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GoPro launches a line of bags, water bottles and a hat because why the hell not

By Matt Burns

GoPro is now in the merch game with a new line of gear that prominently features GoPro’s logo. From bags to hats, this gear is priced attractively and has the standard affair of features. But in the end, it’s about the GoPro brand. GoPro, even while struggling to remain relevant as sales drop, cultivated a rich brand identity, and this merchandise embodies the GoPro lifestyle.

The line is called “Lifestyle Gear,” and it’s a nice sampling of outdoor gear featuring GoPro’s logo. Right now, there are nine products in the line, but it’s easy to see room for expansion.

Outdoor gear is a massive market, and the products launched by GoPro seem up to par with quality material and features. There are waterproof backpacks, durable duffels and compact cases for the compact cameras. If done correctly, soft goods often sell with healthy margins, which could be a good win for GoPro.

GoPro has struggled the last few years after storming onto the scene. The stock has been under $10 a share since 2017, though it’s trending upward this year. Over the last few years, the company revamped its product offering several times, and, most recently, started branching off into different products, including flashlights and now soft goods. Right now, in the second half of 2020, the company sells four cameras, but two are carryovers from 2019.

GoPro turns the Hero 8 Black into a $249 webcam

By Matt Burns

The GoPro Hero 8 action camera can now be used as a webcam thanks to a software utility. The software, which is still in beta, lets users connect a Hero 8 camera through USB and use it as a webcam. Without this utility, owners had to use a combination of dongles and HDMI cables to use the camera with their computers.

The GoPro app comes as most camera companies have released similar utilities for their latest DSLR cameras — Sony is the notable exception. TechCrunch has a running list right here.

With this new software from GoPro, owners can use their Hero 8 camera — and its handy wide-angle lens — in video chats with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Discord, and many others. And if used through Chrome, the camera will work with Webex, Skype, Slack, and others.

The work-from-home aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a shortage of webcams. As the global economy shifted to home offices, webcams from Logitech and Microsoft quickly sold-out. The few HDMI adapters that allowed DLSRs to act as a webcam sold out, too. Camera companies suddenly started retooling their software to allow their cameras to work as a webcam through USB instead of HDMI.

This move from GoPro is smart. At a new low price of $249, the GoPro Hero 8 Black is one of the least expensive routes to use a real camera as a webcam. Right now, the software solution only works with Macs. GoPro says a Windows version is in the works. To use a Hero 8 as a webcam, download the latest firmware from GoPro and snag GoPro’s new Webcam Desktop Utility app.

GoPro releases a flashlight for some reason

By Matt Burns

Today GoPro entered the cutthroat business of personal lighting. This is the GoPro Zeus Mini; it looks like a rad little light, though it’s a curious product from an action camera company.

The waterproof Zeus Mini costs $69.99 and ships with a magnetic spring clip. GoPro says the light is also compatible with all of GoPro’s mounts. The versatile mounts could be the best thing about the Zeus Mini. This light makes sense for those invested in GoPro’s ecosystem. Already have a GoPro mount on a bike? Now it can be used for a camera or a light.

The lighting market is increasingly competitive. Subreddits and forums and fan sites have popped up over the last few years, where people obsess about the latest products from such brands as Fenix, Nitecore, Sofirn and Olight. Spec for spec, the Zeus Mini looks up to par with the best from these companies for a novice like me.

The Zeus has four brightness levels, which can result in an output of up to 200 lumens. Flashlight nerds will be quick to point out that 200 lumens is good, but not great, and it’s the range and spread of the light that’s important.

Since it’s a GoPro product, it’s waterproof, compact and seemingly durable, though I’ve yet to see one in person.

GoPro’s stock is climbing and flirting with hitting its highest level in 2020. As of writing, the stock is trading at $4.14 a share, up nearly 3% on the day. The company is recovering from the COVID-19 crash, though the stock price is still almost half that of its 52-week high of $7.33.

GoPro is following other companies that offer similar lights for use in GoPro’s mounts. These lights are widely available across online retailers. Some provide higher output, while others are much less expensive.

Fitbit’s Chinese rival Amazfit mulls a transparent, self-disinfecting mask

By Rita Liao

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of Chinese companies with manufacturing operations to produce virus-fighting equipment: Shenzhen-based electric vehicle giant BYD quickly moved to launch what it claims to be the world’s largest mask plant; Hangzhou-based voice intelligence startup Rokid is making thermal imaging glasses targeted at the US market; and many more.

The latest of such efforts comes from Huami, the NASDAQ-listed wearables startup that makes Xiaomi’s Mi Bands and sells its own fitness tracking watches under the Amazfit brand in more than 70 countries. In a phone interview with TechCrunch, the firm said it is developing a see-through plastic mask with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect filters within 10 minutes when connected to a power supply through a USB port.

The Aeri concept comes with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect filters within 10 minutes when connected to a power supply through a USB port. 

Called Aeri, the mask uses removable filters that are on par with N95 filtration capacity. If the concept materializes, each filter could last up to a month and a half, significantly longer than the average life of surgical masks and N95 respirators. The modular design allows for customized accessories such as a fan for breathable comfort, hence the mask’s name Aeri, a homophone of “airy”.

Aeri started from the premise that wearing masks could thwart the increasingly common adoption of facial recognition. That said, imaging companies have been working on biometric upgrades to allow analyses of other facial features such as irises or the tip of noses.

Aeri might still have a market appeal though, argued Pengtao Yu, vice president of industrial design at Huami. “Whether people need to unlock their phones or not, they want to see each other’s faces at social occasions,” said Yu, the California-based Chinese designer who had served clients including Nest Labs, Roku, GoPro and Huawei prior to joining Huami.

Huami’s U.S. operation, which focuses on research and development, opened in 2014 and now counts a dozen of employees.

Many companies turning to pandemic-fighting manufacturing have taken a hit from their core business, but Huami has managed to stay afloat. Its Q1 revenue was up 36% year-over-year to hit $154 million, although net income decreased to $2.7 million from $10.6 million. Its stocks have been declining, however, sliding from a high point of $16 in January to around $10 in mid-May.

Huami is in the process of prototyping the Aeri masks. In Shenzhen, which houses the wearables company’s headquarters, the development cycle for hardware products — from ideation to market rollout — takes as short as 6-12 months thanks to the city’s rich supply chain resources, said Yu.

Huami hasn’t priced Aeri at this early stage, but Yu admitted that the masks are targeting the “mass consumer market” around the world, not only for protection against viruses but also everyday air pollution, rather than appealing to medical workers. Given Huami’s history of making wearables at thin margins, it won’t be surprising that Aeri will be competitively priced.

The Aeri project is part of Huami’s pivot to enter the general health sector beyond pure fitness monitoring. The company has recently teamed up with a laboratory led by Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the public face of China’s fight against COVID-19, to track respiratory diseases using wearables. It’s also in talks with the German public health authority to collaborate on a smartwatch-powered virus monitoring app, the company told TechCrunch.