MINNEAPOLIS – 360fly's long-awaited 360-degree action cam will first take flight at Best Buy.
The national CE specialty chain is getting a three-and-a-half-month window of exclusivity for the spherical VR camcorder, which it will launch in about 900 stores in mid-September.
Voxx International, which is distributing the product and is a 360fly investor, is free to bring it to additional retailers beginning in January 2016.
In the meantime, the No. 1 CE chain will begin taking pre-orders for the $399 device at BestBuy.com.
“We’re excited to be launching an exclusive partnership with the country’s largest consumer electronics retail chain,” said Michael Lanzon, 360fly’s global sales president. “Having mass retail visibility at launch is extremely important to us, as we believe our camera goes beyond the extreme sports market and can be used in everyday lifestyle applications.”
Indeed, the camera, first announced at 2014 CES, is mountable on a variety of different sports equipment from helmets to surfboards to a tiny tripod. The Fly’s field of view captures a complete 360-degree HD video perspective in one shot and uses Wi-Fi to transfer its 360-degree videos to a connected smartphone or tablet. On the mobile device, users swipe to seamlessly change perspectives. The video can also be viewed in one horizontal 360-degree spread.
From mobile devices, users can also upload the videos to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social-media channels.
The camera is small enough to fit in a hand and durable enough to be mounted to a motorcross helmet. It is also water-resistant up to 165 feet without an external housing, and comes with 32GB storage and two-hour battery.
“360fly is nothing less than a game-changer for how consumers capture and share video content as well as democratizing virtual reality,” said 360fly CEO Peter Adderton. “This partnership with Best Buy provides the ultimate platform for truly bringing these landmark innovations to the masses.”
The deal, however, almost didn’t go through. According to Voxx president/CEO Pat Lavelle, the company that created the camera, EyeSee360, recently changed senior management, and Voxx was forced to renegotiate its initial distribution agreement.
“Neither company will be able to launch this product until this is resolved,” he said on an investors’ conference call earlier this month.
Lavelle also heralded plans for an exclusive launch with a large U.S. retailer on the call.
Voxx made a $3 million investment in EyeSee360 last year. The camera’s technology was developed by a group of innovators from Carnegie Melon University. – Additional reporting by Joseph Palenchar