Google on Monday said it will soon start enabling the Pixel Visual Core on its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Android flagships in order to bring their HDR+ capabilities to more camera apps. The custom system-on-chip developed in collaboration with Intel has only been accessible since the second developer preview of Android 8.1 Oreo, though users had to turn it on manually. With the processor's capabilities being tied to Android's Camera API, virtually every up-to-date app that takes photos should be able to benefit from its energy-efficient HDR+ processing, the tech giant claims. HDR+ will increase the level of quality of photographs taken with apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat, allowing users to capture a wider dynamic range with tools that weren't developed by Google. The images seen in the gallery below were provided by the Alphabet-owned company to illustrate the difference that HDR+ can make when shooting scenes whose brightest and darkest points are far apart, though Google didn't clarify whether the sample shots were taken with the Pixel 2's default Camera app or another service utilizing the Camera API.
The change won't affect the main Camera app which boasted native HDR+ support from day one, even before Google revealed the existence of the Pixel Visual Core post-release and allowed developers to access it. The primary purpose of the move is to bring photos taken with third-party apps more in line with what users can expect from the default app, consequently improving the overall imaging capabilities of the company's latest pair of Android flagships. Besides delivering better results in certain scenarios, the Pixel Visual Core should also conserve your battery life as it won't burden the Snapdragon 835 with processing images and will do all related work on its own. The octa-core chip has been specifically designed for that purpose, being able to surpass the image processing capabilities of Qualcomm's silicon while drawing less power.
The Pixel Visual Core will be enabled with the February 2018 security patch set to be distributed to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in the coming days. Other features of the chip such as its lossless zoom processing and anti-shutter lag mechanisms will also be implemented into compatible third-party camera apps following the update. Developers that are yet to implement the functionality into their apps can find out how to do so by referring to the Google Open Source knowledge base. Besides enabling the custom chip, Google is also set to bring new augmented reality stickers to its Pixel 2 lineup later this week. The upcoming stickers are said to be inspired by winter sports so as to commemorate the 2018 Winter Olympics, though it's presently unclear whether they'll be distributed via a separate over-the-air update or be bundled alongside the February security patch. Once released, the stickers will be usable from the main Camera app found on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.