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GoPro's Next Adventure: Virtual Reality, Drones

Coming soon, 360-degree videos of surfing pigs.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

With a lion’s share of the video camera market locked up, GoPro is turning to its next chapter: Virtual reality and drones.

GoPro CEO Nick Woodman joined Recode’s Kara Swisher on Wednesday at the Code Conference to talk about the company’s foray into the new categories, and introduced a couple of future products.

The first is the Six-Camera Spherical Array. The ball-shaped accessory mount can accommodate six Hero4 cameras positioned in different directions to capture high-resolution images and video for virtual reality. The recorded video and pictures can then be stitched together using Kolor, the virtual reality software company GoPro acquired in April, to create one unified 6K spherical image.

The resulting video can be viewed on VR headsets like Oculus, Google Cardboard and Microsoft HoloLens. It can also be viewed on your smartphone or PC using the Kolor app or YouTube 360. If viewing on a mobile device, you can physically turn around to look in any direction — up, down, left, right. On your computer’s browser, you can use your cursor to get different views. Here’s an example video GoPro shot for the Code Conference.

Woodman said GoPro has been experimenting with VR for some time, but watching companies like Facebook/Oculus, Google and Microsoft also invest in the space was validation that VR has a future as a platform. So the company decided it was time to bring something to the market.

He admits that the Six-Camera Spherical Array probably won’t have mass adoption at first; instead, attracting professionals and prosumers who probably already have multiple GoPro cameras and more knowledge about video editing. For consumers, Woodman says the VR solutions will need to simpler and more affordable, but the six-camera rig can serve as a proof point to show what consumers can do with spherical video.

“It’s an exciting first step for VR,” Woodman said in a phone interview before Code.

GoPro did not announce pricing for the Six-Camera Spherical Array today, but it will be available in the second half of the year.

Woodman also revealed the company is working on a quadcopter — or drone, as they’re more commonly known. He declined to share any details about its design and pricing, but it’s slated to launch in the first half of 2016 and will be aimed at consumers.

“It’s incredible to see our world from new perspectives. It’s a real ‘Oh my God’ moment,” said Woodman. “We did that with our GoPro cameras, and we see a similar opportunity in the quadcopter market. It’s something that’s in our DNA, and we are excited about it across the company.”

Though it’s working on its own hardware, GoPro plans to continue working with other drone manufacturers to provide cameras and software solutions for aerial video and photography.

“We recognize that consumers want choice,” said Woodman. “Our primary focus is enabling great content, and however they want to do that, we’re excited to be part of that.”

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