It is not that big of a stretch to assume everyone at this point is familiar with GoPro and its popular range of POV (point-of-view) camcorders. The brand has impressively become one of the most universally recognized players in the industry, built on a foundation of wearable camcorders that withstand the elements, and the brand’s extreme sports positioning. Its camcorders have the ability to literally go anywhere with their robust durability and the plethora of accessory mounts offered by the company, in a business model that is amusingly similar to the printer/ink relationship.
The name GoPro itself has become synonymous with the POV camcorder market much the same way that Kleenex defines the tissue industry, or the way Flip once ruled the pocket camcorder realm. Much like Flip, the success of GoPro has led to a major influx of competition as numerous brands enter into the segment, each wanting to grab a piece of the POV pie and capitalize on the new “wow factor” for camcorders. As brands rush to market with their GoPro clones, one thing is very evident in the minds of shoppers, and that is a lack of differentiation. Sure, different brands display slightly altered form factors, boast differing rugged capabilities, and have apps to play nice with smartphones, but all are the same in offering an extreme sports message.
Not everyone is extreme. With a solid grip on the action sports market, GoPro is realizing that it needs to diversify its message and appeal to average people in order to continue its growth. GoPro’s recent marketing (including a very visible Super Bowl ad) illustrate this point well, as its commercials now center around house cats and babies as opposed to quintessential action sports footage.
Will it be enough to motivate tame individuals to purchase a GoPro? What is on the horizon for the POV camcorder market to address these buyers? Now that we have high-quality HD recording and picture taking down, image intelligence is next. What I am referring to is the emergence of “lifelogging” technology.
While visiting local retail stores, I became acutely aware of average shoppers’ hesitation with POV camcorders as I overhead a husband and wife’s conversation.
“Look honey, GoPro!” the husband said in an enthusiastic tone. The wife then replied “Oh that’s great, but you and I both know that we are not creative enough to put together anything that would be considered watchable from that thing.” …and they walked away.
Like a ton of bricks it hit me, THIS is the pain point for average shoppers! No matter how much bundled editing software is included or “easy” remote start/stop options are provided, novice users are still left in command of the device’s recording.
Enter the concept of “lifelogging.” Recently, several unique products have been making their way to market that offer the ability to determine when something interesting is happening, and then automatically begin recording to capture these moments. So far these include Memoto’s Kickstarter-funded Lifelogging Camera and OMG Life’s Autographer. These devices are similar in that they come equipped with a built-in array of sensors that include GPS, magnetometer, color sensor, infrared detector, accelerometer, and temperature sensor. Using these sensors, they are able to start and stop recording when changes are detected, such as running to catch a bus, entering a warm house from the cold, and yes, even jumping out of a plane, to eliminate any form of human intervention.
Interestingly, the technology inside of OMG Life’s Autographer has its roots in the medical field as a consumer spin-off from the scientific imaging company Oxford Metrics Group. The device was originally crafted as a tool for patients suffering from severe memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease to keep an automatic and ongoing record of their days to help them recall important people, places, and events. The same benefits it brings to those individuals can be realized by casual POV shooters who need not lift a finger to record spontaneous action.
While the aforementioned wearable “lifelogging” cameras arguably already fit into the POV segment, the technology is ripe for integration into future camcorder products from heavyweights such as GoPro. Currently, the devices are very limited in terms of their capture quality, but noting their compact size, there seems no good reason why we cannot expect superior HD quality camcorders to embrace this intelligence into their design.
The first moves toward this have already begun. At the 2013 CES trade show, segment underdog iON Worldwide quietly launched a new POV camcorder called the iON Adventure that incorporates a vibration sensor to automatically start and stop recording when it senses motion. While the single sensor system is undoubtedly less consistent than the more comprehensive “lifelogging” sensor suites, it represents the first POV player to follow this line of thought, and the path that the company is embarking on will not be traveled alone for long.