360 shot crooked? Facebook is working on an automatic fix using AI

Why it matters to you

Fixing a crooked 360 photo may soon be a simple one-click edit.

Nothing quite disrupts the feeling of being in the scene like a crooked 360 photo — but Facebook is working on a fix. On Thursday, August 31, Facebook shared a new artificially intelligent program that fixes 360 photos taken when the camera wasn’t held completely parallel.

Automatically straightening a photo shot with the typical aspect ratio isn’t a new idea — several programs, including Abode Lightroom, have that ability. But as Facebook’s computational photography team explained, those automatic fixes rely on lines in the photo. When a photo doesn’t have any straight lines or a vanishing point, the program can’t straighten the photo.

360 photos present a unique challenge — not only do they have more data than the usual 3:2 photo, but the entire immersive experience gets skewed with a crooked horizon. To solve that problem, the team of Facebook researchers took half a million straight images and artificially, intentionally made them crooked, labelling them with the tilt and roll values of just how much the image was altered. Using the original straight shot and the crooked photo as references, the team taught the software program how to correct a 360 image with a non-straight horizon.

The feature has not yet launched on Facebook — or for that matter, launched in testing. But the new software offers a peek at new features that will likely be coming to the platform soon.

“As we see uploads of immersive media to Facebook accelerate, we’re excited about the promise of our research and how these techniques can help people experience places and events in new ways,” wrote Facebook’s Matt Uyttendaele.

The research comes just after Facebook added the ability to shoot a 360 photo in-app, a feature that launched on August 24. The Facebook Camera feature uses on-screen instructions to help guide the shoot, then stitches the photo together. Those 360 shots can then be shared or even added as a Cover Photo.

Facebook launched the ability to share 360 photos shot from a 360 camera or third-party app last year — now, the platform says users have already uploaded more than 70 million of the immersive shots since the feature launched.

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Social Media–Digital Trends

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