The new Facebook virtual reality cameras has a very different kind of camera to create not just any kind of video but an exquisite 360-degree video. So, a team of Facebook Engineers, led by a camera genius named Brian Cabral, is hoping to bootstrap a much larger market for these extravagant devices. On the 19th of April at Facebook’s annual developer conference in Northern California, Cabral and team unveiled blueprints for two new cameras designed to capture spherical video with extreme fidelity.
One of these orb-shaped devices grabs video through 24 individual lenses. The other, simpler and cheaper to build, spans six. And both shoot with “six degrees of freedom,” moving forward and back, up and down, right and left, and across three other perpendicular axes. This means they can capture a more complete and more realistic image than most cameras on the market, according to Johannes Saam, a senior creative developer at Framestore, a movie effects house that tested early versions of these devices. “If you put a headset on, the presence you feel from these images is way, way, way greater,” he says.
Facebook virtual reality cameras was made to provide professional filmmakers with the tools needed to shoot monoscopic 360-degree video for smartphones, laptops, and PCs as well as the stereoscopic 3-D video that gets shuttled into VR headsets like the Samsung Gear. But Cabral and company are looking much further head: ultimately, so much of that video will appear on Facebook. “The idea is to bring people closer together through rich and immersive stories we can share with our families and friends,” Cabral says, nodding at the company’s oft-stated mission to “connect the world.”
It should be said, however, that high-end advertisers are already interested in this new breed of video. In other words, Facebook may also expect these new cameras to bolster its bottom line.