The camera of Pixel 2 is currently one of the most sought after phone camera across the globe. Adding cherry on the cake, Google had announced about the hidden Pixel Visual Core inside every Pixel 2 device which would be activated later by a software update. Since then, Pixel owners all over the world have been eagerly waiting for the update which would open the doors for Pixel Visual core. The seemingly long wait has come to an end, as the final developer preview update of 8.1 is going to enable that secret chip.
What Is Pixel Visual Core?
As explained by Google, Pixel Visual Core is Google’s first custom-designed co-processor for image processing. It is inside every Pixel 2 device and needs to be enabled by a software update. However once enabled, apps using Android Camera API can capture HDR+ shots through Pixel Visual Core. Google further explained that using Pixel Visual Core, HDR+ can run 5x faster and at less than one-tenth the energy than running on the application processor (AP).
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Formation of Pixel Visual Core
In a blog post, dated 17th October Google explains that the center of core comprises Google-designed Image Processing Unit (IPU)—which can produce maximum performance at low power. This core further comprises of 8 Google-designed custom cores, each with 512 arithmetic logic units (ALUs). This Image Processing unit is so powerful that it can process 3 trillion operations per second that too at mobile power. The Pixel Visual Core helps HDR+ to run 5 times faster with energy consumption as less as 1/10th than running on application processor.
Img Src: Google Blog
Google further added that this competency of Image Processing Unit is attained because of tight coupling of hardware and software. The software controls the hardware in a better manner which in turn results in making the hardware less complicated and more effective. Also, instead of using conventional programming language, domain specific language is used for programming IPU. Halide is used image processing and Tensor Flow for machine learning.
Img Src: Google Blog
Google also shared some images showing the difference between the images taken by Pixel 2 on a 3rd party app and HDR+ on Pixel Visual Core.
Though this chip was formerly planned to be activated in Android Oreo Developer Preview version 1, however now it has been released with the final developer preview update of 8.1. Currently this feature is not available for end users, however in the coming months it is expected to be rolled out for all Pixel 2 users. Also, all the 3rd party apps which uses API of Android Camera can have access to this technology.
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Of course, all of it sounds quite impressive, however, only time will tell how this this technology will change our photography experience.