In recent times, Facebook has been involved in creating high-end state of the art technology devices and hardware. At their last F8 annual developer conference, they introduced their new piece of camera hardware; the surround 360 camera. Facebook has spent a lot of effort to come up with this high-tech camera design that features a sturdy aluminum chassis harboring 17 different cameras on its construction. The camera incorporates VR and while other brands, mostly game developers, such as GoPro Omni have already adopted the technology, the average person has found it difficult to create video footage. For this reason, Facebook decided to open source the software and hardware designs used by the surround-360 camera. Here is a brief description of the camera and what it can achieve. If you’re feeling savvy, you can use Facebook’s design to build one of these yourself.
Features and specifications
Facebook has said the designs for their VR 3D surround camera will be available this summer at GitHub. The device will be able to capture footage and then render it online using the open source web-based software created specifically for it. Some of the attributes of Facebook’s surround 360 include;
- Flying-saucepan design – the first peculiar element of the camera is its flying-saucepan shape which has you thinking it is something else. However, this shape only makes it easier to incorporate all the different cameras and capture 360 degrees footage stereotype of 3D videos. The shape also helps users come up with a “truly spherical video” as noted by Facebook.
- 17 different cameras – this is simply an incredible aspect of the camera. There are 17 different cameras on the device, 14 around its edges, two cameras pointing down and one fisheye camera pointing up. Videographers will be able to purchase the camera independently and other types of cameras that can work with the open source software can still be integrated into the system.
- Open source software – Facebook decided to offer the software for free and videographers will not need to buy anything else apart from the cameras and materials needed for connection; no expensive software requirement. The software will be used to stitch up your videos in 4k, 6k and 8k for each camera eye to render a stereoscopic playback. Brian Cabral, the head director of the project, said the software is not only limited to surround 360 but will also operate on a broad family of camera rigs that are similar in design to the 360.
- End-to end system – after looking at how the camera works, there is no more work for the users other than taking the shots. The system is a professional grade end-to-end mechanism that takes footage, self edits the footage and renders them to a defined destination where users can then get them. The first video taken with the device illustrated just what a virtual reality movie would look like. Users could take shots at all events around them as they are in the middle of it all and that is the perfect 3D experience.
One other amazing thing about this camera is that there is one destination for all the videos; Oculus Rift which is already shipping to customers. During the F8 event, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg played out a 10 year road map which characterized the AR and VR elements. As Cabral later stated, 3D-360 imagery will definitely become a reality and content sharing will be a normal thing. Clearly, we have already embarked on that journey.
Benefits of the camera
As noted by the head director of production, there were various levels of challenges when coming up with the surround 360 camera. The project’s goal was to create an end-to end environment camera that captures edits and renders just like a typical camera does. In addition, they wanted to capture 3D footage which meant depth and more detail from each capture. This was anything unlike monoscopic video and there were challenges to prevent the camera from overheating and avoid flat shots that looked like still photos. Fortunately, the project achieved its goals and the benefits of the camera include;
- Ease of use – when compared with other VR devices, surround 360 is very easy to use just like you would use other monoscopic cameras.
- No overheating – the design, materials and system used ensures cameras operate at optimum levels without overheating.
- Ultimate 3D environment – this is the first perfect camera that can generate ultimate 3D footage videos.
- No memory shortages – you can run the cameras for many hours generating footages without worrying about space.
Essentially, Facebook surround 360 is a great innovation and step towards virtual reality and content sharing. It will be interesting to see what develops after users have it in their hands. You can learn more about the camera assembly and open source software here: https://facebook360.fb.com/facebook-surround-360/