Facebook's Latest VR Cameras Offer New Freedom

By Steve Anderson April 21, 2017

The idea of Facebook making its own line of video cameras may sound, at first, about as ludicrous as Ford offering its own line of cell phones or Raytheon making its own blender. Looking closer, however, suggests that Facebook may well have a complementary good going in cameras, particularly in virtual reality (VR) cameras. The new line of VR cameras from Facebook, therefore, is a strange-sounding notion that's got some logic behind it, and as reports from The Verge and Wired note, the cameras themselves are actually shockingly potent apparatuses.

Dubbed the Surround360 x6 and Surround360 x24, the cameras represent what may be the start of a major new line of hardware to come out of Facebook going forward. Immediately, reports note, the new cameras will provide the necessary tools for filmmakers to shoot 360-degree video, a vital tool for anyone who wants to create VR projects. Beyond that, however, Facebook looks to be trying to democratize such video, making it easier for anyone to develop a VR project and, ultimately, route a lot of that video to Facebook.

The cameras themselves, meanwhile, represent significant advances from the original model Facebook was showing off, which boasted 17 cameras in a rather large orb. The x24 contains 24 cameras, as the name suggests, and the x6 contains, not surprisingly, six cameras. Reports suggest that none of these will actually be made by Facebook, but rather, that Facebook will be working with different hardware partners to make these devices for later sale. The original Surround 360 was actually revealed as an open-source spec guide that others could use to build with, so it does seem like Facebook's not particularly interested in getting hardware exclusivity.

While Facebook's attempts at hardware haven't always gone so well in the past, it's clear that the company's stepping into the hardware market much more forcefully now, with a particular emphasis on video and VR technology. This isn't so far out of line; after all, Facebook's social media standing isn't doing all that well these days thanks to the growing number of competitors—as far back as 2013, young people were noting that Facebook wasn't cool anymore, which is pretty much the beginning of the end—and so other revenue-generators had to be found.

Facebook looking for a stake in the next generation of video probably isn't a bad idea, and should result in some new revenue streams as well as new reason to use Facebook, especially given Facebook's VR connections with Oculus. This could be a great new move for the company, but only time will tell if it's all that valuable.




Edited by Alicia Young

Contributing Writer

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