Facebook Launches 360-Degree Virtual Reality Camera
Facebook Upgrade: The New 360-Degree VR Camera
Facebook has spent a large of money on virtual reality including their $2 billion purchase of the maker of the Oculus Rift. Now the social media company needs to make sure there’s enough VR content out there to justify that investment, and this is where the money will be made.
At Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference recently, the corporation announced a 17-camera array for capturing 360-degree 3D video called Surround 360 this is an incredible innovation. Looking something like a UFO, the camera has 14 wide-angle cameras around all of the sides, two on the bottom and a fish-eye camera on the top of the camera. Facebook used off-the-shelf pieces for a price tag of $30,000 which is relatively affordable when you see all of the innovations. The company is also building the software to stitch together the many cameras to view in virtual reality; this is a technology that is a ways away from being mainstream.
Facebook doesn’t want to build this alone, so they’re out sourcing and also created an open sourced invention for both the hardware and software. The corporation is hoping developers will pick up the hardware design to do something with it and make it more affordable. The open-source options won’t be up on Github until this summer to allow others to work on it. Facebook is targeting the hardware at professional filmmakers and it would be something that could revolutionize all.
Facebook is joining an early and cloudy market for capturing 360-degree video. It has existed for many years but remains something that is still developing. A group of startups and established tech giants have announced their own products for capturing this kind of virtual content. Google and GoPro launched Odyssey in 2015. Odyssey is a $15,000 16-camera rig allowing 360-degree videos and new views. Google handles the video stitching with a cloud service it calls Jump which is a new market for them.
In 2014, Samsung started Project Beyond, a professional-grade camera, and then this year, it announced Gear 360, a handheld camera for taking 3D content aimed at the consumer market. And last year, Nokia announced Ozo, a $60,000 professional camera for 3D content.
As for startup companies, you will see companies such as Jaunt and Lytro, who are both working on putting together hardware and software tools for professionals to make VR games and content. Lytro is especially interesting on a technical level with a camera that captures the actual light fields in any place. The camera will record at 40k resolution and 300 frames per second, allowing for it to be relatively quick. That will add up to as much as 400 gigabytes per second of info it’s processing and bringing in. Renting the Lytro hardware-software package starts at a hefty price of $125,000.