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Giroptic closes its doors; what it means for the 360 camera industry

 

Giroptic iO Android discount code
Giroptic iO – one of the cameras produced by Giroptic

Giroptic, one of the pioneers in the 360 camera industry, announced that they are closing today.  Here is my analysis on the reasons for their closure, and what it means for the 360 camera industry.

Giroptic has been in the 360 camera industry since 2008 and they created several 360 cameras, and more importantly, paved the way for YouTube to add 360 video support in 2015.

Their announcement took me by surprise. As recently as January, I met with CEO Richard Ollier and Chief Product Officer Matthieu Grosselin, and they were moving forward with their 3D 6DOF software. They also showed me a prototype of a new camera that they were releasing this year, which would have 4K resolution.

CES 2018: Giroptic news
I met with CEO Richard Ollier and Chief Product Officer Matthieu Grosselin in January

What does Giroptic’s closure mean for the 360 industry?

I think the problem for Giroptic was that the market was moving too fast for them. I have been a photographer since 2007 and I can assure you that the pace of rapid development in the 360 camera industry is far beyond anything I have seen in the interchangeable lens (DSLR and mirrorless) industry (which I covered on my other blog from 2009 to 2016).

In the DSLR industry, we see a new version of a camera around every 2 years. For example, the Sony NEX-6 was released in 2012, followed by the Sony a6000 in 2014, and its successors the a6300 and a6500, were released in 2016.  In the 360 camera industry, we are seeing new versions every year, sometimes even faster.

Moreover, for DSLRs, the change in the successor is usually incremental, whereas in the 360 industry, the change between even one version is usually huge – something we normally see every four years in the DSLR industry.  For example Insta360 Nano has a 3K resolution, whereas the Insta360 Nano S has a 4K resolution — approximately 60% higher resolution.   The pace in the 360 industry is therefore approximately 4 times as fast.  We are seeing 360 cameras double in resolution every year. In 2016, we saw 4K 360 cameras for consumers (starting with the Samsung Gear 360). In 2017, we saw 6K consumer 360 cameras (beginning with the Garmin Virb 360). In 2018, we will see 8K consumer 360 cameras (Kodak has already announced one).

This insanely fast pace is good in some ways but not so healthy in others. The good thing is of course that we see dramatic improvements in a very short time period.  But there are downsides: consumers who buy a camera feel that their cameras become obsolete quickly, so some of them wait instead of buying.  For manufacturers (including both cameras and accessories), the product cycle is so short that there is not enough time to recover their investment.  Yet the industry keeps moving forward at a brutal speed. I don’t know if this pace is sustainable.

While I’m a bit worried about how fast the industry is moving, I’m actually more bullish about 360 now more than ever, because there are now 360 cameras that are good enough to serve as general purpose cameras for consumers. I can comfortably say that some 360 cameras are now practical alternatives to action cameras and smartphones.  360 cameras have “arrived.”

The challenge is that we reached this point so quickly that most consumers haven’t realized it yet. Which is why many of my recent videos have been focusing on educating people about the practical benefits of 360 cameras.

So, in summary, the future for the 360 camera industry remains bright. And it is thanks to companies such as Giroptic that we have reached this point so quickly. Thank you very much Richard, and the rest of the Giroptic team! You can read about Giroptic’s achievements over the years on Giroptic.com.

About the author

Mic Ty

25 Comments

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  • Any clue what this might mean for current users of their cameras? Will the required software still be hosted on the iTunes store (just not have any updates in the future)?

    • Hi Ryan. I’m not sure but yes that’s what i’m expecting. better make sure not to delete the app. The app will eventually disappear from the itunes and google play store.
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • This is a bummer and I think your assessment is spot on.

    This has become a bit of a bubble but instead of popping, it’ll only weed out the slower companies. Unfortunately, it’s the slower companies that are making the most innovations, Giroptic being among those.

    Thank you Giroptic! It’s sad to see you go but you essentially opened the market.

    Any idea about what happens to their patents (if any)?

