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Mighty little GoPro gets more heroic

October 26, 2011 | Hogan Keyser
By Jefferson Graham USA TODAY via AZCentral - Nick Woodman's GoPro cameras have ended up in the most out-of-the-way places. The small attachable camera has been mounted to bike helmets and surfboards, applied via a suction cup under a moving car and even harnessed to the chest of a sky diver.

The GoPro Hero has more than survived. It also has helped produce some of the most entertaining video footage on the Web. Fans post videos of their own extreme action on GoPro's YouTube channel, which has more than 63 million views, and on Facebook, where GoPro has more than a million fans.

This week, GoPro's legion of devoted customers got GoPro Hero 2, a new HD device that Woodman says is "twice as powerful" as the first edition and has sharper resolution (11 megapixels, up from 5) greatly improved sound (a microphone input for improved audio) and full 1080p resolution, up from 720p. Like the previous model, the new GoPro sells for $299.99.

"This is two years in the making," says Woodman, 36, who started GoPro in 2002, and sold a wrist accessory attached to a one-time-use film camera for taking photos while surfing. Digital video, in 10-second bursts, was added in 2006. And in 2009, Hi-Def made its debut in the first Hero camera.

It's the 3-3-ounce Hero that put the company on the map, thanks to social media and word of mouth. "Our customers are growing the company for us," CEO Woodman says. "They like to share their videos, and it's impossible to share without someone saying 'How did you do that?' The answer: GoPro."

Rick Iossi, a GoPro user from Fort Lauderdale, uses the camera for kite surfing. He dons a camera on the kite and a second one on his helmet. "It gets this amazing, huge panoramic view," he says. "For the money, you can't beat it. It's extremely versatile."

GoPro this summer expanded beyond specialty stores to Best Buy, a move that was "huge" for the company, says Chris Chute, an analyst at researcher IDC. It effectively tripled GoPro's sales -- making it "the fastest-growing camera company," Chute says.

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