Back in early October, professional snowboarder Travis Rice released a new action video that may have changed the game forever. In the “The Fourth Phase,” which GoPro has hosted in four parts on the company’s official YouTube page, Rice uses the six-camera Omni capture system to give viewers a look at what it’s like to ride alongside the sports star as he traverses jaw-dropping terrain.
The resulting footage was compiled to create what many in the action sports arena call 360 video, also known as virtual reality (VR). While VR has been a buzz term for years, it’s only recently that tech companies have been able to successfully leverage VR devices and experiences to the consumer market. Although augmented reality (AR), a variant of VR that layers virtual experiences onto real-world, physical landscapes, has been successfully consumed by the masses in the form of games like PokemonGO, truly immersive VR requires a lot more technical expertise that has slowed down the tech’s push to market.
Rice’s movie is one of the most successful athlete-produced 360 videos to date filmed using GoPro’s Omni camera system, raking in nearly 2 million views in the first four days online. While the Omni system is still too expensive for most customers with a price tag of nearly $5,000, it shows that VR may eventually become a technology with a wider consumer appeal than previously anticipated.
So far, VR content creation has been in the hands of deep-pocketed tech and content production teams, not the amateur filmmakers and sports enthusiasts that typically flock to GoPro’s product lines. The popularity of Rice’s video indicates that not only are fans responding to VR as consumers, but that they may be interested in creating 360 experiences of their own.
The best thing about GoPro’s approach to VR is that it doesn’t require that consumers purchase expensive new devices that are primarily devoted to gaming, à la Alphabet’s Daydream, Facebook’s Oculus and Sony’s Playstation VR. Instead, viewers can experience VR by accessing applications that are ready to download on the smartphones they already use daily, or even stream VR footage using the equipment and connectivity that’s already an integral part of our lives.
This agility will surely open the doors for even more innovation when it comes to action sports films, how they’re produced and who’s producing them. Filmmakers – whether they use GoPros strapped to their off road vehicles or their helmets while snowboarding – will need to be able to share and review footage in real-time. They can do so by using the collaboration tools and offline data storage afforded using ; this allows teams to share videos no matter how extreme or remote their locale.