Nokia announced that they would be discontinuing the Nokia OZO, their 3D 360 camera, and will be focusing on digital health technologies. What does this mean for the 360 and VR industry?
Nokia OZO is a professional all-in-one camera with eight lenses and could capture 3D 360 video in 4K resolution with spatial audio. It was originally released at $60,000 but was eventually discounted to $40,000, and is now being offered for $25,000. It had been one of the most widely used and visible professional 360 cameras, used for example by NBC to livestream Conan O’Brien’s 360 show. However, it appears that Nokia has decided to focus its efforts on other opportunities, and may lay off up to 310 of its 1,090 employees.
VR’s slow adoption. While Nokia’s announcement focused on the health care opportunities that they are now pursuing, it does underscore VR’s slow adoption. Two years ago, many people in the VR industry assumed that it would quickly become mainstream because the technology is so mind-blowing. If VR headsets had been widely used, no doubt Nokia would have continued selling the Ozo.
However, VR headsets haven’t become a mass market product yet for several reasons. Two of the biggest ones are lack of content, and the cost of a VR headset (and the requirements for a PC to run them). Those factors are in turn partly due to the relatively small size of the VR market, creating a chicken-or-egg problem.
I myself love VR (I have the Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, and I used to have the HTC Vive) but I’m not expecting it to have massive adoption anytime soon. I’ve been shooting 3D since 2013, and my personal speculation is that some people are neurologically wired to be excited about immersive technologies but majority of people are ultimately apathetic about it (regardless of whether they are impressed by it).
I do think VR will eventually become mainstream but the growth will begin from industrial and commercial uses. For certain applications, VR is the ideal medium, such as when architects use VR to design buildings and present them to clients.
Relationship to 360. 360 and VR are not the same thing but they are related. To me, the 360 industry has everything to gain from VR’s success but is not at all dependent on it. 360 has been around far longer than VR, and is useful whether or not people use VR headsets. For example, Street View is already mainstream and people depend on it, regardless of what they feel about using 360 photos or videos to capture their personal memories. So without thinking about it, they’ve already become reliant on 360. Because of the industrial and commercial uses of 360, it will always be there and its use will only continue to increase.
Insta360 Pro and Z Cam S1 could take over Nokia OZO’s market share. Meanwhile, what about the vacuum left by OZO? There are many professional 360 cameras, but the two that I believe would stand to benefit most directly are Insta360 Pro and Z Cam S1. Both cameras offer very good image quality at reasonable cost, are much easier to handle than many other 360 cameras, and both are able to live stream. Proof that they could take over Nokia’s share is the coverage of the recent eclipse in the US, where several companies chose the Insta360 Pro or Z Cam S1.
Between the Insta360 Pro and Z Cam S1, the Insta360 Pro has the advantage of having 3D capture capability but I have doubts about whether that will be a significant factor (again because of the slow adoption of VR). And while Insta360 Pro has a much easier and convenient workflow, that won’t be as important as image quality for previous OZO users. We’ll have to see whether one of them becomes the standard in the broadcast industry, or perhaps both of them might thrive equally.
Trickle down effect. Nokia had no 360 products for consumers but Insta360 and Z Cam do. Z Cam is creating a VR180 camera called the 3D180. Insta360 of course has a whole line of 360 cameras for consumers, and in fact I would say the Insta360 Pro itself can be used by prosumers, not just professionals, because of its incredibly easy workflow. To the extent that Insta360 or Z Cam have increased sales or visibility, there could be a trickle down benefit to consumers, so I would say that’s the silver lining to Nokia’s announcement.