Facebook's new algorithm will help save VR movies from shaky-cam

The social networking company has created a 360 degree video stabilization algorithm

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks past Mobile World Congress attendees watching a virtual reality presentation in Barcelona on Feb. 21, 2016.

Credit: Facebook

Facebook wants to make sure that any VR home movies shared on its social network won't make people puke. That's why the company is building a new video stabilization algorithm that will help smooth out all of the bumps and shakes that come from wielding a 360-degree camera. 

The new algorithm is designed for stabilizing 360-degree videos in particular, something that Facebook says is important for addressing the growing amount of spherical footage. Previous stabilization technology was designed primarily for videos with a smaller field of view because they were usually taken with traditional 2D cameras. 

It's an important step for Facebook, which has been focused on virtual reality content and 360-degree video, especially after its US$2 billion acquisition of VR hardware maker Oculus in 2014. The social network introduced support for 360-degree video a year ago and has been pushing it ever since. 

One of the potential issues with using virtual reality to view 360-degree video is that camera shake and other instability could lead to serious motion sickness. By smoothing that out, Facebook may make viewing 360-degree video on its platform more palatable. 

The algorithm isn't being rolled out in production yet, but the company plans to deploy it across the Facebook and Oculus platforms, Facebook research scientist Johannes Kopf said in a blog post.

Kopf is no stranger to image stabilization projects: He spearheaded Microsoft's Hyperlapse research project, which aimed to smooth out videos shot with first-person cameras, like a GoPro. He clearly took that expertise to Facebook, because the 360 video algorithm also supports hyperlapse technology for spherical video. That means the algorithm could smooth out and speed up footage shot from a long hike or bike ride.  

The 360 video news comes alongside a pair of other Facebook announcements from the @Scale conference in San Jose. Facebook unveiled a new MySQL storage engine called MyRocks that's based on the company's RocksDB persistent key-value store.

The company is also open sourcing Zstandard, a new compression algorithm that's supposed to provide significant performance gains compared to Deflate, the current standard compression technology.

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