The new family of Surround360 cameras will allow us not only to look around us but also to tilt to see the scene from different angles. The cameras will be manufactured by authorized partners.
Mike Schroepfer, CTO of Facebook, has been in charge of opening today the second day of the F8, in which he has presented the new designs of the technology Surround 360, which they introduced last year and have been developed by the company’s hardware lab, Area 404. New x24 and her little sister, x6, are cameras capable of capturing stereoscopic video in 360º, but with the addition that we can move around the scene and see it from different angles. That is, we will have absolute positioning, which will raise the level of immersion to new heights. An example of this type of videos we could see with the music video that Sony released for PlayStation VR. Facebook will not enter the camera manufacturing business, but will allow its reference designs to be licensed for other manufacturers to bring to market.
The x24 camera, intended for professionals with high-end projects, has 24 lenses, from the FLIR thermal imager company, capable of filming at extremely high resolutions, obtaining the full RGB color gamut and depth information of each pixel with an oversampling of 4 times per point. The x6 has only 6 lenses and records at a lower resolution than its big sister and offers 3x oversampling.
“We want a multitude of really immersive content to be produced, so that people can live the incredible experiences we want them to have in VR,” he commented Schroepfer. “Virtual experiences can transport us to places we’ve never been, like Mars or training in an emergency room to be a doctor, but video really opens up the opportunity to be in real places in the world, watching the Northern Lights or a family member.”
Brian Cabral, the Facebook engineer in charge of the virtual reality cameras project, explained to FastCompany, that the objective was to create a camera capable of offering 3D, 360º, 120 million pixels of depth information, capture at 60 times per second and that could be easily integrated with the tools used by professionals on a daily basis. The camera can accurately map the environment into a 3D point cloud that simplifies the work of producing content for Rift or Vive. It also allows you to replace the background as you would with a green screen, but without having to use the green background, Facebook said. The system will also be compatible with mobile devices that do not have absolute positioning such as GearVR and Daydream, offering good quality as well.
Eric Cheng, responsible for immersive content at Facebook, gave a list of partners they have been working with, including Adobe and Foundry, creators of post-processing tools, and Otoy, software developer and distributor of 3D content. “Users will be able to use the camera’s content with familiar tools since its launch, instead of having to fight with new tools,” Cheng commented.
Facebook has also been working with virtual reality and special effects production companies such as Here Be Dragons and FrameStore who has been in charge of the effects of Guardians of the Galaxy 2. “The goal is to allow us to experience an environment or story in the most immersive way possible, so that technology is put aside and we are left alone with the story,” Cheng added. “We’ve already seen this in virtual reality games. This is also a big step for the actual content.”
“The potential of Facebook’s 6DOF cameras is incredible,” he commented Johannes Saam, creative director of FrameStore. “Its point cloud-based approach paired with image overlay removes the line between 2D and 3D in the production chain and opens up new opportunities for advanced volumetric capture, which has the potential to be the next trend of cinema. Being part of the creation of this process and adapting it to a moderna production chain was very exciting”.
The manufacturers and prices of each of the cameras will be known soon, since the first products are expected to be marketed this year.