Facebook has announced today that they have designed and built the second generation of their Surround 360 video camera, an array of 17 cameras which can capture 3D videos in 360-degrees. This was first revealed last year as an open source project, with the code that's used to "stitch" videos together also being made publicly available. The second generation features 2 new models. There is small portable version of the camera with a total of 6 cameras, known as the x6. The second device, known as x24, is much larger. It has a total of 24 cameras, rather than the original 17, arranged in an "orb" shape.
The cameras have been improved in several ways, with the ability to film 360-degree scenes in 4K, 6K, and 8K-quality. The devices use technology known as "six degrees of freedom," or "6DOF," which until a few years ago was used only in special effects and movie editing. However, it is now much more accessible and affordable due to the increased numbers of companies working on VR technology today. To use 6DOF the user needs a VR headset with positional tracking, such as an Oculus Rift, which allows them to film while moving their body in any direction. When this project was first unveiled last year, all the designs were simply released online. However, this time around Facebook has chosen to do things a little differently. They have confirmed that they have teamed up with "a select group of hardware partners," who are responsible for manufacturing and distributing the finished product, although it is currently unclear whether the cameras will be sold under the Facebook brand.
The company has already said that they have no plans to directly sell the devices. It's thought that Facebook is making this technology available to developers to showcase the possibilities of VR, and help kickstart the VR technology boom. Some analysts are doubtful whether VR will ever truly make it into the mainstream of technology. Facebook has not yet confirmed exactly how much the camera will cost once it hits the market but it was estimated that the original Facebook Surround 360 would cost approximately $30,000 to make if the exact plans were followed, so it's possible that the cost could end up the same this time around. Facebook has confirmed that the camera's hardware designs and the stitching code to create the videos will be made publicly available on GitHub later this year in the Summer.