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First official look at GoPro's 'Omni' VR camera rig

Engadget Engadget 7/04/2016 James Trew
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It was almost a year ago we learned that GoPro was planning a spherical camera rig for VR. Back then, that was pretty much all we knew. The announcement came at the same time that CEO Nick Woodman confirmed the rumors his company was working on a drone (that we're still eagerly waiting for). We'd seen some prototypes of the rig before, but it wasn't until February, GoPro gave finally it a name: Omni. Today, for the first time, we get to see what the final product actually looks like (hint, much like the last prototype, but that's it above). And we've got a sample of the sort of image you might expect from it below.

You may remember, this isn't GoPro's first VR-friendly camera tool. A day after we learned about the spherical array, GoPro unveiled Odyssey, a 16-camera rig designed in partnership with Google's Jump VR platform. That beast (once you included all the cameras you needed) cost a budget-melting $15,000 and is only available in limited numbers. Omni, on the other hand, should be a little more accessible, and is an all-GoPro product.

Omni uses six GoPro Black cameras -- a cost of $3,000 if bought separately. That said, pro, or pro-sumer users -- to whom this should appeal most -- are the ones most likely to already have a number of GoPros in their kit bag. If that still sounds expensive, that's the name of the game it seems. Other spherical rigs like Nokia's Ozo at the top end costs a whopping $60,000. Or unproven names like Orah at $3,600. Unlike Odyssey, Omni won't record in 3D, but the company claims that hardware inside the rig will ensure "pixel-level" synchronization between the cameras. It's also designed to work seamlessly with Kolor, the VR-video software company GoPro bought last April. Right now, though, it doesn't look like it'll work with cameras in the waterproof housing, as earlier images suggested.

There are similar 3rd party mounts you can buy right now, of course. These tend to cost a couple of hundred bucks upwards, but you're on your own when it comes to synching the cameras, and stitching the video together. You can even 3D print a basic rig for less than a dollar's worth of filament. Omni is the first all-official spherical offering coming to market from the camera-maker itself though.

GoPro hasn't shared details of the price of the Omni rig just yet. It's possible you'll be able to buy an all-in-one bundle with cables and cameras, or just buy the rig and bring your own. Until we know for sure, the company is showcasing it at NAB (April 16-21) along with a slew of spherical content and "other professional solutions" -- which include its HEROCast wireless transmitter for broadcast.

With Omni out in the wild, there's just one thing left in the GoPro workshop that we haven't yet laid eyes on, and that of course is its Karma drone. Details of that still remain a mystery, though we do know it'll work with existing GoPro cameras, and likely come in a foldable design. It could even work with Omni, but spherical video from up in the sky isn't usually that effective. There's no confirmed date for Karma yet, but if we were pinning the tail on that calendar-donkey, we'd aim it for somewhere just after June 9th.

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