    • Hi Scott. I think it’s not exactly a bubble. A bubble to me is when the growth is unjustified, as for example when bitcoin prices increased beyond what could be explained rationally. The 360 camera developments are real improvements — it’s just that it’s moving at a pace beyond what I think is economically justifiable. But in the end it’s all because all the companies want to take over the market, so it’s driven by competition as opposed to mere hype.
      Re patents, I’m sure they will sell them. I wonder who will buy? Ricoh? Insta360? Spun off into a new company? I don’t know…
      Best regards,
      Mic

      • Maybe we can agree that there is a bubble but it’s too many manufacturers and cameras instead of non-tangibles like Bitcoin?

        As for patents and assets, my vote is for a new company. I think we’ll see the camera you saw just under a different brand.

        • Hi Scott. Yes there are definitely too many manufacturers and cameras right now. It would be nice if they could form alliances with each other and work jointly to produce better cameras.

          As for whether there will be a new company, I think that’s possible for the 6DOF. For the 4K camera, I kind of wish that they don’t, because it will be at least one year too late. I hope that if they do push forward with it, that they aim for 5K or 6K instead.

          best regards,
          Mic

  • They got me my second 360 solution with the 360cam in 2014/2016 after the GoPano in 2011 and were definitely innovators, but the problems with the 360cam production that took way too long killed their reputation. I feel sad for their staff and wish them all the best. After all, they got one thing right besides innovation: they were listening to their customers.

    • Yes I remember I wanted to get the 360cam, but didn’t back the project. By the time it came out, it was already surpassed by lower cost products. Thank you very much Sascha!
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • I don’t think the market is moving too fast and I don’t fully agree with your comparison with regular camera development of recent years.

    The big difference between 360 cameras and regular ones is that it’s only recently that they have been able to produce decent resolution using a relatively small number of lenses. So the race for “better” 360 cameras really boils down to trying to reach a point where a fairly simple affordable camera can produce an image of decent quality.

    When you compare a regular camera with a 360 camera you forget to factor-in the built-in problem whereby 360 cameras cover an immensely wider FOV than a regular one. Therefore the same amount of the pixels must be spread out over a much wider surface. Thus the need to constantly increase sensor resolution.

    The overwhelming majority of normal camera users are quite satisfied with 1080p video and 8mp stills because they are getting a sharp image. However, when the same resolution is spread out over 360 degrees, the results are far less impressive. You could compare this to the early days of digital photography when sensors used were 0.5 Mp and manufacturers were racing to produce better and better sensors.

    Unfortunately, the 360 race for higher resolution creates another problem as was discussed elsewhere: most phones and headsets of today are not capable of playing 6K and 8K clips. Therefore, consumers have to weigh this factor in. Even if they wait for the higher resolution camera, they will also need to get the phone that can play those clips and may have some trouble sharing them for a good while…

    Another problem is that the market may already be over-saturated. In spite of 360 attracting a fair number of people, it still remains a very niche market – just like 3D. Most people on the street aren’t even aware that such a thing exists even though 360 systems have existed since at least the 1950’s.

    I also don’t quite agree that 360 cameras are viable as regular general purpose cameras. The truth is that most people want to take pictures of specific things and don’t want the entire scene to be recorded each time they take a picture. That’s a lot of wasted pixels if the entire scene is not as equally interesting as the main subject. Thus, I don’t see the general public adopting a 360 camera as an all around one.

    One thing for sure, small or slow companies are not likely to survive.

    • Hi Francois. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      I agree consumers are satisfied with 1080p video, and I would say they are satisfied with photos with even less resolution. Here’s the key: because 1080p for them is OK then a 360 camera that provides similar level of detail is also satisfactory. Which leads me to my next point about 360 cameras as general purpose cameras … All I will say is please watch my next video 😀

      Best regards,
      Mic

      • I don’t quite get your reasoning in regards the choice of a 360 camera by an average consumer since most don’t care to shoot 360 in the first place. So why would they choose that over a regular camera that has tons of features that a 360 camera does not – beginning with at least a zoom and interchangeable lenses of various focal lengths. I know many photographers – both pro and amateur – and not a single one has voiced the slightest interest in a 360 camera.

