The Truth Behind the Viral iPhone Mirror Picture: Exploring the ‘Glitch in the Matrix’

If you’ve been browsing social media recently, the viral image you’ve seen everywhere was first posted on Instagram by comedian Tessa Coates. The picture depicts Coates standing in front of two mirrors in a bridal shop, appearing to hold three different poses at the same time.

Although Coates referred to the image as a “glitch in the matrix,” the explanation isn’t as mysterious as one might think.

In the picture, Coates appears with her hands down at her side in one mirror and folded across her stomach in another. In the foreground, one hand is folded, and the other is down at her side.

There’s been significant speculation about how this happened. Some speculate a computational photography quirk, others a Live Photos glitch, and some suspect the image may be fake. However, Faruk examined the image’s metadata and found that it was taken by mistake with the panoramic feature on Coates’ iPhone 12.

In her original Instagram post, Coates clarified that it was “not photoshopped, not a pano, not a Live Photo.” Even though it’s not technically a panoramic image, the picture was taken with the panoramic mode setting on her iPhone 12.

To a normal eye, this may look quite normal, but to me this resolution does not look ok because that’s not the resolution iPhone 12 takes a photo in. iPhone 12’s Main camera takes a photo with 4516 by 3874, but her photo is 3028 by 3948. Which is not possible unless you’re taking a photo in the panorama mode. What happened is her arms are down and she was moving her arm. Maybe she moved the right arm up first and then the left arm up later. Meanwhile, the camera was in panorama mode and it stitched all these together.

Ultimately, the image didn’t come out wide enough to be recognized as a panorama by iOS, explaining why there’s no panorama icon visible. In essence, it was a failed panorama taken by whoever was behind the camera. For further details, check out Faruk’s full video on Threads.

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