GoPro's Fusion could make 360 video cool, if it nails the software

The action cam company's software and hardware are finally dancing in step.

Yesterday GoPro CEO Nick Woodman presented the Fusion 360/VR camera to the world for the first time at Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. The company teased an image about a month ago, but it turns out that was a bit of a trick. The deliberate use of lighting hid the true shape and form of the camera. Fusion is actually bigger than it looked. GoPro has long considered itself as having outgrown the "action cam" label, instead positioning itself as an enabler for stories beyond the reach of your phone's camera. Put in those terms, Fusion, and 360 video in general, could make more sense.

Over the years the importance of software over hardware has become increasingly apparent to GoPro. The Hero camera line has evolved over time, but it's the user experience after you shoot the video that has been the company's biggest challenge. The next frontier isn't more megapixels, it's making it effortless to convert photos and videos into something you want to share. And Fusion, GoPro's all-in-one VR camera, might actually be the company's best chance at cracking that nut.

Before we get to why, we'll take a look at a more immediate how. Fusion might have been the main reason for the Vail gathering this week, but a new feature for all GoPro users -- called QuikStories -- is actually a good hint at where the company is focusing its efforts. QuikStories aims to instantly create a shareable video from your most recent clips with little to no effort on the user's part (think: Google's Photo Assistant). If GoPro can transplant this mechanism to Fusion, and there's every indication it will, maybe the company can -- gasp! -- make 360/VR video more mainstream.

Before we get to Fusion, though, QuikStories is also an attempt to revitalize its existing camera line. Basically, this is GoPro throwing its hat into the "stories" game -- you know, the game that Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and seemingly everyone is playing these days. In GoPro's case, it's really just about using technology the company already has (i.e.g, the Quik mobile editing app), and removing all the steps that involve a human.

The idea is simple: shoot several clips in a day, connect your camera to your phone, open the GoPro app and, voila, you'll have an instant, shareable, edited video. We tried it quickly here in Vail, and it looks promising. In fact, the app was already sifting through my videos and compiling a video the moment I connected a phone to the camera.

Why does a "stories" feature matter to 360/VR video? Because who even knows what to do with a 360 video? I don't. Unless you're shooting a bi-plane wing-walk, or other such obviously interesting feat, 360 video doesn't always make sense. Here is the connection with Quik, or at least GoPro's future of smart editing apps. If GoPro can translate the simplicity of Quik, and QuikStories to Fusion's 360 video output, it would achieve mass appeal in a way other players (everyone from Nikon to Samsung) hasn't been able to.

To illustrate this, GoPro showed reporters this week a "regular" video edit taken from its Fusion (spherical) promo video, and it cleverly turned the usual quirks of 360 video -- warping, curved lines -- into an editing transition feature.""Punching" a regular video out of a 360 clip isn't exclusive to GoPro. Plenty of others offer something similar, but there's not one app or camera that combines to do both well. If -- and it's a big if -- GoPro can nail this pairing of hardware and software, 360 video has a chance of making sense for everyday users.