Facebook today announced the second generation of its Surround 360 video camera design. The Surround 360 has been upgraded as both a larger, more capable unit and a smaller, more portable version.
The big model, called x24, now has a 24-camera array arranged in an orb instead of the 17 cameras the original flying saucer-shaped Surround 360 model unveiled last year.
The small model is the x6, which is equippde with six cameras but in a far more manageable package. Facebook is teaming up with a select group of hardware partners to manufacture and sell finished products later this year. It's unclear if these products will be Facebook-branded.
Both new camperas also capturing of 8K-quality scenes with what's known as six degrees of freedom (6DOF), which means your body can move forward, backward, up, down, left, and right so long as your wearing a VR headset with positional tracking like the Oculus Rift. This is the same kind of freedom of motion high-quality VR allows, but this time with live-action shots. It's done using a mix of hardware and software that captures a better understanding of the depth of objects in a scene, and replicates perspectives that the camera never captured originally.
Facebook hopes that the new cameras will help developers create more engaging videos. They will be able to edit live-action captures with CGI imagery like adding elements to a scene or even changing the background from cloudy to sun, all thanks to the light and depth data.
Plus, the content can be captured once and reformatted for different platforms. This means that a video shot with the Rift headset could be loaded and processed on the Gear VR or even on a smartphone screen accessing it through the Facebook mobile app.
Like the original camera, both of the new models were developed at Facebook's on-site hardware lab, Area 404.
F8 2017: Day 2
Today concluded F8, Facebook annual two-day event where developers come together to explore the future of technology.
In the opening keynote, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer talked about Facebook's goal to develop technology that will help everyone build global community. To do that, Facebook is investing in a number of foundational technologies over the next 10 years, including connectivity, artificial intelligence, and virtual and augmented reality.
Rather than look for a one-size-fits-all connectivity solution, Facebook is investing in a building-block strategy - designing different technologies for different use cases, which are then used together to create flexible and extensible networks.
Today Facebook highlighted new milestones in its efforts to reach people who are unconnected and increase capacity and performance for everyone else. Facebook's team set three new records in wireless data transfer: 36 gigabits per second over 13 kilometers point-to-point using millimeter-wave (MMW) technology; 80 gigabits per second between those same points using our optical cross-link technology; and 16 gigabits per second from a location on the ground to a circling Cessna aircraft over 7 kilometers away using MMW. Additionally, Facebook's Terragraph system being tested with San Jose in the city's downtown corridor has become the first city-scale mesh millimeter-wave system capable of delivering fiber-like multi-gigabits/s of performance and reliability.
Facebook also announced Tether-tenna, a new kind of "insta-infrastructure" where a small helicopter tethered to a wire containing fiber and power can be deployed immediately to bring back connectivity in case of emergency.
AI is a powerful tool, and Facebook is leveraging it to build visual experiences for people - including an AI-infused camera across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. With the ability to run cutting edge AI and computer vision algorithms on the device, this camera can now understand your surroundings, recognize people, places and things. It can annotate and enhance images and video. The new Camera Effects Platform gives developers a way to build new tools for creative expression, and Facebook shared a few demos of ideas that have come out of research.
In a keynote presentation today, Applied Machine Learning Director Joaquin Quionero Candela talked about how AI has revolutionized the ability of computers to process and understand images and videos. It's easy to forget that only five years ago, computers saw images as just a collection of numbers, with no particular meaning to them. Now computers can understand every single individual pixel of an image. These advancements enable new experiences, like adding digital objects and effects to a real world scene.
In addition to opening the Camera Effects Platform, Facebook is open sourcing Caffe2 - a framework to build and run AI algorithms on a phone - and building partnerships with Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and others.
On day one of F8, Mark Zuckerberg talked about how the camera is the first augmented reality platform. Today Chief Scientist of Oculus Research Michael Abrash shared a vision for the path to full AR - where augmentation enhances your vision and hearing while being light, comfortable, power-efficient and socially acceptable enough to accompany you everywhere.
He talked about the rise of virtual computing - which encompasses both virtual and augmented reality - as the next great wave after personal computing. Virtual computing is just starting to form, but it will give us the ability to transcend time and space to connect with one another in new ways.
In order to make virtual computing as much a part of everyday life as the smartphone is today, Facebook is going to need see-through augmented reality, which will likely be transparent glasses that can show virtual images overlaid on the real world.
The set of technologies needed to reach full AR doesn't exist yet. This is a decade-long investment and it will require major advances in material science, perception, graphics and many other areas.
Building 8 is the product development and research team at Facebook focused on creating and shipping new, category-defining consumer products that are social first, and that advance Facebook's mission. Products from Building 8 will be powered by a innovation engine modeled after DARPA and shipped at scale.
At F8 Facebook announced two projects focused on silent speech communications.
Facebook is working on a system that will let people type with their brains. Specifically, the company has a goal of creating a silent speech system capable of typing 100 words per minute straight from your brain - that's five times faster than you can type on a smartphone today. This isn't about decoding your random thoughts. Think of it like this: You take many photos and choose to share only some of them. Similarly, you have many thoughts and choose to share only some of them. This is about decoding those words you've already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain. It's a way to communicate with the speed and flexibility of your voice and the privacy of text. We want to do this with non-invasive, wearable sensors that can be manufactured at scale.
Facebook also has a project directed at allowing people to hear with their skin. Facebook is building the hardware and software necessary to deliver language through the skin.