Facebook has just invented the flick, a new unit of time

  23 January 2018    Read: 984
Facebook has just invented the flick, a new unit of time

As if conquering the world wasn't enough, Facebook has now invented its own measure of time. 

Dubbed 'flicks', the unit is defined as 1/705,600,000 of a second, or about 1.42 nanoseconds.

It aims to give CGI artists and code writers the tools to make sure videos in apps run smoothly - something that has so far been tricky for developers.

Flicks, unveiled in the firm's Open Source Twitter feed, are the creation of Facebook's Oculus VR subsidiary.

The name is a portmanteau of the phrase 'frame-tick,' and it is the smallest unit of time larger than a nanosecond.

Programmers have to take into account factors like phone and laptop screen refresh rates, dealing with fractions of a second that make calculations difficult

The new time unit, designed for the coding language C++, should simplify this process.

If widely adopted, Facebook will have set a new standard industry standard for working with units like frames per second and kilohertz.

Although perhaps not of immediate interest to the average user of the firm's social network, it could lead to more high quality content appearing on Facebook and elsewhere online.

In a written statement on the Github code repository, a Facebook spokesman said: 'When working creating visual effects for film, television, and other media, it is common to run simulations or other time-integrating processes which subdivide a single frame of time into a fixed, integer number of subdivisions.

'It is handy to be able to accumulate these subdivisions to create exact 1-frame and 1-second intervals, for a variety of reasons.

'However, the highest usable resolution, nanoseconds, doesn't evenly divide common film & media framerates. This was the genesis of this unit.'

One example of when flicks are useful is in video game programming.

Most games display at 60 frames per second, when running at highest quality.

This means that the software running the graphics gets 16.667 milliseconds to calculate how to recreate the characters and settings of the game universe in pixels on the screen.

That number is tricky to deal with and can create what are called rounding errors, which can hinder the smoothness of animations.

The same applies to web browsers, apps and other graphically based computer software.

The flick ensures that the time frame for rendering video is always an easy to deal with, even number.

In the case of 60-frame-per-second refresh rate video games, a computer has 11,760,000 flicks to create each new screen frame.

The original article was published in the Daily Mail.


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