We were expecting VR and 360-degree video to be a hot topic at the F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco, so it was no surprise to see Facebook unveil a new tool to get more immersive video uploaded to the platform.
On stage during Facebook’s annual conference keynote, the “Surround 360” camera was revealed from under a black sheet.
In what kind of looks like a flying saucer of sorts, the high-end video capture system is an open-source project on GitHub. The Facebook Surround 360 is a 17-camera array that is accompanied by web-based software to capture 360-degree video and render the footage in real-time.
Facebook believes the design solves a variety of technical problems that can be a challenge for current 360-degree video capture systems and is encouraging manufacturers and hobbyists to take advantage of the designs and build cameras of their own.
The rig shown at F8 has 14 wide-angle cameras surrounding the saucer body, with one fish-eye camera on top and two more on the bottom. The cameras use what is known as a global shutter instead of a rolling one, which ensures the resulting footage does not display artifacts from the closing of individual shutters.
Facebook is touting the Surround 360 as the best-designed camera of its kind because of the integrated hardware and software married together as a complete package. Surround 360 is expected to run for a few hours without overheating and exports video in resolution up to 8K.
The materials necessary to build a Surround 360 does not run cheap though. Facebook states the camera required close to $30,000 in materials and also made it clear that Facebook has no interest in becoming a camera manufacturer.
Who this camera is for is not entirely clear, but its a move from Facebook to stay relevant with professional creators who may have been eyeing Google’s Jump camera, a 16 GoPro rig that costs close to $15,000.
What is clear though is that 360-degree cameras are becoming a priority for camera manufacturers and video platforms to continue developing out more affordable camera devices. Earlier this year at CES, Nikon showed off their 360 action camera and Samsung later unveiled their $399 Gear 360 camera that shoots close to 4K.
You can compare the variety of consumer model 360 cameras here.
Facebook has made it clear that VR and AR are an important part of the company’s 10 year roadmap to connect people around the world, with Mark Zuckerberg stating that “virtual reality has the potential to be the most social platform”.
F8 is the annual developer conference that features more than 40 sessions along with product announcements, interactive demos and the opportunity for attendees to get one-on-one help from the Facebook team.