Virtual reality is more accessible than ever with devices like Gear VR and Daydream that can plug into your smartphone. However, there’s dearth of worthwhile VR video content out there. Google is trying to fix that with its Jump video platform. Today, the company has announced a new and improved VR video rig called the Yi Halo. It can film multiple 4K video streams simultaneously, then feed it all into Google’s special video processor to create a VR experience.
Google announced Jump in 2015 along with a virtual reality camera rig called Odyssey, which was powered by 16 GoPro cameras. It was a bit more DIY in that the $15,000 bundle included a counting bracket and 16 HERO4 cameras to plug in. The Yi Halo, on the other hand, is its own product. Yi Technology designed the rig to be simpler to use and more compact than the Odyssey (it weighs under 8 pounds).
The Yi Halo has 17 cameras, each one capably of filming in 4K resolution. Importantly, 16 of them are spaced equidistant around the outside of the rig. Then, there’s one in the middle of the array pointed upward. Anyone who has viewed VR video knows there is often a missing blob directly above the viewer if you look up. The Yi Halo avoids that with the extra camera. It even comes with two backup cameras in case you break one.
These units appear to be closely related to Yi’s standard 4K action camera, but the housing and power supply are different. They plug into the rig vertically and there’s just a single main battery pack. That means you don’t have to worry about connector brackets or batteries for individual cameras. It’s good for up to 100 minutes of 360-degree video recording.
There is a touch-screen control panel on the Yi Halo itself, but there’s also an Android app. It allows for remote control of the rig, as well as preview of the video it captures. To produce a VR video, the footage has to be uploaded to Google’s cloud, where computer vision tech is used to merge all the individual feeds into one video.
Yi Technology has not announced a price for the Halo, but it’ll probably be expensive. Even if it’s somewhat cheaper than the Odyssey, that bundle was still $15,000. Google says it’ll be giving away Yi Halos and unlimited access to the Jump Assembler to 100 creators who apply to the “Jump Start” program by May 22nd. Everyone else can buy the Yi Halo later this summer.