned that company. Allegedly, Google told the division it was unconcerned with the profitability of its VR ambitions and more concerned with it pushing the boundaries of what VR entertainment can offer.

However, it appears time ran out for Spotlight Stories some time ago as Google told employees to seek opportunities elsewhere at the company.

In a statement, Google had this to say:

Spotlight Stories strove to re-imagine VR storytelling. From ambitious shorts like ‘Son of Jaguar,’ ‘Sonaria’ and ‘Back to The Moon’ to critical acclaim for ‘Pearl’ (Emmy winner and first-ever VR film nominated for an Oscar) the Spotlight Stories team left a lasting impact on immersive storytelling. We are proud of the work the team has done over the years.
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The dissolution of Spotlight Stories likely has to do with VR not taking hold with consumers to the lengths that Google and other VR companies thought it would. While VR gaming has some legs, the idea of watching a movie or a TV show in VR isn’t a strong trend.

The news of this shutdown comes not long after another Google shakeup in its laptop and tablet hardware division. Reportedly, Google shifted employees in that division as well, likely a response to low consumer enthusiasm for its high-end Chrome OS products like the Pixel Slate and the Pixelbook.

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