Tech companies are tripping over themselves to build out their virtual reality products, battling to be the platform of choice for consumers. Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Daydream, Facebook's (NASDAQ: FB) Oculus, and Sony's Playstation VR are the leaders in high-tech virtual reality, positioned primarily for gaming. But there's another VR market that's developing right under our noses as well. GoPro (GPRO 3.87%) has quietly been building a suite of products that are bringing virtual reality to the devices we already own. No need for an expensive headset or a game console to view content from GoPro; all you need is your phone.
The recent release of professional snowboarder Travis Rice's The Fourth Phase movie may be the best example of how virtual reality could change how we experience content. GoPro has launched a four-part series with footage from The Fourth Phase on its YouTube channel. "Feel what it's like to ride in a helicopter and snowboard with ... Travis Rice, as captured in this GoPro Omni VR experience," the company entices. "This exclusive series, 'GoPro Perspectives: The Fourth Phase with Travis Rice,' will reveal what it’s like to be Travis as he drops into some of the world’s biggest lines."
Extreme sports will show how amazing this content can be for millions of viewers. And GoPro hopes that will translate to more sales and video uploads in the future.
The video that shows the future
Virtual reality (or 360 video) has been slow to launch, partly because the content capture devices and distribution platforms are just now starting to emerge. GoPro's six-camera Omni capture system -- along with software called Stitch, acquired when it bought Kolor -- has been an early leader in the space.
Watch the Omni video on GoPro's Facebook page of Travis Rice snowboarding down a mountain or video from the top of a motocross car and you'll experience extreme sports like never before. It's an immersive video of action sports that's like nothing that's been captured before, available by simply launching Facebook or the GoPro VR app on your phone. And people are starting to see the content, which could lead to more sales for GoPro.
Travis Rice's VR video taken with GoPro's Omni had been viewed 1.9 million times on Facebook in the first four days it was available on GoPro's page. And GoPro's VR app is starting to generate hundreds of thousands of views for videos put online under GoPro's platform. Exposure to this incredible content should mean sales for GoPro's VR products.
Will VR become big business for GoPro?
More and more people are starting to see what GoPro can do in VR, and The Fourth Phase really showcases those capabilities. What we don't know is how big the market potential is for the suite of VR products at GoPro. The Omni is still out of reach for most consumers at $4,999.99 -- which includes the software, the camera-holding rig, and six HERO4 Black cameras -- and the distribution platforms aren't very mature yet.
What investors should like is the upside potential GoPro has if VR does become a bigger business. Nearly 2 million views in four days is a good sign that action sports is bringing eyeballs, and enthusiasts wanting to capture VR video may flock to GoPro like they do for cameras. If they do, GoPro appears to be ahead of competitors in building the tools and software needed to make VR for the masses.