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Last year may not have been the “Year of VR” everyone expected it to be, but 2016 is shaping up to deliver. With two major VR headsets launching later this year, high-end virtual reality will, at least, become a hobbyist activity. Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR will be there to satiate anyone curious but unwilling to devote hundreds of dollars to the experience. Despite the steep $600 price tag of the Oculus Rift, camera makers are betting that virtual reality will be the future not just of video games, but of media consumption as well.

Last year, YouTube and Oculus owner Facebook added support for 360┬ádegree videos which allowed viewers to explore a full recreation of a space with their head movements in VR, or by dragging their mouse across the screen. If there was one kind of video that proved 360 degree videos were more immersive, it was action clips. Roller coasters, skiing, skateboarding, car races – they all benefit from the viewer being able to observe more than just what’s immediately in front of them.

Image: Consumer Reports

Image: Consumer Reports

That’s why GoPro announced this year at CES a plan to launch their own 360 action camera. The announcement followed the surprise reveal of Nikon’s own 360 degree action cam just days before. Nikon’s offering will be called the KeyMission 360, and will be released later this year. Nikon showed off the device at CES and it basically looks like a GoPro with a camera lens on both sides. GoPro didn’t have anything to show of its upcoming, unnamed camera. While there’s speculation that GoPro only announced their own 360 degree offering as a response to Nikon, there’s little speculation that GoPro is well positioned to do it well.

Image: Engadet

Image: Engadet

GoPros are already very popular in the 360 degree video market, albeit in a pretty unintuitive way. Currently, you need a pretty impressive rig and many, many GoPros to shoot a 360 degree video. It’s an expensive endeavor for early adapters in the space, so it’s not too much of a shock that GoPro intends to release a consumer version to help make this process a little bit easier. While there wasn’t a price talked about at CES, it’s safe to say that it will be less than the thousands the current rig costs.

Nikon may be beating GoPro to the 360 degree action cam market, but GoPro has a few advantages that should help their upcoming offering stand out. First and foremost, GoPro has a long history of making custom accessories to improve the experience of their cameras. Whatever they have planned for their new device, you can bet that you’ll be able to strap things to it. Additionally, GoPro has long been a supporter of action photography and has the business partnerships to prove it. If GoPro can work those partnerships to its advantage, their new offering may very well become the de facto 360 degree action cam.

We’ll be hearing more from GoPro this year about what they have to offer. With Nikon turning up the heat, 2016 should be a very interesting year for both VR and 360 degree video. Here’s to hoping that both Nikon and GoPro can coexist in the action camera market.

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