Instagram’s Newest App Helps You Dance Like Beyonce—Sort of
Is the internet making you dizzy yet? If not, it’s about to.
Instagram just announced its newest standalone app, Boomerang, and it’s yet another way to make the herky-jerky, whiplash videos that we’ve recently seen spreading across the web. The app lets you create what Instagram is appropriately calling a “boomerang,” by taking short burst videos and playing them back not in a loop, but in a sort of self-rewinding clip.
Boomerang looks like a gif, but it’s actually something totally different. Whereas a gif is still images stitched together, a boomerang is made from video footage. The app (for iOS and Android) grabs one second of video then plays it forwards and backwards on a loop for four seconds. This palindromic effect can help create the optical illusion of defying gravity or water being poured backwards, for instance.
John Barnett, a product lead at Instagram, says the app was conceived during a hackathon over the summer. His team, which also worked on Hyperlapse and Layout, had been noticing that people were using the looping feature in Instagram’s videos to create seamless looping effects. “We wondered, what can we do that’s even more fun with loops?” he says.
Perhaps you’re saying, “But I’ve been posting images like these for a while now!” And it’s true, Instagram is a little late. Apps like Phhhoto have been peddling a very similar form of stuttering image for more than a year, and I’ve wasted plenty of time Gchatting friends GIFs made from this delightful website. But, like we’ve seen with Instagram’s implementation of landscape and portrait photos, the company is, if nothing else, good at taking stock of what third-party apps work on the platform then creating a better, more design-focused version of it for themselves.
The thing is, Boomerang couldn’t be more on trend. No longer is a static picture enough to communicate the depth of our experiences. Motion, it could be said, is the new filter. Apple recently launched its “Live Photos” feature, which essentially appends a few extra frames to either side of what would otherwise be a static photo. Facebook also hopped on the bandwagon with its gif-able profile photos.
Boomerang is slightly weirder and more arty than either of these options. In its non-committal, hybrid way, it’s arguably the perfect medium for the internet generation’s attention span. And if you think back, you’ll recall it’s a visual trick that’s already been co-opted by the queen of pop culture. As one friend explains it: “The real beauty is that you can recreate the Beyonce video.” If we’re being honest, do you really need anything else from an app?
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