Nokia is betting the technological wave of virtual reality will be big enough that companies will shell out $60,000 for a camera that can capture immersive views of the world.
The Finnish company of former phone fame unveiled the spherical Ozo camera this summer, but it wasn't until Monday that Nokia gave it a price tag and shipment date of early 2016. The device is designed for making 3D films and games that can be watched, explored and experienced through a virtual-reality headset.
Companies including Facebook, Sony, Google and HTC have been investing heavily in headsets that people wear to experience virtual reality, exploring simulated environments through games or films. Critical to the success of these devices will be abundant, high-quality VR content. That's where the Ozo camera comes in. Creating VR content is demanding and requires specialist equipment to effectively capture the full panorama of a given environment.
Ozo can record stereoscopic 3D video and spatial audio through eight synchronized shutters and integrated microphones. The camera can operate wirelessly and can record video with all the data stored as a single file, or capture it for live broadcast.
Nokia's orb-shaped Ozo isn't the only such camera on the market. Where its effort sports eight cameras and microphones, Google has partnered with GoPro to create the Odyssey, a rig that holds 16 of GoPro's action cams. The Odyssey is part of Google's Jump software and hardware suite, designed to push VR video onto YouTube and to its VR headset, Google Cardboard.
One thing the cameras do have in common is a steep price tag that will keep the devices out of the reach of most consumers for the time being. At $15,000 the Odyssey is cheaper than the Ozo but still comparable to the cost of a compact car. As with all technology, though, virtual reality prices should gradually decrease as the technology becomes more mainstream.
Virtual reality may be a new area for Nokia, but the company hasn't totally given up on making phones after Microsoft bought out its handset business in 2014. In 2016 Nokia will be free to enter the consumer device market once again, though it's said it'll do so by offering design ideas and licensing its brand to other companies that will handle manufacturing, sales and support. It's also hoping to acquire French network equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent and sell its Here mapping technology to German automakers.