Nokia reveals Ozo, a futuristic new camera for filming virtual reality

By Sateesh on July 30, 2015

Nokia is beginning to lay out its vision. At an event for the entertainment industry in Los Angeles tonight, Nokia is announcing Ozo, a next-generation camera for capturing audio and video in 360 degrees. Nokia intends for the device, which is now in its pre-production phase, to become the default mode of shooting virtual-reality experiences for Hollywood, the media, and the advertising industry. A formal launch, along with a final sale price, is planned for the fall. But Ozo is not a consumer camera — the device is expected to sell in the mid-five figures.

For Hollywood types, Ozo has a number of selling points. It’s a camera that lets them make VR in real time, thanks to a pair of key features. The first is live monitoring: directors can view footage as it’s being shot on a headset. The second is rapid playback. In the past, VR footage needed to be digitally stitched together before it could be viewed, a process that could take hours. Ozo can render lower-resolution video for playback in as little as a few minutes, Nokia says.

When it debuts, Ozo will join a nascent but rapidly developing market for VR creative tools. In May, after acquiring a VR company, GoPro announced it was building a spherical camera mount to record immersive video. Later that month, the company announced a separate 16-camera system designed to be used with Google Jump. Jump, announced at the Google I/O developer conference, intends to be a full-featured ecosystem for VR filmmaking. Samsung is building a camera rig as well.

Nokia says Ozo is the most advanced VR filmmaking platform yet. It certainly looks amazing — a spherical rig the size of a large cantaloupe, roughly 6 pounds, with eight optical image sensors spaced roughly an eye width apart. Audio is captured in three dimensions by eight microphones embedded in the camera, and the result is audio that helps to locate you in space. If you hear a dog barking behind you on in Ozo-produced VR, look behind you — you’ll see the dog.

Ozo affixes to a standard tripod and outputs video in standard formats. You can watch Ozo video on a headset like Oculus’ or as a 3D video posted to a site like YouTube. The goal was to make a system that would integrate into filmmakers’ existing workflows, Nokia executives said, and not to trap them in proprietary file formats.