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.
Facebook is rolling out a 3D photo feature that adds depth to photos in your News Feed (or your VR headset.) All users will be able to see 3D photos in their feeds starting today. The option to create them is expanding a little more slowly, over a process of a few weeks. And in order to use it, youll need an iPhone with dual cameras — a feature thats been available since the iPhone 7, although its not present in the new, lower-end iPhone XR. A number of other flagship phones feature dual cameras, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and LG V35 ThinQ, but Facebook says it will be adding support for more devices in the future. The 3D photo feature was announced in May, and its relatively straightforward: you select a picture, and Facebook turns it into a pseudo-3D image that changes perspective slightly when you scroll or tilt your phone. TechCrunch explained how the technology works in more detail earlier this year; basically, it draws from the depth map thats automatically created by dual-camera phones, then adds some custom software tweaks that create a more realistic image. The vast majority of people will see these photos on other phones, but you can also view them on the Oculus Go VR headsets web browser, or Firefox on the Oculus Rift. Facebook isnt inventing a new idea here — this kind of perspective-shifting has been around for years on phones — but its making the process intuitive and the results very easy to share. Its also adding yet another little feature that blurs the line between normal Facebook posts and immersive experiences like virtual or augmented reality. And its doing so in a way thats relatively non-controversial, at least compared to the giant home videophone it unveiled earlier this week. Update 3:30PM ET: Facebook has specified that only iPhones with dual cameras are supported for now, not all dual-camera phones.