Some might pass virtual reality off as nothing more than a fad, much like 3D televisions that left the world almost as quickly as they came into it, but the reality is, it’s here to stay.
Nokia, Lytro, Google and Facebook have all dipped their toes into the metaphorical pool, and with the amount of R&D going into it, it’s safe to say virtual reality has plenty of room and capital for growth.
Today, Facebook unveiled the next component in its virtual reality endeavors, the Surround 360, an open source 360-degree video camera designed to capture immersive VR content.
In the realm of things, this camera isn’t much different than those released by Lytro, Nokia and even GoPro. It’s a collection of 17 cameras: 14 around the edge, one fisheye on top and two fisheyes on the bottom. What sets this camera apart is that it’s open source.
Starting this summer, the design and software for the camera will be free to download on Github.
What this means is that anyone who wants to tweak the design to fit their project or alter it in any form to make it better is not only free to do so, but encouraged.
While this might seem like a very generous move on Facebook’s behalf, it’s worth noting they aren’t doing this merely for charity. Facebook is looking to take over the VR world, much like they did social media.
With Oculus in their back pocket, Facebook not only had the headset to get into the VR world, it also had the software. Obviously, Facebook itself has plenty of computing power to work with, so all they were missing was a device to capture the VR content.
Facebook has what’s referred to as an end-to-end solution for 360 video. You can can use Facebook to shoot the video, use Facebook software to process the video, and later, you can use Facebook, via the website or the Rift headset, to play it back.
Facebook says the camera cost roughly $30,000 to build from raw materials, but hopes to bring that number down with future designs. Even if your pockets are that deep, don’t count on getting your hands on one. Chris Cox, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, says ‘[Facebook is] not going to sell the camera.’
It’ll be interesting to see how Facebook’s latest device plays out in the long run. If it can gain traction, it’ll be a huge step towards Facebook becoming the main player in the industry.