Vesa Rantanen is staring straight into my eyes. He heads up research and development at Nokia Technologies, and while holding my gaze, he’s telling me the story of how his team ended up in the VR business. But I’m having a hard time paying attention. While he’s talking to me, others are gathering around. They’re weirdly looking at me. I can hear them whispering on my left, so I turn to take a quick peek. When I do, I see myself in the distance, wearing a Gear VR. I wave, and the me I’m looking at waves at the same time.
In fact, Rantanen isn’t staring into my eyes at all. He’s looking into the lens array on the Ozo, Nokia’s spherical virtual reality camera. Microphones on the Ozo are picking up his speech, and the whispers of those around him. Through my VR headset and headphones, I can see and hear whatever the Ozo is seeing an hearing nearly as effectively as if it were my own eyes and ears.
It’s not the first time I’ve tried a VR a headset, but it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced something like this. Instead of diving into 3D computer-generated simulation of a pre-prepared world, Nokia’s next-gen spherical camera is actually teleporting me across the room in real time. But that distance of just a few feet could easily be hundreds of miles. That possibility in particular speaks to Nokia’s plan.