At F8 2018, American camera maker RED and social media giant Facebook have announced a partnership to develop a professional-grade virtual reality camera system. The speciality of this device would be that it can capture high-resolution imagery in six degrees of freedom, giving more freedom to explore a scene in VR.
Six degrees of freedom (pitch, yaw, roll, x, y, z) in a VR environment meant that one has the ability to move around the virtual scene in 3D. It is impossible to record such content with a camera because it can only capture 2D perspectives. A 360 camera only captures images in 3DoF (pitch, yaw, roll). In other words, you can move your head to look around in a scene, but your position is fixed. For true 6DoF, something that you can find in games, you’ll have the ability to look around a scene as well as move around in it. To capture a scene in 6DoF using a camera, the scene will literally have to be shot from every possible perspective. Even if this were possible, it would be impractical to do so.
We suspect that just like it did with the second generation Surround 360 camera, Facebook is using software tools to emulate a 3D environment by predicting the depth of every element in a scene.. More details here.
A report by The Verge states that the device by RED does not yet have any price tag yet, but that Facebook will be suggesting this camera to content creators and filmmakers for producing immersive virtual entertainment. There is currently no prototype or render of this upcoming camera and Facebook didn’t specify any launch time frame as of yet.
RED cameras usually range from $5,000 to $15,000, so it can be assumed that this new camera will also be expensive. As a matter of fact, the report states that RED had announced last year an 8K camera which was priced at $80,000.
This is not, however, Facebook’s first foray into a camera specially designed for VR content making. Back at F8 2016, Facebook had announced the Surround 360, which was a 360-degree camera with 17 lenses bolted to a saucer-shaped chassis. The camera came with an “open-source spec sheet and hardware design document”, which means that the design can be tweaked to your heart’s content.
During those times, Facebook was investing a lot of its resources in jumpstarting VR content creation for Oculus devices said the report. The year after that Facebook launched the second generation of the Surround 360 with a 24-array camera sensor which was capable of shooting video in 8K and capture it in six degrees of freedom, giving a more immersive video experience.
However, by partnering with the highly reputed camera maker RED, it would seem that Facebook could actually push VR content creation mainstream. This makes sense as better the VR content, the more popular Facebook’s Oculus platform becomes. Brian Cabral, a director of engineering at Facebook specializing in computational photography, said to The Verge “The idea is to enable the best storytellers and give them the best equipment,”.