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GoPro turns focus to drones, virtual reality

Adventure camera maker plans to produce quadcopter and camera capable of capturing 360-degree virtual reality content.

GoPro is readying a six-camera array capable of capturing images and video that can be stitched together to create a virtual reality content. Asa Mathat/Recode

GoPro plans to take extreme videos to new extremes with two new future products that will introduce the company into the drone and virtual reality markets.

The camera-maker for adventure enthusiasts plans to roll out a six-camera product later this year that is capable of capturing spherical content, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman said Wednesday during an onstage interview at the Recode Code conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. The products are part of GoPro's efforts to expand its business beyond simply selling cameras for skiers, race drivers and other sports-adventure enthusiasts.

GoPro's Six-Camera Spherical Array is a mounting accessory that will accommodate six Hero4 cameras, capturing high-resolution images and video from different angles. The content can then be stitched together to create a 360-degree virtual reality environment by using Kolor, technology developed by a French virtual reality software maker that GoPro acquired last month.

Enjoying the content will require users to do virtual reality headsets like Oculus, Google Cardboard, and Microsoft's HoloLens. The content can also be viewed on PCs or smartphones using YouTube 360 or Kolor's app.

GoPro is playing catch up with its camera array. For the past two years, Google has offered free online software to create interactive photo-spheres that can be embedded in Google Maps, and the company has its own virtual reality platform, Google Cardboard, to help developers create more VR experiences. Facebook in March said it would support spherical videos on its News Feed and plans to incorporate them into Oculus.

GoPro is also getting into another burgeoning technology by building a quadcopter, or drone. Woodman did not provide any pricing or design details but did say consumers could expect the drone to hit the market in the first half of next year.

A drone is a natural progression for GoPro: drones equipped with the company's cameras are frequently used to record landscapes for real estate companies and film movie sequences.