In September 2018, GoPro laid off staff from Kolor, the 360 software company it acquired, and ended Kolor’s operations. It all but appeared that GoPro had its foot out the door of the 360 industry. But in an interview with PC Magazine, CEO Nick Woodman shows that GoPro intends to stay in the industry and already has plans for the future of Fusion. UPDATE: the Fusion’s successor is called GoPro Max – check it out here!
GoPro has been studying the way its users have been using the Fusion (reviewed here). According to Nick, there is more interest in using 360 cameras for overcapture (reframed non-360 video) than for VR or 360 photos and videos. “What people are most interested in is creating traditional non-VR content, using the 360 capabilities to capture and create effects that otherwise wouldn’t be possible with a traditional camera.”
Nick underscored the usefulness of 360 cameras. “Not only because you don’t need to aim it and because of the stabilization and performance, but because of the number of interesting ways that it can help people capture and share experiences, it’s not unlimited, but it’s vast compared to a typical camera.”
Nick said that the Fusion is just the beginning of 360 for GoPro. Nick hinted that there will be a successor to GoPro Fusion, and that it will incorporate lessons GoPro has learned from Fusion and will be very innovative. “I can’t share anything about form factor or any specifics, but what I can tell you is that since the beginning we’ve said Fusion is a development platform to get to what comes next. You should expect some pretty significant innovation in what comes next.” Nick’s mention of form factor is intriguing because it sounds like it will have a different form factor — possibly more similar to the Ricoh Theta and Insta360 One X.
Nick affirmed the usefulness of the ability to reframe video but acknowledged that it imposes more work on the user. He said that GoPro is working on making a 360 camera that is easier to use, and possibly with built-in automatic editing capabilities that may be able to produce edited footage straight out of the camera. “[Reframing Fusion footage] creates another layer of work. . . . [F]or the average consumer, eliminating that step, and allowing them to get that work done at the time of capture, is really important.” [emphasis added]. The goal would be to let the user use it as a regular camera such as a GoPro Hero and produce amazing pre-edited footage out of it.
I’m glad to see Nick’s optimistic outlook on 360. I agree with Nick’s observations, particularly about overcapture as opposed to 360 photos and videos. This is not to say that 360 videos are dead — but rather they are still far ahead of their time. For most consumers, it will be more useful to use a 360 camera for overcapture.
The real challenge for the 360 industry is two-fold: first is educating consumers. Few consumers understand what 360 cameras can do besides taking 360 photos and videos, and very few consumers know that 360 cameras are especially useful for non-360 videos. This challenge is reflected in 360 Rumors’ mission to educate consumers about the benefits of using 360 cameras. Second, as Nick said, we need to make 360 cameras even easier and more convenient to use for consumers who aren’t used to editing videos.