Google has long been rumoured to be getting into the custom chip business, and the release of the Pixel 2 has confirmed it with Google announcing the ‘Pixel Visual Core’ is inside every Pixel 2 phone.
The purpose of the custom chip is to super-charge the HDR+ camera voodoo that Google is using on the Pixel 2 phones. The Pixel Visual Core is a Google-designed Image Processing Unit (IPU) comprised of eight cores which Google says can super-charge HDR+ allowing it to ‘run 5x faster and at less than one-tenth the energy than running on the application processor’.
While the chip is dormant at the moment, Google says it will ‘turn it on through a software update to enable more applications to use Pixel 2’s camera for taking HDR+ quality pictures.’ The update to turn on Pixel Visual Core will come in the Dev Preview of Android 8.1 which Google will begin pushing in ‘the coming weeks’.
Once switched on, Google intends to open up access to the IPU for ‘third-party apps using the Android Camera API’ allowing developers to play with the technology which Google also says will improve over time with more machine learning applied to it.
We’ve already seen what the Pixel 2 camera can do – take a look at our hands-on with the Pixel 2 – so it will be interesting to see what third-party developers can get out of the Pixel Visual Core once it’s switched on and open.
Whether the Pixel Visual Core will see major development work is the main concern with Pixel phones not traditionally selling in great volumes with Telsyte estimating around 70k Google Pixel & Pixel XL handsets were sold in H1 2017, with less than 50,000 units sold in the previous half after launch – that’s around 120,000 handsets in the Australian market.
Pre-orders for the Pixel 2 through Telstra go live on October 20th, we’re still waiting to see when Google and bricks and mortar retailers will begin selling the Pixel 2 – though our sources say it’s October 31st. If you’re into photography, this new hardware could be the difference between a good camera and a truly outstanding camera.