Face Drop

Update: March 27, 2021: Face Drop is now available in the App Store. See the announcement post for more info.

Original post follows below

I seem to have a thing for selfies. Looking back, many of my projects have examined the now universal (and universally maligned) act of turning the camera on one’s self, be it with my early explorations of selfie reality, inserting myself as the rather board looking star of the family of man, or in the perfectly puerile punnage of phalloselfie.

Which brings us to my latest experiment: Face Drop, an augmented reality iOS prototype that really turns the selfie on its head so to speak.

Face Drop looks much like a normal camera app except that instead of capturing images, each snap of the shutter freezes a 3D snapshot of your visage in the real world using augmented reality. Here’s a video showing Face Drop in action:

The faces are placed where your real face is when the shutter button is pressed. You can place as many copies of your face in a scene as you like as well! Tap and hold the camera button while moving about to create a snaking trail of your beautiful countenance:

The fun doesn’t stop there however, because Face Drop also features two alternate capture modes.

In ‘Drop’ mode, selfies hang in the air for a few seconds before dropping to the ground. This lets you leave a smiling trail of digital detritus in your wake as you snap away like a veritable Hansel Adams:

Drop mode

The app uses your phone’s LiDAR sensor to make dropped faces realistically interact with the real world. You can see this in how the dropped faces come to rest on the ground.

However for the ultimate selfie experience there’s ‘Toss’ mode, which lets you shoot your face from the camera at the scenery:

Toss mode

The tosser experience really brings me back to my youth and all those lazy afternoons spent chucking virtual apples at virtual Pikachus in Pokémon Snap, expect instead of apples and Pikachus, you’re grimly chucking your face at a pink polka-dot wall while a surly man and his bow tie wearing Chihuahua telepathically attempt to Scanners your head for hogging the prime selfie spot. Again, the app uses LiDAR data to make tossed faces bounce off real world surfaces just like your real face would.

Only a prototype, for now…

While Face Drop is more or less functional, it would take a bit of work to actually get it into the App Store. If you are interested the app though, let me know. If there’s enough excitement out there, I may be motivated to ship it.

As a side note: one notable limitation is that ARKit currently doesn’t support capturing video data from the front and back facing cameras at the same time. This means that you have to capture a 3D selfie first and then place that static 3D face model in the world. I have a few other projects I’d like to use both cameras for, so hopefully Apple eventually makes this possible. Be sure to write Tim Cook and tell him how you absolutely need this API so that you can toss your face at things.

Even if Face Drop just remains a prototype though, I think it’s a fun play on the concept of a selfie. And once the metaverse rolls out, who knows, popular tourist destinations may quickly be overrun by disembodied faces contorted into eerily similar hyper-emotes.