        Another major hurdle I have not mentioned is the file size. Constantly raising video resolution of 360 cameras may bring better IQ but it also results in gigantic files even when a clip is only a few minutes long…

        The explanation you offer for the demise of Giroptic is interesting but Nokia also cancelled their OZO project and the reason they gave was that VR simply wasn’t catching on as fast as they had expected. Essentially, most people today still don’t have a clue what VR is…

        https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/10/16452114/nokia-killing-off-ozo-virtual-reality-camera-310-jobs-lost

        • (Forgive me if my tone comes across wrong here, Francois. I’m prone to writing in a joking way that can seem aggressive. I’m working on it.)

          Your very last point which seems to be your giant stamp of approval is flat-out wrong. The truth is that almost everyone has heard of VR in at least one form. The problem comes with the number of people that have experienced VR.

          Yes, there’s a lack of something but it’s not knowledge, it’s experience. This is only one metric of a complicated market. The numbers from last year showed that simple, non-interactive 360 video has a much faster adoption rate than 3D TV ever did and is almost mirroring the adoption of 4K televisions.

          Put short, the numbers disagree with your final point.

          (I’ll try to find one of the publications that showed this. Keep in mind, these publications usually cost money to access and aren’t shareable)
          ——————–
          As for OZO, that reasoning is the result of the “5 second sound-bite” rule.

          OZO was and still is an amazing camera. However, it lacked things that we take for granted in today’s cameras. There is no stabilization, no streaming (without lots of 3rd-party gear), very bad dynamic range, and a few other key problems.

          It’s a good camera but I think its biggest downfall is that it’s about the size of a soccer ball and weighs upwards of 12 pounds when ready to shoot.
          ——————–
          File size is being overcome with new codes. HEVC is a good example.
          ——————–
          I’ll end on your beginning point.

          I really don’t think Mic is taking about professional photographers 🙂 . I’m certain he’s talking about capturing candid moments with family and friends.

          You say that you know many photographers and not a single one has any interest in 360 cameras…

          Well, Mic is a damned good one. As for me, I get paid to do it, so I guess that makes me a photographer as well. In FACT, I’m a professional 360° photographer.

          So that makes two. Your list no longer contains “not a single one.” 😎

          (Again, none of that is an attack, please don’t read it that way)

          • > the truth is that almost everyone has heard of VR in at least one form.

            Maybe in the gaming world but most people I mention it to have no idea what I am talking about. Another thing I found was the strong resistance against putting on a VR headset – which feels very much like a diving mask to many people. In fact I tested this by first showing a 3D viewer (such as the My3D) and people had no resistance bringing it up to their eyes. But as soon as they saw the large hood and padding of a VR headset, they would back up. And forget about putting those pesky straps around their head ! :-O

            > The problem comes with the number of people that have experienced VR.

            For sure… and those who would be willing to as well !

            > non-interactive 360 video has a much faster adoption rate than 3D TV ever did

            The argument against 3D TV has always been the lightweight glasses. And now they expect people will be jumping at the opportunity to put on a large heavy and cumbersome VR headset. Not gonna happen ! 😉

            > I really don’t think Mic is taking about professional photographers 🙂 . I’m certain he’s talking about capturing candid moments with family and friends.

            Same applies. People wanting to capture family and friends want to capture exactly that – not the entire backyard !

            > Well, Mic is a damned good one.

            Yep. And Mic is also a 3D fan, like me. Yet 3D completely failed in the public market.

            What I see now with 360 is pretty much what I saw with 3D some years ago: Enthusiasts were all convinced that 3D would become the norm and that nobody would want to shoot “flatties” anymore. But it didn’t happen. In fact most people I talk to nowadays have no idea that 3D digital cameras ever existed and in fact, still do. Same as with 360.

