Facebook wants to get more 360-degree video on its platform, but the technology just isn’t quite there yet. So the social network decided to take things into its own hands and build the craziest high-definition video system you ever did see.
Facebook Surround 360 is the social network’s incredible 360-degree camera rig that it unveiled onstage at F8 on Tuesday. Shaped like a flying saucer fit for Klaatu and Gort, the device consists of 17 camera lenses—14 wide-angle cameras evenly spread around the body, plus one fish-eye camera on top and two on the bottom—that capture every conceivable angle.
The cameras aboard the UFO-like device use a global shutter as opposed to a rolling shutter, a feature that ensures the footage won’t be marketed with digital artifacts from individual shutters closing.
All of the footage captured by those individual lenses is stitched together by an accompanying Web-based software platform that renders the footage automatically. The video can be exported from the device at resolution up to 8K.
According to Facebook, the design is meant to solve the multitude of technical problems that plague 360-degree video and make it difficult to produce.
Facebook said that despite the decision to build the Surround 360, it has no intentions of becoming a camera company. To prove it, the social network announced that Surround 360 would be an open-source project, with designs available on GitHub later this summer for people to build upon and modify.
Most folks won’t be able to get their hands on the Surround 360 as it stands; the materials to build it would cost about $30,000. That price puts it comfortably in the middle of two other big names getting into 360-degree video: GoPro has a 16-camera rig named Odyssey that will cost $15,000, and Nokia has a $60,000 setup called Ozo.