During its recent 1Q 2015 earnings call, GoPro announced the acquisition of Kolor, a company based in the French Alps that specializes in image and video stitching software. Kolor’s software creates spherical 360-degree panoramic shots or virtual tours that can be viewed on the web, a mobile device, or a virtual reality (VR) platform. GoPro’s aim is to integrate Kolor’s software solutions into its own software platform, making it easy to create immersive panoramic and spherical content that is captured with GoPro cameras.
On the call, GoPro’s CEO Nick Woodman emphasized the VR capabilities that GoPro could bring to the table. This is not just about adding spherical content, but it’s also a move that could help GoPro lead in creating wearable camera solutions that capture and create content for VR platforms. A lot of the spherical content today is being captured on 3D printed rigs that can hold multiple GoPro cameras.
GoPro could expand its hardware portfolio beyond the Hero device and create specific hardware for capturing 360 spherical content. The fact that GoPro is building its own drone suggests that the company is already thinking along those lines. With Nick Woodman getting interested in VR, and with the Kolor technology embedded into GoPro’s software platform, drones are a great way to create immersive content.
However, this could go beyond drones, with GoPro creating the ultimate 360 degree spherical camera that can be worn on the body. Samsung is already working on its own spherical camera as a part of Project Beyond, which complements the Samsung Gear VR, allowing for content creation as well as content consumption. It is too early to tell if this will be portable or wearable, although the prototype shown by Samsung was on a tripod. Target applications could include Hollywood, advertising, tourism, and concerts teleporting users into the actual place or event.
Tractica’s latest report on wearable cameras suggests that live streaming content will be an important part of any wearable camera maker’s strategy. Combining live streaming with VR could become a killer use case, allowing people to remotely immerse themselves into live events.
GoPro’s Kolor acquisition shows that the company is serious about moving beyond HD cameras, and is looking into the future by enabling VR content capture. GoPro is unlikely to stop at simply integrating Kolor’s software capabilities, and will probably extend those capabilities to integrate with specialized hardware that enables 360 VR content capture.