Virtual reality has been a hot topic of conversation in tech in 2016, with Facebook and Google planning and deploying different technologies into the market. Still, VR hasn't become something most consumers know about or have access to. And even the biggest companies have somewhat rudimentary VR offerings, like Google Cardboard.
One company to keep an eye on in this space is GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO), the camera maker. It has built a camera system, software, and app that could make it a leader in virtual reality.
GoPro VR is here
We've known about GoPro's 6-camera Omni array for a while, and the acquisition of Kolor last year gave it the software to stitch the six camera images together. GoPro has also put some spherical content on Facebook, showing off the social media platform's capabilities.
But the GoPro VR app goes beyond using third-party platforms like Facebook or Google and allows content creators to use a GoPro controlled platform to upload, play, and share videos. And all you need is your smartphone to enter the immersive world of 3D video.
The app itself, or the platform, may not be the biggest value to GoPro, in part because I don't think it wants to wall itself off from Facebook, Google, or any other VR platforms that are being developed. The value is in having the camera and editing software that will go into making VR videos. If Omni can become as ubiquitous in capturing VR content as the GoPro was in action sports, it'll be a huge win. And a 360-degree camera isn't coming to your smartphone anytime soon.
The revenue potential is incredible as well. An Omni system costs $5,000, so GoPro doesn't have to sell Omni systems by the millions to make a big impact on revenue.
Could live TV be next?
Omni is good product today, but it's really the potential for 360-degree cameras that investors should be excited about. GoPro has been on the leading edge of bringing immersive action sports content to TV for years. From the X-Games to Red Bull events, GoPro is the go-to device. And that may bode well for the next generation of action sports content.
Imagine streaming virtual reality video from the middle of an NFL huddle or the middle of a hockey rink. Get the angles or watch the players you want to focus on, all while sitting in the comfort of your own home. That may be on the horizon from GoPro.
This may be the growth platform GoPro needs
What GoPro has done with its cameras is make it possible to capture images that once seemed impossible. Underwater, on a helmet, or skydiving weren't places we would think to carry a camcorder or traditional camera. Some of that novelty was lost when cameras started appearing on everyone's phones, but 360-degree video could be the next generation of GoPro bringing consumers images from a unique perspective.
This unique capability could be augmented by the upcoming Karma drone as well. The possibilities are almost endless with a drone and an Omni system onboard.
If GoPro gets these new products right and makes them accessible to the masses, it could create its next growth platform. And the steps GoPro has taken already have shown that it's serious about getting the technology right.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Travis Hoium owns shares of GoPro. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (C shares), Facebook, and GoPro. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.