With Oculus Rift out in the wild, Facebook is giving us our first look at its design for a 360-degree video camera. The new camera looks sleek and futuristic from the photos, but it's an open source design, so presumably the ideas people come up with might look different.
At its core, it's similar to designs that we've seen from Nokia, Lytro and Jaunt: Its an array of many cameras arranged such that the images from each can be stitched together into one spherical photo or video. In this case, it's a 17 camera rig: 14 cameras around in a ring, one fisheye pointing up, and two fisheyes pointing down.
Facebook says it plans to post the blueprints for rig for free on Github this winter. The software will also be free.
When Facebook dropped billions on Oculus, you better believe that the company meant to own the virtual reality future as a whole — not just the hardware headset. This means, of course, creating an entire platform for the development of virtual reality and 360 video. So here's the last missing piece of the puzzle: a shiny new camera.
With it, 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. This is very similar to what Google did last year with its Jump platform, which included its own gnarly 360 camera designs, processing software and playback mediums (Cardboard and YouTube).
But more than just an aggressive move in the VR and 360-video space it has endeavoured to own, the new camera is a video camera. Video is very important to Facebook, as evidenced by its recent push into live streaming. Facebook wants to own your life for as many seconds a day as it can, and with a 360 capture solution perfectly tailored to its products, it will own you in 360 degrees too.