Google’s Pixel 2 launch event on October 4th put a lot of emphasis on the new smartphone’s camera capabilities. However, the presenters at the event left out one very interesting detail: Google Visual Core.
Visual Core is a custom-built system-on-a-chip (SOC) designed to power and accelerate the Pixel 2 phones’ much-lauded HDR+ function that achieves better dynamic range and reduced noise levels through computational imaging. The new Pixel 2 phones already come with the chip built in, but it has not been activated yet. It appears Google ran out of time before the Pixel 2 launch to fully optimize Visual Core implementation in the device.
The good news is it will be activated at some point “over the coming months”, which should make HDR+ processing on the new devices even quicker and smoother than it already is (and it’s already far faster than on the original Pixels). According to Google, it will then be 5x faster and use less than 1/10th of the the energy,” a real advantage over the current general purpose processing. In the future the chip could also take over additional image processing tasks.
The company will also enable Pixel Visual Core as a developer option in its Oreo 8.1 preview, allowing access to HDR+ for the developers of third-party camera apps. All of this is currently limited to Google’s Pixel 2 devices, but there’s hope other manufacturer will pick up the Visual Core technology and associated software in the future.