For racing and virtual reality fans, GoPro has a new video that should excite both camps. The video tells the story of professional father-and-son motorcycle racers Randy and Dakota Mamola, and how both used the latest camera technologies to capture a high-speed bike ride, giving viewers new perspectives of the sport. The video also gives a behind-the-scenes demonstration of GoPro’s LiveVR technology and how it can be applied to live broadcasts of motorsports.
In 1985, Randy Mamola was the first rider to carry an onboard camera during a MotoGP race in Assen, the Netherlands. “What a rider sees, what a rider feels, that’s groundbreaking,” Mamola said, in that the POV camera gave at-home viewers a new experience to the sport for the first time.
Fast-forward to the present and Mamola’s son, Dakota, is now the first to use a GoPro camera to capture a 360-degree experience of a motorcycle race. The six-minute video gives a behind-the-scenes look at not only how the modified GoPro camera could be adapted for a race, but also how video capture technology has changed in racing and what the future of broadcast could look like.
LiveVR is a product of GoPro’s Custom Solutions team, which builds modified versions of the GoPro Hero4 Black camera for various broadcast applications. Introduced at the NAB 2016 trade conference earlier this year, Custom Solutions embeds a Hero4 Black with a tethered camera (removed from the body), along with GoPro’s HeroCast wireless HD micro transmitter, into a variety of products, from NHL helmets to NFL ref caps and even inside a Grammy award.
For broadcasters, it supports the presentation of a POV perspective without distracting from an event with cumbersome equipment. The products aren’t sold to consumers, naturally, but, except for the HeroCast, they do use modified versions of what’s used in the consumer products.
LiveVR was demonstrated at NAB, but this new video featuring the Mamolas gives a more in-depth look. With LiveVR, the unit features a two-lens camera head that’s connected to the camera body. Together, it can capture a 360-degree video. Instead of a straightforward shot, broadcasters can select any angle they want to show. For a motorcycle race, for example, they can quickly switch from a rider’s POV to presenting the other racers speeding alongside or behind.
It’s also possible that broadcasters could provide a 360-degree feed directly to viewers, allowing them to experience the race through a VR headset (which you can see Randy Mamola wearing, as he follows his son’s ride in Salt Lake City, while viewing remotely from the Netherlands). From the video, you can tell the stitching isn’t perfect, but it does give viewers an interesting new experience to racing.
If you’re wondering what a future Hero camera with 360-degree capture could look like, it may be something like LiveVR. While the LiveVR unit is bulkier than the tiny Hero cameras we’re accustomed to, that’s only because it needs to house the HeroCast transmitter; without it, it could be a much smaller platform.
LiveVR also provides a look into what GoPro is developing in the virtual reality space, but if we want to speculate further, it also demonstrates what could be implemented in the highly anticipated Karma drone — a 360-degree aerial shot, using just one camera. Of course, we have no proof this is what GoPro is doing — it’s all theory on our part — but for anyone who’s following the company’s development plans, Custom Solutions is a good tease of what’s to come.