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Facebook built a 360-degree video camera, and it's giving away the plans

The camera has 17 lenses.

Facebook

Facebook finally shipped its new Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, a niche product that will likely be as cool as the games and videos you’re able to use with it.

That means that Facebook has extra incentive (pressure?) to get people making great content for VR. At its F8 developer conference on Tuesday Facebook plans to unveil part of its plan to do just that: A new camera specifically for filming 360-degree videos, the kind of video that lets you pan or rotate within a scene so you can get a full 360-degree perspective.

On top of the hardware, Facebook built a software program to stitch all the video together to create seamless 360-degree views of anything the filmmaker shoots.

There’s just one catch: You can’t actually buy this camera anywhere. That’s because Facebook isn’t mass producing or selling the camera to the public. Instead, it’s open sourcing the camera’s specs and design, meaning the info needed to build the camera will be available to the public so that anyone with the time and money could build it on their own.

Facebook

So why would Facebook build a fancy 360-degree video camera and hand over the blueprints? Because Facebook has no interest in mass producing another piece of hardware. It wants 360-degree video content, but it doesn’t need to manufacture a camera to get it. It just needs to show others how to make the camera instead. Oculus did something similar with the first version of its VR headset.

Facebook is into all kinds of video content, not just 360-degree video. It’s also making a big push into live video, paying celebrities and media companies to use it new live video feature and putting the tool front and center in its main Facebook app in hopes more people will use it.

The idea behind all of this is that getting more people to watch videos on Facebook will help the company sell video ads, which are more lucrative than static or banner ads.

It isn’t the only company interested in 360-degree video either. Google partnered with GoPro a year ago for its own 360-degree camera, and it has been delayed by almost six months. Perhaps not coincidentally, Facebook’s 17-lens camera is one lens larger than Google’s 16-lens camera. Apparently size matters, even if you’re handing out the blueprints for free.

Here’s an example of what a 360-degree video looks like on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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