Among the clutter of high-tech gadgets we own, one of the most used is the camera. Be it the tiny module on our smartphones, compact point-and-shoots or the mighty DSLRs. Humans love pictures, and not many would willingly do away with their cameras. They help capture moments that are special to us, and let us relive those moments at a later time.
But cameras didn’t always look the way they do today. In fact, the history of the camera dates much further back than the introduction of photography. It started out with the camera obscura – a device dating back to the ancient Chinese – which uses a pinhole to project an image of the scene outside upside-down onto a viewing surface. This was the building block for modern cameras and photography.
The evolution of the camera has been quite extraordinary. We’ve moved from big room-sized boxes – whose images had to be traced manually, to much smaller film cameras, to instant cameras, semi-automated and fully digital models which let us capture hours of video footage. And now, Facebook wants to take things to a whole other level.
Yesterday, at F8 – Facebook’s annual global developer conference, Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that they have successfully built a 360-degree camera called Surround360. The company has spent the past year working on a stereoscopic camera that will allow us to produce 3D video. Zuckerberg’s adorable 4-month old daughter, Max, is reaching the age where she learns to walk; and when the time comes, this doting daddy wants to go all out. “When Max takes her first step, we’ll be able to capture that whole scene, not just write down the date or take a photo or take a little 2-D video,” he says. “The people we want to share this with…can go there. They can experience that moment.”
But he doesn’t just want one for himself. Facebook plans on freely sharing the camera’s designs with the world at large, including not only the hardware schematics but the rather complex software needed to stitch the camera’s images into a sweeping, 360-degree whole.
This is all part of Zuckerberg’s effort to move the Internet beyond text and photos and video to a new mode of communication. This begins with 360-degree video, but the hope is that it extends to the kind of virtual reality offered by the company’s Oculus headset. “Over time, people get richer and richer tools to communicate and express what they care about,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with the folks over at WIRED. “What’s next? You’re clearly going to be able to experience whole scenes, whether that’s captured through some kind of 360-degree camera or it’s computer-generated, as games are.”
Companies like Nokia and Google share his vision. But what sets Facebook apart is they’re giving the designs away – they’ll be posted to Github this summer.
Zuckerberg sees this as another piece of the company’s mission to Connect the World. His idea is to build Facebook around this mission and try all sorts of things to get closer to achieving it. “The real goal is to build the community. A lot of times, the best way to advance the technology is to work on it as a community.”
We love this thought. After all, the greatest technological breakthroughs have come from people around the world, working together, focused on a common goal. How do you feel about Facebook’s new strategy to bring the world together? Let us know in the comments!