What if you could peek behind whats in your photos, like youre moving your head to see whats inside a window? Thats the futuristic promise of Facebook 3D photos. After announcing the feature at F8 in May, Facebook is now rolling out 3D photos to add make-believe depth to your iPhone portrait mode shots. Shoot one, tap the new 3D photos option in the status update composer, select a portrait mode photo and users on the desktop or mobile News Feed as well as in VR through Oculus Gos browser or Firefox on Oculus Rift can tap/click and drag or move their head to see the photos depth. Everyone can now view 3D photos and the ability to create them will open to everyone in the coming weeks. Facebook is constantly in search of ways to keep the News Feed interesting. What started with text and photos eventually expanded into videos and live broadcasts, and now to 360 photos and 3D photos. Facebook hopes if its the exclusive social media home for these new kinds of content, youll come back to explore and rack up some ad views in the meantime. Sometimes that means embracing mind-bending new formats like VR memories that recreate a scene in digital pointillism based on a photo. So how exactly do 3D photos work? Our writer Devin Coldewey did a deep-dive earlier this year into how Facebook uses AI to stitch together real layers of the photo with what it infers should be there if you tilted your perspective. Since portrait mode fires off both of a phones cameras simultaneously, parallax differences can be used to recreate whats behind the subject. How Facebooks new 3D photos workTo create the best 3D photos with your iPhone 7+, 8+, X or XS (more phones will work with the feature in the future), Facebook recommends you keep your subject three to four feet away, and have things in the foreground and background. Distinct colors will make the layers separate better, and transparent or shiny objects like glass or plastic can throw off the AI. Originally, the idea was to democratize the creation of VR content. But with headset penetration still relatively low, its the ability to display depth in the News Feed that will have the greatest impact for Facebook. In an era where Facebooks cool is waning, hosting next-generation art forms could make it a must-visit property even as more of our socializing moves to Instagram.
Leveraging the extra depth data found in certain recent iPhone photographs, Facebook today announced the rollout of 3D Photos: images that look flat at first, but can be examined from different angles either through Facebook itself, or using Oculus VR headsets. The basic premise of a 3D Photo is that the dual cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, X, and XS model can capture depth data in addition to the flat image — data that has generally been used solely to create blurred backgrounds in portrait mode. However, software can use that data to understand some of the scenes three-dimensional characteristics, then simulate them in an image you can move around with your finger or a cursor. Simulation is the key word here. iPhone apps have offered similar functionality since before Apple started to include depth-sensing cameras on its devices, and the results ranged from somewhat interesting to ghoulish; imagine a person appearing to bulge out of a flat surface as if their skin were attached to the wall. But with newer cameras and better depth data, Facebooks results can look pretty believable. The company suggests composing images with multiple layers, colors, and textures to achieve the best results. Youll need one of these listed iPhones to create a 3D Photo; doing so is just a matter of creating a Facebook post; tapping on the three dots (a new addition) to bring up a list of post options; selecting 3D Photo; and picking an image from your Portraits album. Once posted, the image will be viewable by any Facebook user, as well as in VR through the Oculus Browser on Oculus Go or Firefox on the Oculus Rift. The viewing feature is rolling out to users today, and the creation feature will start with some users today, becoming available to everyone in the coming weeks, so it may or may not be available when you go to use the app. A tutorial video is available here.