At its F8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook introduced a new Surround 360 camera that would cost a whopping $30,000.
Designed by the social network, the 360-degree video capture system is only a prototype at the moment, and it won’t be making it to mass market anytime soon. The company’s intention is to allure developers to take Facebook’s design and run with it.
The 3D virtual reality camera captures 360-degree images and renders them accordingly. The device features 17 globally synchronized cameras: 14 wide-angle lenses along its edge, plus one fish-eye camera at the top and two on the bottom.
The camera films 360-degree videos, which can be viewed through a VR headset like the Oculus Rift and Gear VR, and can also be shared on its News Feed. The company has also developed a software to stitch the video together as a seamless 360-degree video. It can record up to 2 hours of video at huge resolutions of 8K.
The social network is open-sourcing the camera’s specs and its design, meaning the general public or the hardware hackers can create their own cameras.
While the company’s engineers spent around $30,000 to buy raw materials for the camera, they say volume buys and slight changes in the formula could help bring the price down. According to its website, the cameras are made by Point Grey, which builds cameras for industrial, medical, scientific, traffic and security applications.
Facebook has moved aggressively into the virtual reality space as a way to retain viewers on the social network. It paid $2 billion to acquire gaming firm Oculus, which recently released its $599 gaming device. The networking giant regularly promotes videos shot in 360, similar to Google’s YouTube.
Last year, Google launched the Jump, a $15000 rig having 16 connected GoPro cameras. GoPro markets it as the Odyssey, however, it is only available through an invite.
Facebook hopes to expand Oculus beyond gaming and intends to give developers to make as much content as possible. Hence, they need to showcase tools like this in front of developers to expand the market.
With such a high price tag, the Surround 360 camera is not aimed at everyday consumers, but serious filmmakers. The company hopes the camera will be used by production professionals who have the resources to put it together and also those looking for more solutions to shooting with.