GoPro has built its business around equipping everyday consumers with the tools they need to create jaw-dropping videos. Now, it's betting on 360-degree viewing to keep people watching clips.
During YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl's keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show, Nick Woodman, CEO and founder of GoPro, and Chris Milk, founder and CEO of Vrse, talked about how virtual reality is shaking up the digital video space.
"We're making significant investments," Woodman said. "[Virtual reality] does add an entirely new emotional experience that is very meaningful and real and is a way to experience other people's lives and experiences in a way that was never possible before. [It] affects the brain in a way that days or weeks later, when you recount your viewing experience, it becomes difficult to discern if you watched it or you lived it—a little bit of a dream. There's nothing gimmicky about VR."
While VR is changing digital video creation, it still comes with significant challenges in reaching a big enough audience with high production costs that require creators to make two different versions of a video. To that point, Woodman said he thinks there's a big opportunity for his brand to use traditional video to drum up awareness of VR.
For example, a VR video could be uploaded as a regular clip but include a call to action prompting people to watch the same video using a VR headset.
"We can leverage traditional content to market a VR-viewing experience. It's not either-or; it can be both," Woodman said. "You can imagine a future where perhaps on the GoPro channel on YouTube, every piece of content we shoot is available in traditional format and VR to help raise awareness of it."
Milk spoke about VR as a filmmaking tool. Earlier this year, Vrse worked with The New York Times to distribute a documentary readers could view through a Google Cardboard headset.
"[VR] has its own language of storytelling, which we're still discovering now," he said. "What's interesting about it for nonfiction content is traditionally digital video, television [and] cinema has been stories about people 'over there.' With VR, the reason it's so transformative is because it now makes it about a story 'here.' This is a technology that can take anyone in the world and make them local to you."