The Pixel 2’s dormant Visual Core chip gets activated in the latest Android developer preview


Sadly, not all of the Pixel 2’s surprises have been the good sort since Google’s latest flagship launched. Visual Core is one of the more pleasant ones, though — a custom system-on-a-chip (SoC) that’s just been hanging out in the phone not really doing much of anything.

It seemed that the component simply wasn’t ready for public consumption when the phone hit the market, but the company’s finally prepared to have the chip start earning its keep.

A new developer preview of Android 8.1 due out today offers up early support for the Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL chip. The component is expected to further improve the handsets’ cameras, which were already scoring good marks, production issues aside.

According to the company, Pixel Visual Core has eight image processing unit (IPU) cores and 512 arithmetic logic units. Using machine learning, the company says it’s able to speed things up by 5x, with one-tenth of the energy. Access to the chip, combined with the Android Camera API, means third-party photo apps will be able to take advantage of the system’s speedy HDR+.

Sounds swell, right? Of course, this is still just an early preview, only available to people who sign up for Google’s Beta program. That means, among other things, dealing with potential bugs of an early build. Google wouldn’t give us any more specific information with regards to when the feature will be unlocked for the public, but it’s expected to arrive along with the 8.1 public beta in December.

And even when the feature is live, it will only be available to Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL owners — though don’t be too surprised if it starts rolling out inside new Android phones down the road.

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