Facebook has kept its promise to open-source the blueprints of the Surround 360, its 17-camera cluster intended to catch videos in 360 degrees. The company also opened up the stitching software that connects those types of videos. With such a move, the company aims to cheer camera makers and videographers and convince them to shoot more in an experimental format and then share on Facebook.
Facebook keeps its promise
Facebook unveiled the Surround 360 in April during its F8 Developer Conference. At that time, the company said it was focused on making the hardware and software open-source; however, it wasn’t exactly prepared to discharge it to the general public.
Presently, if you visit the Surround 360’s GitHub repository, you can look at the PDF that shows every material you’ll need to make the camera and how everything fits together. The main thing that can’t be acquired off the rack is the cone-molded shell that encases the top and base. The social networking giant says you can take the schematics to a mechanical engineer and have them duplicated.
Brian Cabral, a Facebook engineering director who led the development of the Surround 360 videos at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, says the camera is designed to be customized and tinkered with.
“There will be people who will try different configurations, trying to make it smaller, cheaper, lighter,” he says. “Some people will go up, marking it bigger in resolution. That’s not only okay, but encouraged.”
Why did Facebook make it open-source?
By making it open-source, the social networking giant has a personal interest here. It’s beneficial for the company to promote the creation and sharing of as many new video formats as it can. It makes no difference to the company whether that video is live-streamed from the Facebook mobile app or shot and altered with a $30,000 rig. Facebook needs it all.
Also the social network wanted to open-source the camera design partly because of its engineers, who think they have built such an exclusive and one-of-a-kind design using a combination of hardware and software that is still not in the market. The Surround 360 is capable of producing videos with resolution up to 8K and uses two bottom-facing cameras to capture videos without including the pole to keep it buoyant.
Other tech companies have started to invest great amounts in these types of cameras, including Nokia with its $60,000 Ozo and GoPro’s $15,000 Odyssey, which was made in a joint effort with Google. However, Facebook believes it has the best design available. With its preferred configuration, the camera costs about $30,000 to assemble, and with the best possible parts, it can be built in around four hours.