Nokia has announced that it will cancel the development of the Ozo virtual reality camera, cutting a third of its Nokia Technologies division in the process. This marks its official movement outside of the virtual reality business, which it blames on the “slower-than-expected development” of the Virtual Reality market.
The move will cause the loss of 310 jobs in Finland, the United Kingdom, and the United States
Their focus instead will be on digital healthcare and patent licensing.
The Nokia Ozo looked to be a very impressive piece of equipment, used by a number of major production companies which included Disney. The camera rig, a handheld disco ball-like design with eight cameras could livestream footage at 4K resolution per eye and eight cameras to capture 360 video and locational sound. Because of its quality and portability it meant riskier and more daring shoots were possible.
The catch? It debuted at $60,000, which made it a very expensive option even in high end VR filmmaking. While the price did go down, first to $45,000 and later to $25,000 for the updated Ozo+. The take up was limited by that price, with several 4K 360 VR cameras available for a tenth of that price, and feature film companies more likely to use a custom set up. Some production houses also complained about quality issues, with the 500GB internal memory running out in under an hour, with huge file sizes that despite the quality, had serious difficulties rendering night shoots, with highlights and shadows looking particularly underpar. Processing the video, 1.5Gb a second’s worth was a huge task, taking as long a ten hours a minute
That said, the simplicity, design and all in one nature did get some users, most notably Disney, who took some VR behind the scenes footage for its live action version of The Jungle Book. Other specialist VR companies such as AlchemyVR praised its simplicity and small size. The follow up Ozo+ in April also promised to fix the issues early adopters faced, but looks to be the last we will see of Nokia’s Ozo line.
Nokia have promised to fulfil all commitments
A Tad Premature?
The Ozo in total was around for a little over two years, which is a fairly short commercial life, and leads to questions about whether it pulled out of the VR market too early, especially given the Ozo+ was only announced in April this year. It may have been worth giving it a few more months, unless the plan is to heavily downsize the company
Naturally this will cause some jitters in the VR market, which is currently making steady progress back up after the highs of the end of 2016. Moving through the “trough of disappointment” has led to some tension between investors and the VR market, and led to some aggressive price cuts and shifts in focus.
That being said, leaving the market now before the release of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality Headset line, which cuts the price and system requirements of tethered VR significantly, and especially leaving before the release of Google’s Daydream standalone VR headsets, which removes the complexity of setting up the system entirely, seems more than a little premature. Like if Nokia left the mobile phone market when they were still the size of a house brick with a telescopic aerial.
Virtual Reality, despite some grim projections has evolved and the amount of content available is rather large. The issues with the VR market right now, that of compatibility, convenience and cost, have solutions coming around the corner.
Virtual Reality’s explosion in success and take up is just around the corner, and Nokia would have been best served waiting another 6 months before throwing in the towel.