It’s really not just about the hardware.
The 360-degree action cam market, a nascent category still in its infancy, has seen a second-half kick in the pants. As TWICE reported in its Nov. 21 issue, 360-degree cameras currently represent just 1 percent of the action cameras sold in 2015, according to research firm Futuresource. However, while just 150,000 360-degree cams were sold worldwide in 2015, this year is expected to see 600,000 units shipping globally.
Peter Aloumanis, president of 360-cam manufacturer 360fly, confirmed the company is experiencing results aligning with these findings.
“From a sales perspective, we’re actually seeing our numbers very much correlated to the trend,” he said. “We’re seeing quadrupling year over year, and we’re expecting another quadrupling next year.”
As with most new CE categories experiencing success, the category is welcoming an influx of names seeking to compete. In addition to 360fly, 360 cams have already been introduced by Samsung, Nikon, Ricoh, Kodak and LG. And while form factors and price points vary from model to maker, what all of these companies have in common is the challenge of consumer education.
Consumers need to not only be aware of 360-degree capture, said Aloumanis, but also need education on the benefits of the technology vs. a traditional camera.
For its part, 360fly is tackling the market with a three-pronged approach: hardware, apps and the Cloud. The first half of 2016 was spent getting the camera hardware right, said Aloumanis, while the second half has been focused on editing and content distribution.
Chief among these second two prongs is simplicity. Although YouTube and Facebook now both offer platforms for 360-degree video content, “the world isn’t set up for 360 video,” said Aloumanis. Most consumers are eschewing computer video-editing in favor of doing it directly on their mobile devices, and thus ease of sharing is paramount. “Having a whole bunch of videos but not being able to share with anyone doesn’t do anyone any good,” he added.
According to Aloumanis, Facebook is advancing as the top social platform for 360 content and has already eclipsed YouTube. “Facebook has spent significant dollars and effort in the 360 space, and the speed at which they’re bringing new capabilities online is two to three times at what You-Tube is doing.” Facebook is more mobile-focused, he added, while YouTube still thinks of it as a desktop platform. Aloumanis noted that 80 percent of 360fly users edit videos directly on their mobile devices.
This is not to say that YouTube isn’t serving a purpose for the category. While more people may be sharing their content on Facebook, consumers are still flocking to YouTube (and, yes, Amazon) for product reviews. 360fly has uploaded its own videos to YouTube demonstrating the benefits of its app and sharing capabilities, along with how-to videos.
To avoid consumers becoming weary of endless bells and whistles, consumer education once again re-enter as a priority. Beyond simply being aware of the new category, Aloumanis said the company will seek to demonstrate to consumers that not only can 360 cams capture video in new ways, but the cameras also offer exceptional video quality and ease of use.
As the company heads to CES next month, 360fly will introduce a wealth of new sensor and editing features for its action cams. This includes the ability to provide overlays of captured sensor data — such as biometric and GPS data — and support for OBD2 diagnostic connections. This latter addition will let the company’s 4K cameras provide real-time diagnostic data, including engine temperature, RPM, odometer reading and fuel data.
The cameras will also have a drone mode with 360-degree image stabilization; an auto pilot mode that will automatically pan to the area with the highest degree of activity; and a Highlight Reel editing feature that can automatically choose and compile the content with the most action.