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Facebook makes good on promise to open-source its 360-degree camera

Facebook has finally released all the details on its Surround 360 camera, which the company announced at the F8 conference in April. Planned from the start to be open source, it took some time before Facebook was ready to provide everything to the public, including the necessary software that will stitch together a seamless, 360-degree video from the rig’s 17 cameras.

As of today, everything you need to build your own Surround 360 can be found on GitHub. Of course, you’ll have to source all the hardware yourself, something Facebook says will cost around $30,000 in its standard configuration, according to The Verge. It should only take about four hours to assemble, and all the parts save the metal top and bottom covers are commercially available. (The covers will need to be custom-machined, and Facebook provides the schematics for doing this.)

While building the camera is an expensive proposition, as a fully open-source project, Facebook will see no direct revenue from it. “Our mission is to connect the world,” Facebook’s Brian Cabral, who led development of the Surround 360, told The Verge. Of course, Facebook does stand to benefit by spurring the production of 360-degree content, as it looks to increase engagement among its 1.65 billion monthly active users.

Facebook believes the Surround 360 is the most full-featured solution for VR content, offering up to 8K resolution for crystal-clear video. It also incorporates two bottom cameras that see around the pole that holds the unit aloft, completely removing it from the final stitched output.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Surround 360 is that it can essentially be customized to meet the specific needs of whoever is building it. People may try to make it smaller and less expensive, or even larger and more complex to increase resolution. “That’s not only OK, but encouraged,” Cabral added.

Check out Facebook’s Surround 360 page for more information and everything you need to know about how it works and how to build it.