If you've watched a VR or 360 broadcast, you've likely seen something shot on Nokia's 360-degree OZO VR camera, and if you're a professional filmmaker working in virtual reality it's hard to find something more serious for the job. Now Nokia has announced that it is doubling down on OZO, creating a platform around the camera and partnering with some big names, which will mean better quality virtual reality experiences for the rest of us.
Tarif Sayed, head of VR technologies at Nokia, told us that partners have been asking for ways to create better VR experiences and broadcasts for users. Brighter, sharper images, higher resolutions, the ability to easily add infographics, improved support for 3D spatial sound, and more. Nokia's solution was to upgrade its existing products, OZO Camera, Creator and Live, and to release new products OZO Deliver, Player SDK and Audio.
The first problem Nokia is trying to solve is delivering VR experiences with brighter, more dynamic images. While Nokia can't go around and upgrade everyone's VR headset, it can upgrade the cameras those VR experiences are recorded on. OZO+, which is actually a two-part upgrade to the existing OZO Camera, is a combination firmware and software upgrade that enables the camera to produce images with better dynamic range and color.
The rest of the suite, which includes OZO Live, Deliver, Audio and Player SDK, allows Nokia to tackle a bigger problem: doubling the resolution of VR broadcasts with true 4K-per-eye VR without burdening distributors and creators with massive amounts of data. Sayed told Wareable the solution was to turn to adaptive resolution.
The way it works is this: rather than deliver a full 4K-per-eye video, the OZO platform now only delivers full resolution in the direction a person is viewing the 4K content. Everything else is in low resolution, saving valuable bandwidth. When a user moves their eyesight to a new area, that area adapts to full resolution and the surrounding area drops down to a lower resolution. On top of that, broadcasters can now more easily display infographics on top of its VR broadcasts.
Nokia's goal is essentially to set a high standard for VR production and broadcasts, and it wants to make it as easy as possible for filmmakers and production companies to do whatever they need to do to create great VR content. That's why Nokia is pursuing as many partners as possible, to push the platform in many different directions. Right now, that includes a list with big names like Harmonic, Akamai and AWS Elemental.
Part of Nokia's effort to make OZO easier to attain is a new pricing scheme. The OZO Camera and its partner software, Creator, currently costs $45,000. Unbundled, the camera will now cost $40,000 (yeah, still far from cheap) with the software costing $1,499 per year separately. Additionally, OZO Live is dropping in price from about $9,000 to $3,199. There's also a free version of OZO Live that creators can use to stream to Facebook and YouTube, though broadcasts are limited to 2D 360 rather than full stereoscopic 3D 360.
Finally, Nokia is offering to pay $15,000 to creators who want to contribute feedback and hand over some of their content to help Nokia understand how people are using the camera.
Nokia basically wants to dominate the production and distribution of VR, pulling a bunch of other names along for the ride. It's an ambitious play, and it'll only be as successful as the amount of partners Nokia can get to adopt its entire platform, as Nokia told Wareable that to fully get all the benefits of 'OZO Reality' the entire end-to-end production chain needs to be adopted. But if it succeeds, Nokia could help make better VR experiences for us all.
"It's our vision of how VR should be, and that's only the first step," Sayed said. "Where we're going to take it a year from now it's going to be an even bigger leap."