Facebook’s new 360-degree cameras change the virtual reality game

Virtual reality just got a bit less, well, virtual. 

On the second day of Facebook’s F8 conference in San Jose, the company unveiled two new cameras that have the potential to change the way people both capture and experience virtual reality. 

The x24 and x6, as they are called, use their assortment of cameras to shoot 360-degree 3D video. Unlike many other 360-cameras, the x24 and x6 — which have 24 and six lenses, respectively — combine with Facebook technology to shoot in so-called six degrees of freedom.

Why does this matter? With traditional 360 video, a user with a VR headset is essentially limited to the perspective of the camera that filmed the scene. Want to walk around the 360 environment? Sure thing, but your view will not track with your avatar’s placement within the virtual world. 

Lame, right? 

Enter the x24 and x6. Facebook says it has basically solved this static-view problem, and that its new cameras plus special software allow a user to see from perspectives entirely different than that of the camera which captured the scene. 

What does this mean in practice? Imagine looking around a virtual bush in a 360 VR video and actually seeing the other side. According to Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, it’s possible with the x24 and x6. 

So where can you get your hands on Facebook’s new cameras? Sadly, the answer is nowhere — at least for now. According to Engadget, Facebook intends to license them out commercially but not sell them directly to consumers for the time being. 

Basically, don’t expect your Uncle Ralph to post a 360-degree video of his company’s softball game any time soon.

That could change eventually, however, as Facebook does want to sell the x6 and x24 at some point. And whenever that point does come, virtual reality will start feeling a lot more real. 

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