Travel Tech

The Digital Tourism Think Tank has reported several times on the coming influence of virtual reality technology. Central to this emerging technology has been its application within the field of video games. With Facebook involved in the Oculus Rift project, Microsoft developing its Hololens device, and Sony fully committed to its own proprietary Project Morpheus headset, it is expected that mainstream virtual reality technology usable within a home environment will emerge in the next 18 months.

Nokia Launches VR Camera

In order to address this development, other major corporations and technology companies are also following suit. One such recent example of this is Nokia, with the company associated with mobile and camera technology having just revealed a new device. The OZO is aimed at filmmakers who wish to dabble in virtual reality videos.

There is nothing particularly new in this concept, as other camera manufacturers have previously released virtual reality devices. Both GoPro and the huge Korean corporation Samsung have unveiled cameras in the last few months that are capable of shooting virtual reality footage. But the OZO differs in design from either of the cameras released by these two companies in that it is shaped like a spherical ball-like device with shutters featuring prominently.

This contrast with the devices from GoPro and Samsung which are based on a flattened circle with cameras. The Nokia OZO features eight shutter sensors in total, that are collectively tasked with capturing 360-degree videos. This is the sort of footage that is already being utilised by travel companies in a wide range of promotional and marketing activities.

In addition to the camera quotient, the OZO is also notable due to its eight integrated microphones. This ensures that the device is able to both capture excellent footage and outstanding sound quality as well. The general perception of virtual reality is still mired in the early and rather limited footage that people have experienced. But the reality is that it is already possible to deliver incredibly absorbing experiences, and this will develop still further as commercial technology becomes available and both hardware and software companies continue to develop its potential.

Real-Time Virtual Reality

Another interesting aspect of the OZO device is its ability to show users what the camera is shooting in real time through a virtual reality headset. This is a pretty spectacular innovation that will enable virtual reality shooting to become considerably more accurate. When one considers the convenience associated with digital cameras, and the fact that we expect to be able to see images instantly, it is clear that shooting virtual reality effectively in real-time will be a massive improvement over existing tech.

The OZO also has the ability to produce low-resolution versions of footage that has been shot within just a few minutes. This was previously unthinkable for commercial products, owing to the processing involved. Typically, virtual reality footage had to be stitched together during processing before it was possible to view any results. Naturally this was rather time consuming, so this is a another major innovation from Nokia that could have a massive impact over the entire virtual reality industry.

Although the term ‘low-resolution’ might produce alarm bells in some quarters, it is important to emphasise that the OZO also has the ability to produce high-resolution virtual reality footage as well. Nokia has been keen to emphasise that the camera will be fully compatible with forthcoming technology such as Oculus Rift. With three major corporations all developing virtual reality devices, there will be something of a space race in the virtual reality niche, and it will be interesting to see which one of the competing devices gains early prominence.

With this in mind, producers of major virtual reality technology are already attempting to acquire endorsements and commercial deals with key cinematic companies. Thus, Nokia will be delighted that the OZO has already secured the support of Jaunt Inc., despite the fact that the studio apparently already possesses a more traditional virtual reality camera.

OZO to Go Live in 2015

In terms of commercial availability, Nokia has kept quiet on this subject, seemingly attempting to create as much buzz around the device as possible before announcing its release. Similarly, the Finnish corporation has declined to reveal the full specifications of the device, nor have they given any indication of its ultimate pricing. What can be said with some confidence is that the analyst community expects it to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2015.

By that time, we should have a much better idea regarding which of the major virtual reality devices are currently in development and ready for markets. There had been rumours that each of Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus would emerge before the end of 2015, but this looks increasingly unlikely as the development teams involved with them continue to test and refine their capabilities.

But a future in which travel-related companies and destinations can deliver spectacular content via virtual reality is certainly looming on the horizon. The announcement and ultimate release of the Nokia OZO will certainly play a part in this process.

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