GoPro is getting ready to enter the virtual reality camera market: The action camera company will start shipping its Omni VR camera on August 17. The company is squarely aiming at smaller VR studios and other professionals looking for a ready-made solution that doesn’t require them to reinvent the wheel.
Omni is selling for $5000, and consists of a rig made up of 6 GoPro Hero4 cameras. In the middle of the rig is a small cube that interconnects each of these cameras, allowing VR producers to control the entire rig through just one of the cameras. Start recording on one camera, and all of the others will record as well, in a synchronized fashion. Change the settings on one, and the others will follow suit.
Each of the six cameras included with the Omni rig runs a customized version of GoPro’s software, which also records a bunch of metadata that comes in handy during editing. This doesn’t just include timing information, but also data on where in the rig the camera was placed.
And speaking of editing: Omni ships with a copy of Kolor’s VR stitching software, which GoPro acquired a little over a year ago. The software can be used to automate the stitching process, making it possible to stitch, edit and render a 360-degree video for YouTube or Facebook or even VR headsets within a few minutes.
This isn’t GoPro’s first foray into the VR space. The company previously partnered with Google for the GoPro Odyssey, a 16-camera that’s tightly integrated with Google’s cloud-based JUMP VR platform. However, the Odyssey was a lot more expensive, costing producers a whopping $15,000. For that money, producers got the ability to record stereoscopic VR video, something that can’t easily be done with the Omni.
3D isn’t the only area in which higher-priced models may currently be ahead of the Omni. The camera also doesn’t yet support spacial audio out of the box, so VR producers still need to use an external microphone array to combine their 360-degree video with matching 360-degree sound. But GoPro is aiming for ease-of-use, taking the same approach that has helped it to sell millions of cameras to consumers to the VR space — which may just be what prosumers and professionals on a budget are looking for.