OZO emerges from blaze as Imeve; Leap Motion throws headset curve ball

In October 2017, Nokia hung up its OZO virtual reality boots, instead chasing down software defined infrastructure and systems integration markets. Unbeknown to many, Nokia’s failed VR venture was quietly reborn in January this year as a start-up called Imeve – which is showcasing the resurrection of OZO for the first time at NAB.

Just to be clear, Imeve is purely in the software business, picking up what OZO left behind and rebranding as a start-up – where the media spotlight is less blinding. What will come of the hardware corpse of OZO is still a mystery, although a line reading “additional cameras coming soon” on the Imeve website gives us a clue – on the assumption Imeve software continues to operate exclusively with OZO camera compatibility.

Clearly there are a wealth of broadcasters and content creators out there relying on OZO cameras for VR and AR production who cannot afford for the OZO software to wither away, with each camera costing as much as $40,000. Therefore, the team behind Nokia’s original OZO live broadcast software have founded Imeve to continue the legacy which had initially injected much hope into the VR market.

Imeve must learn from Nokia’s mistakes by expanding its VR software compatibility to cheaper hardware from third parties – reaching budding content creators globally with much lower budgets than the major studios. Although Nokia did boast some prized names on its OZO customer list including Disney, UEFA and Sony Pictures.

Imeve came out with the first revamped version of OZO software at the end of February in the form of Imeve Live 2.1. This week, Imeve is demoing its Live 2.2 software at NAB, including live 360-degree stitching and image processing at up to 6K at 30fps, or stereoscopic dual 4K at 60fps. The Imeve Live 2.2 product spec states live preview to multiple local headsets by direct connection or WiFi and claims to be the only live 360 system with built-in spatial audio mixing.

“With support for Z Cam and radial-geometry rigs, WebXR-based overlay capability, plus live spatial audio mixing and 6K encoded output, we’re bringing capabilities that will enable live VR production teams to create amazing new live content, driving further adoption of VR for both entertainment and enterprise,” said Imeve CEO and co-founder Devon Copley.

Without using the software, it’s difficult to play spot the difference between Imeve Live and the Nokia-branded product line, which comprised OZO+, OZO Live 3D 360, OZO Creator, OZO Deliver and OZO Player SDK, which have been integrated by a number of vendor partners to provide a single interface for all major VR and 360 video platforms and apps.

What seems to have happened is Imeve has bundled Nokia’s OZO Deliver, Player and Audio technologies into one offering, while other OZO products have been dropped, although we have reached out to the company for confirmation of this.

Imeve’s debut NAB demo involves collaboration with the VR Industry Forum, which Imeve signed up for a month ago – promoting partnerships between VR and AR companies.

Vendors we reached out to expressed confusion about their OZO Player and OZO Reality platform integrations when Nokia announced it was dropping OZO, although a handful of these vendors are also members of the VR Industry Forum, so we expect some future partnerships and we also assume Imeve is maintaining what is left of the OZO deployments.

The OZO integration initiative attracted Akamai, AWS Elemental, Accedo, Harmonic, NeuLion, Youku, 3stage Design, Haivision, Ideal Systems, Kaltura, LiveLike, Nibiru, Primestream, Ratio, Qello, and China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC). While the VR Industry Forum includes Qualcomm, Ericsson, Huawei, Sky, Verizon, Akamai, Arris, Harmonic, Viaccess-Orca, Technicolor and, interestingly, Nokia.

Imeve Live costs $990 a quarter or $2,990 for an annual subscription.

Nokia dreamed of dominating the VR studio production market with its high-end products before the mainstream consumer demand was there to match, which will remain a waiting game until the price points of VR headsets come down dramatically.

A company called Leap Motion is aiming to achieve this by bringing augmented reality headsets to the masses claiming to cost just $100 and will be releasing the hardware and software specs next week under an open source licensing agreement. The announcement, as reported by The Verge and coined Project North Star, could open the floodgates for the AR market and inspire a similar situation for its sister VR.

“We hope that these designs will inspire a new generation of experimental AR systems that will shift the conversation from what an AR system should look like, to what an AR experience should feel like,” said a statement from Leap Motion.

The Project North Star headset will include a Leap Motion hand tracking sensor and two 3.5-inch 1,600 x 1,440 LCD displays – claiming to provide a larger field of view than most AR headsets or goggles on the market today. Despite what could be a disruptive move, Leap Motion insists it is not a headset company and prefers to identify as an AR software business.