Google Tests Revamped Camera Capabilities For Chromebooks

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Google is looking to make video calls and photos better on Chromebooks via advanced camera features. That's based on a recently spotted change in the underlying code dubbed 'camera: Support some MediaTrackCapabilities'.

Centered around software fixes, those changes aren't necessarily going to make Chromebook cameras any better. At least not on the hardware quality front. But each should serve to make the experience better and help users take advantage of the hardware where above-average camera hardware has been used.

In total, there are six things this test code adds. The first four of those are linked directly to the built-in camera on Chromebooks. Namely, that's the addition of brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness controls. With those changes in place, users will be able to control those aspects of camera shots from the software. That's much like the pro mode on smartphones but it should work in both photos and video chatting.

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Specifically, Google is testing the features on the Chromebook codenamed 'Eve'. That's Google's Pixelbook.

The latter two additions, pan and tilt support, are being tested on the "Huddly Go camera." Huddly Go is an external AI-empowered conferencing camera. As the names imply, pan and tilt allow adjustments to external cameras that support those actions.

The new camera changes stack atop others for Chromebooks

As of this writing, there's no way to know for certain exactly how these enhancements will work. Google may choose to allow the camera updates for Chromebooks to extend beyond the base, pre-installed camera software. Or it may opt to keep them tied exclusively to the built-in software. Conversely, it may choose to only enable the features for either videos or photos.

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It's not currently possible to determine which route the company is taking based on current commits. These features are still in their infancy. But these features are undoubtedly going to arrive sooner than later since at least one of them has been in the works for a while.

Google has continuously made improvements to the camera situation overall on Chromebooks. Most recently, the company added support for USB cameras and support for tilt and pan. Work on that was started in early 2019, spotted around the same time as the addition of support for square and portrait modes.

So the latest changes seem to be part of a wider rollout of camera features, reinforcing what is arguably the weakest selling point of any Chrome OS gadget.

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These changes couldn't come at a better time

Now, perhaps more than ever, enhancements to Google's camera software for Chromebooks is a vital component to the platform's success. That's because, amid stay-at-home orders and changing work-from-home culture, OEMs are shifting releases to serve users who work or learn remotely. A large part of that is the use of cameras for meetings or gatherings.

Chrome and Chrome OS will need to continue adapting to suit those needs better too, despite rampant growth in sales and improvements aimed in that direction. This latest change follows on that, bringing better camera capabilities and solving one of the biggest complaints about the platform. Now, it's going to be on OEMs to find cost-effective solutions to bringing better hardware to match.