NEW YORK (AP) - GoPro isn’t exactly a household name, but anyone who’s spent a little time on YouTube is surely familiar with the thousands of snowboarding, surfing and even skateboarding baby videos that its cameras produce.
GoPro Inc., which makes a small line of high-definition video cameras geared toward extreme sports athletes, is experiencing a rare moment in the spotlight. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company is a common sight at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, showing up in everything from the opening ceremony to test runs of ski and snowboarding courses. It currently sponsors the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and champion snowboarder Shaun White.
And now GoPro is preparing to enter the high-profile area of public companies. Earlier this month, it announced plans for an initial public offering of common stock.
The company’s cameras, which sell for between $200 and $400, are small, light, water resistant and extremely durable. The highest-end GoPro model shoots video in ultra-high-definition, or 4K. With a variety of related accessories such as helmet attachments, bike mounts and harnesses, the cameras can be mounted to everything from a bike helmet to the side of a half pipe.
Those attributes make GoPro a favorite of extreme athletes. The company was founded more than a decade ago by avid surfer and CEO Nicholas Woodman. The cameras’ most popular use: the ultimate selfie, a one-of-a-kind first-person point of view, even if the person starring in the video happens to be hang-gliding off a cliff or parachuting from a giant helium balloon.
During this year’s Super Bowl, the company aired a commercial featuring footage shot with a GoPro in 2012 as supersonic Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner parachuted from 24 miles up and became the first human being to break the sound barrier with only his body.
Through its sponsorships, GoPro gets one-of-a-kind content. Its YouTube channel has about 1.7 million subscribers and features hundreds of eye-popping videos starring everyday users and famous people like GoPro-sponsored surfing legend Kelly Slater.
Citing legal restrictions related to the IPO, company officials declined to comment for this story.
There is potential, however, to attract more consumers given the current consumer craze surrounding wearable technologies, says Whitney Fishman, senior director of innovation and consumer technology at media agency MEC.
It’s also possible, Fishman believes, that the cameras could find commercial use in fields such as medicine.
“Is everybody going to run out and buy one? Probably not, but it definitely has value outside of the amateur athlete circuit,” Fishman says. “The Olympics and all the crazy footage really helps.”
GoPro cameras are being spotted all over the Sochi Games. Coaches and athletes are using them to analyze courses and test runs. Members of the media also use them to give viewers an idea of what it’s like to zip down a ski slope or fly along a bobsled run.
Brian Carlin, director of industry relations for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, says the cameras are a key part of training for many of his group’s athletes. He estimates that he’s distributed about 20 of them to skiing and snowboarding coaches in Sochi, who use them to detect snow-related problems.
“They’re using man-made snow with some kind of chemicals in it,” Carlin says of the Olympic courses. “It gets soft and rutted, so the cameras are critical.”