If you’ve ever found yourself in desperate need of a way to make a video call moments after you start plummeting to the ground while skydiving, you are in luck.
GoPro, the makers of those go-anywhere, film-yourself-while-cliff-diving cameras, are also suffering something of a fall of late, and are looking for new ways to make money. As such, they’ve begun licensing their technology out to partners in other fields and putting their cameras to new uses.
One of these new uses is video conferencing. It may sound strange at first, but really it’s a logical step for a product designed to capture the immersive reality of experiences like surfing, riding in fast cars, and jumping out of airplanes. Currently, you can live stream from a GoPro, and, of course, you can edit and share your clips over social media, but you can’t see or hear your friends while you’re in action.
There are other, more professional reasons to use GoPro cameras for video conferencing–especially for on-site, time-critical scenarios–but they’re not nearly as fun.
GoPro’s New Deal
In March, GoPro announced it had signed a deal with the manufacturing company Jabil to license out its technology, designs, and intellectual property. GoPro will keep making its own cameras, but Jabil gets to use its accumulated knowledge to build the camera components, heads-up displays, and sensors it in turn sells to other companies who put together commercial products.
Jabil previously worked on GoPro’s HERO4 camera, and now wants to put the tech to use in smart homes, security, and emergency services devices. GoPro, however, is thinking beyond those applications, and wants its Jabil partnership to lead to action-ready robots, self-driving cars, and video conferencing equipment.
That’s all very exciting, but it does require a little work to become reality–GoPro cameras currently only work in one direction. You can’t see or hear anyone through the device as there’s no receiving unit. That means coming up with a whole new design to accommodate video calling, or even heading down the well-worn interactive glasses route.
Sender and Receiver
When it talks about video conferencing, the GoPro team could mean they intend to create a new entrant in the desk-bound webcam wars. They’d have to create more than just a nice lens, however, as there are some very smart cameras already on the market that provide more than just clarity. Huddly’s GO and Logitech’s BRIO, for instance, can do all sorts of tricks like 4K video calls, automatic focus, and light adjustment–even, with the right software, facial recognition.
No one’s making a webcam that can survive a jungle trek, however. The problem lies in adding the necessary two-way connection while maintaining the GoPro’s go-anywhere functionality. The most obvious comparison is Microsoft’s new take on smart glasses. Google’s first attempt was a disaster, but Microsoft’s version, the HoloLens, is far more promising–it’s even been approved as safety equipment. It uses an augmented reality projection overtop the wearer’s view of the real world around them to enable a two-way video conversation.
GoPro would have to shrink down its camera to fit within the frame of the smart glasses, just as Microsoft has done, and it would have to make those glasses out of a material just as tough as its cameras. If they manage to do those things, though, the GoPro-Jabil partnership could produce something unique.
Using All-Terrain GoPro Cameras for Video Conferencing
As was mentioned earlier, Microsoft is already trying to use its HoloLens technology to bring video conferencing to the job site. It has produced demonstrations of how computer-generated images could be superimposed on the real world to support maintenance and repair work by guiding workers through a process.
There’s no stopping GoPro from going the same way, but live stream–better yet, a live stream that can be interacted with–is much more exciting. VC Daily has previously written about using drone technology to take video calling into a new realm, and the action-camera version could be just as spectacular.
With a two-way video connection in place, the audience safely watching from home could guide, support, and supervise the GoPro wearer in action–or just vicariously take a plunge they’d never make themselves.
That audience could give a nervous bungee jumper the courage necessary to step off the platform–and then could fall right along with them. It could also be employed professionally by tour guides working in hazardous or sensitive areas; by adventure sports teams working together across rough terrain; by parents visiting locations their kids can’t enter; or friends trying to tempt their peers into joining them on a surfing safari.
Video conferencing has evolved to become many things professional and social, but GoPro could be the first to make it exhilarating.