GoPro jumps into virtual reality and drones

GoPro cube on display at Code Conference.
Asa Mathat | Re/Code
GoPro cube on display at Code Conference.

GoPro is diving headfirst into the virtual reality and drone markets.

The camera maker that gained a following with snowboarders and skydivers is introducing a six-camera device to capture 360-degree spherical video. And it's coming out with a quadcopter drone for capturing video from up high in a whole new way.

GoPro founder and CEO Nick Woodman announced the new products at the Code Conference on Wednesday.

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The mounted six-camera array will be available the second half of this year for north of $3,000. GoPro was already working on the concept, but pushed its development effort after Facebook spent $2 billion on virtual reality start-up Oculus last year.

"VR is going to be popular just based on gaming alone," Woodman said at the conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. "But for VR to be appealing to non-gamers it's going to need content. It's going to need photo and video content, and GoPro is positioned better than anyone in the world."

GoPro sold shares to the public in June and now carries a stock market value of $7.3 billion. Sales jumped 41 percent in 2014 to $1.39 billion.

While entering the VR market requires piecing together a number of cameras, the drone is an entirely new product in an already crowded market.

China's DJI is the world's biggest maker of consumer drones and smaller players like Parrot and Ehang are emerging challengers. Drones are gaining popularity in the U.S. now that the Federal Aviation Administration has outlined the rules for consumer usage.

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Many drones already use GoPro cameras to capture footage while in flight. The San Mateo, California-based company will have its own quadcopters available in the first half of 2016, Woodman said, though he wouldn't say how much they'll cost.

As with VR, Woodman is most excited about the content that can get created with cameras strapped to unmanned aircraft.

"It looks like you're in your own movie professionally produced," Woodman said. "People are looking to use GoPro in even more inventive ways."