Today Facebook has followed through on its promise to open source the design of the Surround 360, its 17-camera array designed to capture video in 360 degrees. The company has also made available the stitching software used to piece together those types of videos. The goal is to encourage camera makers and videographers to shoot more footage in the experimental format — and, of course, share it on Facebook.
The Surround 360 was first announced during Facebook’s F8 developer conferenceback in April. At the time, the company said it was committed to making the hardware and software open-source, but it wasn’t quite ready to release it to the public. Now, if you head over to the Surround 360’s GitHub repository, you can check out the PDF that outlines all the materials you’ll need to make the camera and how it all fits together. The only thing that can’t be purchased off the shelf are the cone-shaped shells that encase the top and bottom. Facebook says you can take the schematics to a machinist and have them replicated.
The camera is designed to be modified and tinkered with, says Brian Cabral, a Facebook engineering director who led development of the Surround 360 at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters. “There will be people who will try different configurations, trying to make it smaller, cheaper, lighter,” he says. “Some people will go up, marking it bigger in resolution. That’s not only okay, but encouraged.” At Facebook’s preferred configuration, the camera cost about $30,000 to build and, with the proper parts, can be constructed in about four hours.