How to Turn Your Facebook Profile Photo Into a Harry Potter Moving Portrait

A portrait of Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series at the British Library. In the Harry Potter series, paintings are able to move and talk. Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty

Facebook may soon be releasing a tool to animate your profile photo.

Replacing your profile photo with a gif has been an option for a couple of years now. But the company is looking to take it a step further and introduce features that will take uploaded photos and twist them into expressions and shapes of the user's choice.

The line between the moving image and the static photograph has been blurring for a while now. The iPhone live photos feature lets people turn every snap into something like a gif, or a moving portrait from the Harry Potter series. And now, a new piece of tech could end the days of the static Facebook profile photo.

As New Scientist reports, the effect is achieved by mapping expressions from a base video of a totally different person onto a picture. So a video of a person sticking their tongue out, licking their lips, or making a face like they just bit a lemon could be used to animate that really affectless, smize-y profile photo you've left up for too long. As for things like showing teeth in an animation of an unsmiling photo, the researchers tell New Scientist people seem not to notice when a fake set are Photoshopped in.

The new method also serves as a reminder of the extent to which photographs, which have always been doctorable to an extent, are becoming even more so. There is a certain level of trust that people have been able to establish with photographs and moving images that is on the verge of being all but completely eroded. NPR and Radiolab reported on emerging technology that has allowed scientists to create incredibly realistic faked video of former President Barack Obama.

Systems like this are improving all the time. "I think eventually they will be completely indistinguishable from real videos," Tel Aviv University computer scientist Averbuch-Elor told New Scientist. It may not be too far off before users can use their photos as reactions—smiling or frowning in response to happy or sad posts. Or, as New Scientist suggests, these photos could one day be used to 'speak' text that users send through messenger.

If and when the tech gets there, there's still the question of whether or not this will all fall down into the uncanny valley, and users opt to stick with the old-fashioned photos they know and love.

How to Turn Your Facebook Profile Photo Into a Harry Potter Moving Portrait | Tech & Science