Meet the OZO: Nokia’s virtual reality surround camera for professionals

Image credit: Nokia Corporation, the OZO 360-degree VR camera

As virtual reality makes inroads into consumer living rooms with the release of the Vive, Rift and PlayStation VR, professionals will be looking for ways to produce content for these upcoming platforms and Nokia Corporation has presented the OZO. The camera runs with a price tag of USD $60 thousand which puts it out of range of anyone but professionals, but it is now available in the United States for purchase or rent.

Looking at the device elicits a sense of science fiction alien technology as it is a black orb with multiple spherical blister lenses encircling it. These lenses enable 360 degree spherical video capture as well as 360×360 surround sound. Nokia describes the OZO as “purpose-built” to allow professionals to eschew “complex multi-camera rigs” that provides “elegant workflow that professionals need.”

To gather 360 degrees of video, the OZO is outfitted with eight 2K by 2K sensors, each with a 195 degree field of view that feed into a software suite capable of synchronizing the video from each into a seamless VR experience. Although it only records at 30 frames per second, this is sufficient for anyone who isn’t a hardcore video gamer. As for audio, the OZO has eight microphones to provide the 360×360 surround sound experience and enable VR software to follow sound direction by tracking headset inclination and angle.

The entire apparatus weighs approximately 9.3lbs (4.2kg) including battery, is made of milled aluminum alloy, only comes in the grey coloration seen in the images, and is roughly spherical with dimensions of 10.4in x 6.7in x 6.3in. It is also possible to mount it on a tripod for stability and easier positioning and use.

For recording, the OZO uses an interchangeable digital cartridge that provides 45 minutes of recording time using a 500GB SSD flash drive and a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. Although the device can be connected to an external device with a coaxial cable for continuous recording or even virtual reality livestreaming.

As for software, the OZO can be controlled via 802.11 Wifi and the remote control application is available for OSX 10.10 Yosemite. The OZO Creator Application (also available for OSX) provides audio mixing preview and video composition. The software requires an Apple Mac Pro with a 6-Core Dual GPU or better.

“If you think about Nokia today, we really have this desire to incubate new growth markets for the company,” Guido Jouret, chief technology officer at Nokia Technologies, told CNBC in an interview at the 2015 Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland.

“Nokia has deep expertise in optics, sensors and audio. And when you put all those things together, you say, what new methods do we think are going to revolutionize media and entertainment? And we clearly believe that is virtual reality.”

The emerging VR recording market

Much of the virtual reality market is currently directed at gaming and video gamers with the release of Valve Corporation’s HTC Vive and Sony Corporation’s PlayStation VR—although Facebook, Inc. intends to bend the Oculus Rift towards social avenues it too has a multitude of video games being shipped for it. However, there is an obvious use for VR as passive or cinematic entertainment and the tools to produce that cinema will need to be up to spec.

The OZO represents one of the first high-end professional VR cameras to reach the market, putting Nokia out as a forerunner for this emerging industry. Lucid VR released the LucidCam last year with a pre-order price tag of $429 for a 180 degree in-hand HD VR camera. Then at CES 2016, HumanEyes Technologies introduced the $1,000 Vuze 360 degree consumer VR camera.

“Vuze has the potential to revolutionize the way people take, share, and experience pictures and video,” Shahar Bin-Nun, CEO of HumanEyes Technologies says.

Image credit: Nokia Corporation, the OZO 360-degree VR camera