Facebook steps into 3D memories and photos without a specialized camera

Facebook wants your photos to have another dimension. During the F8 conference, Facebook teased 3D photos that will allow users to capture and share a 3D image using only a smartphone. The 3D Photos, slated for a summer arrival, comes alongside a Facebook prototype that uses artificial intelligence to turn those past photos in Memories into 3D.

3D Photos will allow users to share images with a 3D effect without an actual 3D camera. Facebook says the images can be captured using a smartphone. In the News Feed, the images have a more three-dimensional look when scrolling and moving a smartphone from side to side makes slight adjustments to the perspective of the image. Facebook doesn’t clarify exactly how those images will be captured on a smartphone — traditionally, 3D photos and images requires a camera with off-set lenses in order to gather depth data as well as the pixels.

While details on the 3D Photos are slim, Facebook is also expanding the 3D posts type previously launched. The animated 3D objects will soon be turned into augmented reality objects with a feature that takes the graphic from the News Feed to the Facebook Camera in one tap. The tool allows 3D objects from the News Feed to become augmented reality objects in Facebook Camera.

Users can expect to see the new 3D photos and AR integration for 3D objects “soon” — but Facebook is also working on tech that could help turn images that have already been captured into VR. The tech, which is, for now, just an experiment, uses machine learning to create a VR experience from existing images, no specialized camera required.

The VR Memories uses photogrammetry, using A.I. algorithms to build a dimensional recreation using just 2D photos. The tool creates point clouds, or three-dimensional data points used in 3D design and VR, to giver the flat photos dimension. 

Bringing a 2D image into a 3D space isn’t photorealistic, however. In one demo, the tech created a pointillist rendition of a home made up of lots of tiny dots. Using a VR headset, users could look around the space and find thumbnails of the actual snapshots or videos placed against the virtual recreation of the space where those images were captured in real life.

The 3D Photos and the 3D Memories concept were teased during the annual F8 conference alongside announcements for the Oculus Go, new Facebook features, Instagram updates and more. The conference continues through Wednesday, May 2.


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