Nokia has just announced a multi-year agreement with Disney, which will see it use its OZO camera to create VR experiences to complement Disney movies.
OZO is a US$60,000 (£40,000/AU$83,000) camera, so it’s a serious piece of VR kit. It can capture 3D 360-degree spatial audio and video using eight synchronised global shutter sensors, each paired with an integrated microphone.
With this type of hardware in the hands of the company behind Star Wars and Marvel content it’s hard not to get excited about the sorts of immersive experiences we might soon be seeing. With that in mind, these are the five things you need to know about Disney’s and Nokia’s VR partnership.
1. You can get a taste of OZO right now
Nokia has already partnered with Disney to create two 360-degree videos for The Jungle Book. One of them takes you onto the red carpet and the other puts you face-to-face with the cast as they’re being interviewed.
Neither of them take you into the jungle itself, but in the future we might see 360-degree and VR content that brings Disney worlds to life. We chatted with Paul Melin, VP of digital media and technology licensing at Nokia, and while he wouldn’t talk specifics he did tell us that "we really expect to see a lot of innovation in how the new medium is used."
2. OZO content is likely to be made for a variety of properties
Melin wouldn’t be drawn on which properties we’ll see OZO VR content for, saying "Disney has many great properties and we look forward to working on several of them but we can’t disclose the next ones right now." So it sounds like there could be a few things in the works.
It might not just be Disney content that we get either. When asked how exclusive the deal with Disney is, he replied, "Our aim is to really enable VR to become a scalable business and we expect to work with many partners in this area."
3. You probably won’t be able to walk around Tatooine any time soon
That’s not to say that we won’t get Star Wars VR content. Nokia wouldn’t confirm one way or another but it would seem an obvious choice. However, whatever content we do get as part of this deal will likely be fairly fixed experiences for the time being, rather than supporting the full body movement potential of the HTC Vive.
Melin told us that "the current commercially deployable video capture solutions do not yet support that but we are absolutely working with the industry to create even richer VR video experiences."
So it sounds like this isn’t being ruled out in future. The technology just isn’t there yet, which might be for the best, because if we could roam the Star Wars universe in VR we might never take our headsets off.
4. Disney’s VR content is likely to be available on a wide range of headsets
Whatever your VR headset of choice you’re likely to be able to enjoy Disney’s VR content. Nokia’s software development kit for OZO supports multiple platforms and content could be made to work on everything from low-end platforms like Google Cardboard all the way up to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Melin explained that OZO "enables you to shoot 360-degree content in stereo but you can also create monoscopic 360-degree video from the same content…
"That enables distribution like with The Jungle Book which is also on Facebook 360 which as such is not VR but very immersive, so we expect that this type of experience will be distributed on all platforms, starting with YouTube and Facebook 360 and ending up with high-end VR platforms."
5. In future we could see full films in VR
Right now VR video in Hollywood is largely limited to companion content and that’s what we’re expecting to see made with OZO too for the time being, but one day we could see full films in VR.
Melin told us that "not specific to this announcement but more generally we’re seeing enormous interest from all the studios in Hollywood, so we absolutely expect that there will be a lot of experimentation and work going into new experiences.
"At what point those become primary content remains to be seen but certainly we’re seeing that many studios are working on companion content for their major releases."
We wouldn’t expect to see true VR cinema for a while and given the inherently antisocial nature of donning a VR headset it might never fully replace standard films. But for the sheer level of immersion it could offer it’s an exciting thought.