The Pixel Visual Core, explained


With the February Android security update for the Pixel 2, each app will get to use Google's HDR+ photo processing in their own pictures.

They still use Hexagon (QDSP) from the Google Camera app on the Pixel 2 (XL) just like the Pixel (XL) and they still have a special google_camera_app SELinux policy domain. Well, it means that Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat are the first apps ever to make use of the Visual Core chip on the second-gen Pixel smartphones. The new API allows apps to tap into any machine-learning hardware acceleration chips present in the device, of which the Pixel Visual Core is one of the first examples. In short, it's a custom chip created to help with the Pixel's HDR+ image processing - that's the computational secret sauce that makes the Pixel 2 camera so great.

When the Pixel 2 (particularly the XL version) started to go wrong, Google responded by offering a warranty extension.

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The HDR+ algorithm of the Pixel Visual Core is said to collate pictures with short exposure times, then later on aligning them in order to analyze motions and reduce the noise. The result is a noticeably better image, with less noise and higher dynamic range. After users complained, Google extended the standard warranty to two years for the Pixel 2 devices, but the Pixel owners have been left out.

Before this release, HDR+ on the Pixel had a big functionality gap. So basically Google is extending its photo processing capabilities to popular photography, social media, and camera apps as well. This is a problem if you want to do something like Snapchat's "Lens" camera effects, which necessitates building a custom camera app from scratch and losing HDR+. A large part of what makes the cameras on the Pixel work is the use of Google's terrific AI and machine learning software so much so that the flagships are able to capture great bokesh without needing a dual camera setup as the general trend int he industry. The AI software can now be accessed by third-party apps such as Snapchat and Facebook.