New OZO virtual reality camera. Photo by Emily Berl
The Age of Virtual Reality

When we think about virtual reality, we all imagine something a little different. Some think of VR and they dream of fully immersive games like Zero Latency, others link the technology to a new era in storytelling, like the breakthrough reporting recently unveiled by the New York Times. But regardless of whether you prefer advanced gaming or the nightly news, your VR experience is about it get a lot more captivating.

A New Way to Create

In July of this year (2015), Nokia announced that they'd created a new kind of technology for individuals working in VR. It's called OZO. It's a next-gen camera designed specifically for capturing 360 degrees of sights and sounds. It comes with a host of sensors and microphones (8 of each), which allows producers to truly envelop their audience in another world.

So what does it mean to have 360 degrees of sights and sounds? Well, if you hear an explosion sound behind you and whip around to see what's going on, you will actually see the explosions. In this respect, in some ways, the camera lets the viewer have a hand in their own VR experience.

As Casey Newton, from The Verge, reports, "I found myself constantly looking around in each clip, because the sound seemed to track my position. I would hear something behind me, and when I turned I would see the still-moving mouth of the person talking. That's because Nokia's audio rendering technology recreates binaural audio live based on the direction of your gaze. It's a wild way to experience film... "

Plus, the camera looks ridiculously cool.

What It Means For You

Ultimately, OZO is set to be the first commercially available VR camera that was designed and built specifically for professional content creators. Note that the key phrase here is "professional," as OZO really isn't intended for your everyday user. Rather, the camera is meant to allow professional designers to make their VR creations even better.

To begin, with previous VR cameras, directors had to take all of their digital footage and stitch it together before they could see what they captured. This stitching process could take hours, meaning that the filmmakers wouldn't know if they got a good shot until well after the fact. This made it extremely difficult (and time consuming) to get the desired end result, and if there was a problem with the footage, because the processing took so long, it wasn't always possible to try and get the shot again.

The new OZO virtual reality camera. Photo by Emily Berl

Fortunately, OZO comes with a live monitoring system that, thanks to an accompanying headset, allows directors to view footage as it's being shot. Such real-time monitoring will help directors immediately identify (and correct) issues. On top of this, the camera also comes with a stitchless playback feature. This lets the directors review a low-res playback version of the footage moments after it was taken.

In the official press release, Nokia notes that the processing should only take a few minutes, tops. Consequently, scenes can be corrected much quicker, which makes things easier on current producers and also makes virtual reality more accessible to new directors.

In the end, such advances will likely be invaluable to any news agency that hopes to make virtual reality a part of their real-time reporting. To that end, OZO it will also be invaluable to any viewers who want to experience news events around the globe.

Ben Lang clarifies precisely what OZO does for journalism, "To my left I could see a cameraman holding a traditional camera aimed at a woman who was being interviewed. As I continued to hear the cheers of the crowd around me, a small picture-in-picture window appeared floating out in the scene that showed a 2D close-up of the interviewee from the perspective of the cameraman, showing how it’s possible to mix immersive and traditional video components."

In short, it should allow producers to accomplish things that have never been done before...and they will take us along on the journey.

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