Facebook Announces Open Source Transform: A Software Which Streams 360-Degree Videos

Today, at a Video @Scale conference, Facebook announced its open-sourced Transform, a software which will allow users to easily and efficiently stream 360-degree videos.
Given Facebook’s size, the company must do whatever it can in order to deliver content to its users quickly while at the same time cutting down on file storage space whenever possible, as the content will be stored in Facebook’s data centers. Hence, the engineers in the company came up with a wonderful idea; they built a tool which turns a regular rectangle-shaped video into a three-dimensional cube. The tweak cuts the size of the video files by 25 percent. This tool is now available for everyone to use in the form of a plugin to ffmpeg media encoding and streaming software.
Image Source: code.facebook.com
Just like other web companies, Facebook releases code under open source licenses regularly. This practice might lead to improvements in the software used by the companies, and it can also help the companies to find and hire people who are particularly efficient in using the software. This move could also make Facebook's technology standard across numerous other companies, because it's free and it's connected with Facebook. Other open source software recently released by Facebook includes React Native for Android, the Nuclide integrated development environment (IDE), the Infer code verification tool, and artificial intelligence modules for the Torch library.
In a blog post, Pio and Evgeny Kuzyakov acknowledged that the use of cube format is not unique to facebook. In a blog post they wrote:
“Cube maps have been used in computer graphics for a long time, mostly to create skyboxes and reflections.”
The Unity Game Engine and the Unreal Engine both have tools for creating cube maps; however, the developers can now choose to use a standalone piece of software which would help Facebook deliver content to its popular News Feed.
Of course, Facebook is a few steps ahead and it’s doing more than just cube work. The company is also thinking in terms of pyramids, mainly to optimize video streaming for virtual reality headsets like Samsung Gear VR. The company’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014 has made it clear that virtual reality is really important to the company. At the same time, Facebook wants to provide great experience while being cognizant of storage space and network bandwidth.
The contents of 360-degree VR video has been pushed in the shape of a pyramid, with the immediate field of view in the base of the pyramid in full resolution. The remaining content shows the other three sides with lower resolution. Facebook does moreto compress file size beyond how they display the video for end user, but, simply put, their method drops down the size of the file by 80 percent, as per the blog post.
For now, Facebook is not open-sourcing this pyramid transformation technology.
The company concluded by saying,
“We're excited to continue making progress with 360 videos, and we look forward to sharing new tools and learnings with the engineering community.”