Facebook to License 360 Cameras That Capture in Six Degrees of Freedom

They look a little like Portal 2's Wheatley, only with more eyes. I'm on board.


At Facebook's F8 conference, CTO Mike Schroepfer unveiled designs for two 360 cameras (via Upload VR). First up is the x24, which has—you guessed it—24 cameras, while the x6 has six cameras. Both devices capture in six degrees of freedom, and exemplify a concept known as volumetric capture.

The idea is that one could capture video with a 6DoF camera like the x24 or x6, allowing a full range of motions. Most 360 videos afford users the same accommodation, but only for their heads. You can look, but you can't walk around. This is because the video is only a video; it's not a three-dimensional scene. Upload VR used an IMAX analogy: you're standing in the center of a theater with the screen wrapped around you. It looks great, but you can't step into it.

Facebook and OTOY are taking a different tack. Their technology sees captured images as a series of data points. From that information, they can pull depth information and create a realistic space. It's not quite The Matrix, but it's close. GIFs show users bending forward, leaning back, and squatting without breaking immersion.

"Both of us [Facebook and OTOY] were developing technologies independently of each other," said Facebook Engineering Director Brian Cabral. "When they matured to a certain point it was clear that they were very complementary."

Tech Crunch covered the story as well, and brought up other ways the technology could be used. Since cameras break down images into data points, creators could, for example, swap out one video's background—such as a forest setting—and insert a substitute.

At F8, Facebook announced partnerships to manufacture and license the technology. In addition to OTOY, companies such as Adobe, Framestore, and The Mill plan to get involved. The social company's end goal is to nail down licenses and release cameras by the end of 2017.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

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