Mon. May 27th, 2024
"The Pixel 8's new features "

“The Pixel 8’s new features “

“The Pixel 8’s new AI photo features are truly mind-blowing!”

"The Pixel 8's new features "
“The Pixel 8’s new features “

Throughout my extensive experience in evaluating personal tech devices, I can confidently say that there have been only a handful of instances where my amazement reached new heights upon discovering a groundbreaking product. It’s good to be a skeptical journalist! But I failed to maintain that detachment when Google showcased a few imaging marvels on its latest Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro smartphones.

Viewed in isolation, these features are tasks that anyone familiar with Photoshop or video editing software can accomplish. However, what sets the new Pixel phones apart is their ability to make these capabilities accessible to everyone, which is both exciting and, frankly, a bit astonishing. Let’s delve into them.

Google had teased this feature during its developer conference back in May, and it represents a natural evolution of Magic Eraser, which Google introduced a few years ago. Magic Eraser allowed users to remove unwanted objects from photos, such as fire hydrants or people in the background. Magic Editor takes this to a whole new level.

"The Pixel 8's new features "
“The Pixel 8’s new features “

In a live demonstration, Google displayed a photo of a girl running on a beach. Using Magic Editor in the Google Photos app, a spokesperson selected the subject and the software accurately extracted it. They were then able to relocate the subject anywhere within the scene, and the software seamlessly filled in the space left behind with appropriate content. These were photos handpicked by Google, but Magic Editor filled them in with remarkable precision.

Magic Editor also offers the option to adjust the scene’s lighting. If you’ve taken a photo at noon with harsh lighting, you can effortlessly transform it into a golden hour shot with those warm, evening tones—perhaps even adding a sunset!

In another example, a photo showed a kid about to take a basketball shot from the ground. The spokesperson effortlessly moved the subject into the air to create the illusion of a dunk, all the while casually mentioning, “You can move their shadow too!”

Last year, I spoke with Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at MIT Media Lab, about computational photography and digital photo alteration. His words now seem remarkably prescient.

Companies are operating on the assumption that “most consumers would like to just take a photo, click a button, and get something they really would like to see, whether it matches the reality or not,” Raskar stated. Imagine arriving in Paris, only to find the Eiffel Tower obscured by haze. Imagine capturing a picture with your loved ones, the Eiffel Tower gracing the backdrop as though the sun is shining brilliantly. If someone could effortlessly blend a sunny Eiffel Tower image into your family photo, it would undoubtedly bring immense joy.

With Magic Editor, achieving this is now easier than ever. However, there’s also a concern that this technology might be misused to manipulate images in misleading ways, akin to the AI-generated viral images of Donald Trump that circulated over the summer. Google claims that metadata will indicate whether Magic Editor was used, but it’s easy to strip metadata from images, raising questions about its effectiveness.

We’ve all encountered group photos where someone isn’t looking at the camera or has their eyes closed. Best Take is here to alleviate that concern (while possibly inducing mild panic in parents of active kids).

When you capture a photo on most smartphones, they actually take multiple images at different exposures, enabling well-exposed photos in various lighting conditions. Google’s solution to rectify closed eyes in photos is to extract another frame from the captured images and replace the person’s closed-eye face with one where their eyes are open.

"The Pixel 8's new features "
“The Pixel 8’s new features “

This concept isn’t entirely new; Google introduced a similar feature called Top Shot in the past, which suggested the best frame from a series of photos taken when you pressed the shutter button. However, Best Take can choose a frame from a series of up to six photos taken within seconds of each other—useful when multiple shots are taken in quick succession.

I observed as the spokesperson selected a person’s face and cycled through different versions of the face from recent images and other frames. Simply choose the desired face to complete your perfect group photo. Google assured me that it doesn’t generate facial expressions; instead, it employs an on-device face recognition algorithm (Google Photos can already detect familiar faces) to match images.

Magic Eraser not only removes unwanted elements from your photos but now, with the Pixel 8 series, it can also eliminate unwanted sounds from your videos.

In one demo, I watched a video of someone playing the cello in a park. In the background, there was the distant sound of a siren (a classic New York City scenario). With Audio Magic Eraser, you can edit the clip to isolate and remove the siren’s frequencies, leaving you with a video containing only the cello’s sounds. It was truly impressive. This feature also allows you to isolate and play specific sounds, such as just the siren, giving you creative control.

Google’s system employs machine learning to identify up to five common sound types, including “sirens,” “animals,” and “crowds.” While it may not work perfectly in every instance—I watched a demo where a man hummed at the beach, and even after attempting to cancel out the sounds of the ocean, some remnants still lingered—it remains a fascinating addition.

This feature is less about creepiness and more about sheer impressiveness. Video Boost is exclusive to the Pixel 8 Pro and can be toggled on when shooting video in low light or during action-packed scenes.

When you capture a video, the Pixel 8 Pro sends a copy of the footage, which can be up to 4K at 30 frames per second, to Google’s Cloud for processing. This processing significantly enhances stabilization, clarity, and noise reduction, and the improved clip is then sent back to your device. The processing time varies depending on the video’s length, ranging from minutes to potentially overnight.

Nonetheless, the results were striking when I viewed a comparison between a Pixel 8 Pro video and an iPhone 14 Pro video in similar low-light conditions. The Pixel 8 Pro’s video was noticeably clearer, brighter, more vibrant, and better stabilized. It’s an exciting development, though it won’t be available at the initial launch.

To reiterate, none of the features mentioned are entirely novel; however, the ability to democratize them and make them accessible through a smartphone, without requiring technical expertise, is truly remarkable. For more details on the Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and Pixel Watch 2, you can refer to our comprehensive coverage here.

These smart innovations are not the only AI features that Google has in store; you can read about its announcement regarding the enhanced Google Assistant with Bard here.”

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