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Facebook rolls out 3D Photos feature using iPhone depth map data

Facebook has started to roll out a new imaging feature to users of the social network, with "3D Photos" able to provide the effect of 3D in a two-dimensional photograph, by taking advantage of depth maps generated by newer iPhone models.

Initially announced at Facebook's F8 conference in May, 3D Photos are slowly being made available to all users. The imaging function gives the appearance of depth to a normally static and flat photograph, with the background scrolling behind the user as they scroll, pan, or tilt the image.

The feature takes advantage of depth maps created by the iPhone 7 Plus and later models, specifically using the iPhone's built-in "Portrait" photography feature. Using the dual camera setup and the depth map generated at the time the shot was taken, the Portrait photos can be uploaded to the service with this extra data, which can then be transformed into a viewable 3D Photo.

Users need to create a new post in the Facebook app, select "3D Photo" from the menu in the top-right corner of the screen, then select the image from the device's Portrait photo folder. After selecting, users can enter the rest of the detail they want to include in the post before submitting it to the feed.

Facebook is starting to enable the feature for users today, with a small number able to create images initially, but eventually opened up to all users with compatible devices in the coming weeks. While the rollout to create the images is slow, Facebook is allowing all users to see posted 3D Photos without restriction.

The 3D Photos will also be viewable by users with virtual reality systems, via the Oculus Browser for Oculus Go, and in Firefox for the Oculus Rift.