The Pixel Visual Core of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL flagships will be activated with the second developer preview of Android 8.1 Oreo, Google revealed as part of its release notes detailing the first experimental build of the upcoming revision of the mobile operating system. The Mountain View, California-based tech giant said that the next preview version of Android 8.1 Oreo is scheduled for a release this month and while it didn't elaborate on the matter, a late November launch seems likely. The actual code enabling the first custom system-on-chip from Google will be tied to the application programming interfaces of the company's camera software, meaning that any third-party developers seeking to utilize the SoC will have to take advantage of these particular APIs in order to use the custom-built silicon. Trying to manually enable the Pixel Visual Core using Google's previously released instructions on Android 8.1 Oreo Developer Preview 1 hence won't work despite some related options showing up in the overflow tab displaying search results from the system Settings app, as first noted by Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica.
The Pixel Visual Core was announced after the Pixel 2 flagship series officially debuted in early October, with Google noting that its first custom SoC is meant to facilitate camera-related computing and make it more efficient, being able to process images five times more efficiently than the original Pixel devices. By assigning the bulk of these actions to the Pixel Visual Core instead of the Snapdragon 835, Google also managed to make its latest Android flagships more energy-conscious, with the custom chip being able to perform the same tasks as Qualcomm's device with only around 10 percent of the power used by the main SoC.
In providing developers with early access to the Pixel Visual Core, Google is seeking to convince them to optimize their imaging apps for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in order to take advantage of its unique hardware. In practice, the new Pixel devices should capture and process photos and videos more quickly and be able to do so longer on a single charge than most other smartphones, so long as you're using Pixel Visual Core-compatible apps.