At a live launch event on Thursday, GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) gave investors plenty to think about by officially introducing its new flagship Hero 6 and Fusion 360 spherical cameras. But while the majority of GoPro's time was spent touting the merits of these new high-end devices, the company also gave some much-needed love to another one of its existing popular products: The GoPro Karma drone.
GoPro didn't launch a new Karma drone, however. Instead, it released a free firmware upgrade today to give both new and existing Karma users access to a handful of compelling new features including Follow and Watch modes, an expanded Cable-Cam path, and a "Look Up" camera tilt capability.
One big promise down...
Arguably most important among those new features are the Follow and Watch modes, the absence of which many users lamented when Karma was initially introduced late last year. To be fair, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman promised at the time that they were working on it. But he also explained that the "follow-me" functionality implemented by competing drones simply wasn't good enough, so GoPro opted to take its time to engineer a user experience that lived up to "the versatility, the portability, and just the outright convenience of Karma."
The Watch and Follow modes seem simple enough. Just like they sound, the new settings will use GPS to allow the Karma drone either automatically follow the Karma Controller and continuously frame the user in the shot, or to watch the controller while hovering in place.
GoPro also took its Cable-Cam mode several steps further. Previously, the cable-cam path would allow the user to choose two "waypoints" in space between which Karma would fly in a straight line -- a handy mode for capturing relatively simple scenes. Now, however, Karma users can pick up to 10 waypoints to set up significantly more complex shots.
As for the "Look Up" tilt mode, which will let the camera tilt upward to look above the horizon -- well, why not? I'm sure most users will appreciate a wider potential viewing range for their GoPro cameras mounted to the drone.
And again, GoPro Karma owners can unlock all these new features by performing an easy firmware update on their drone.
...and one more to go
Nonetheless, some users will inevitably point out that Karma still doesn't have object avoidance capabilities -- an omission that's unlikely to be addressed through a future firmware update given the proximity sensors required for such functionality.
But we can also recall that Woodman effectively grouped object avoidance in the same "we're working on it" basket as its Follow feature. In fact, he alluded that object avoidance would arrive in a future iteration of the Karma drone following some fine-tuning from GoPro's engineers.
"I think you'll see some stuff coming out of GoPro in future products that'll be pretty incredible," Woodman teased. "We have full teams that work on collision avoidance."
That's also not to say that Karma has struggled to sell to date. According to NPD data last quarter, Karma had already risen through the ranks to become the No. 2-selling drone brand in the United States.
So assuming all goes as planned as current Karma owners install their new firmware, the Follow and Watch features alone should go a long way toward not only sustaining that momentum, but also appeasing a large number of the remaining drone-centric criticisms that were previously hurled GoPro's way.