            In my view, it’s actually a good thing for pros. Whenever I show 3D to clients, they are blown away…. Then, they order 2D pictures ! So you can do the same with 360 ! 🙂

          • Hi Francois, I agree with most of your points. This is why I think overcapture style video is a better direction for 360 cameras than full-360 videos. If 360 cameras can do overcapture capably, then they can become the primary camera, and that is the topic of today’s post.

            Re headgear, I generally agree, and I am kind of skeptical about VR headsets taking off, but that’s because of my hypothesis that there are certain genes that predispose a person to liking 3D and VR, and that gene is a recessive gene.

            Best regards,
            Mic

          • Thank you very much Scott! And guys FYI, Scott had an OZO.

            Yes, i’m talking about candid photos and videos with family and friends. 360 cameras are superior for that.

            Yes, 360 does take up a lot of space and bandwidth but supporting technology (e.g. desktop and smartphone processors, encoding and playback software, storage, network speeds) is catching up.

            Best regards,
            Mic

        • Hi Francois. Have you seen my video about the Nano S and its advantages? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFhKateiwto
          There were many non-360 shooters who watched that video were surprised – and AMAZED (judging by the likes, shares, and comments on Facebook). And of course we know that most of those advantages apply to other stabilized 360 cameras as well. But no one knows that except hard core 360 shooters. And that’s why it’s our job to let people know about those advantages.
          Best regards,
          mic

          • >Have you seen my video about the Nano S and its advantages?

            Yes, just watched it. You make a very good case for 360 clips viewed on a regular display rather than a VR headset.

            > But no one knows that except hard core 360 shooters. And that’s why it’s our job to let people know about those advantages.

            I and others crusaded for 3D like that for years and never got anywhere except when we came across others like us that had “the bug” or that “gene” you mention above ! 😉

            The only thing that matters to me at the moment is that there is still enough industry confidence in 360, VR180 and VR headsets for development to continue. As a 3D fan, I of course am keeping an eye on VR180 developments but I must admit I have been tempted by 2D 360 cameras ever since the Mi Sphere and Insta360 One were introduced. However I still remain unconvinced that the general public will ever catch on in any great numbers.

          • Thanks Francois. The big issue is “can a 360 camera be a better non-360 camera.” I believe it can be, for the reasons I showed in the Nano S video.

            Thanks for being a proponent of 3D over the years. With 3D, we were asking people to try something different. I don’t think 360 can convince buyers to do that either, which is why I don’t want to tell people about 360 photos and videos. I would rather persuade them that a 360 camera is better at shooting *non-360 photos and videos* compared to their current non-360 smartphone or action camera (for the reasons I showed in my Nano S video). I think this is the best strategy for the 360 industry.

            Best regards,
            mic

      • Mic wrote: ” I would rather persuade them that a 360 camera is better at shooting *non-360 photos and videos* compared to their current non-360 smartphone or action camera.

        I understand. However, you are still on a crusade to do so, very much like many were on a crusade to persuade people about 3D. I do get your angle of telling people that a 360 camera can act like a regular non-360 camera. But then if that’s so, why bother since they already have a “regular” camera on their phone ? I am not sure that the “something extra” will be enough to motivate most people to put five hundred bucks more into it.

        I think that Casey in his Rylo clip (“Is this the camera of the future ?”) made a good point that, for the same amount of money, most people are still more likely to buy a DSLR or a high end compact.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMbUA7dghlk

        I think it requires a passion to get off the beaten path. Most people won’t. For example, like 3D cameras, there have been panoramic cameras for over a century and many top manufacturers have produced them. One is reminded of the Fuji Panoramic camera or the long-produced Widelux or Globuscope cameras.

        For sure, talking about 360 cameras in the media is bound to make some people curious and more people are likely to get into it. But it will be a long hard road before you can convince everyone that it should be their first choice.

        On the other hand, I think what you have been doing is immensely informative for people discovering 360 and trying to understand what it can do and figure out where to start and how to select the products that might be best suited to them.

    • Yes they did! And it’s sad to see them go but I hope people realize how much they contributed.
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Well i got screwed ad i purchased a giroptic camera I’m poised these idiots make a cameras i buy out them I’m stick with a piece of Shit i can’t use

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