Google released the new generations of the pixel phones for 2017 – the Google Pixel 2 and the Google Pixel 2 XL on 4th october. But the official keynote skipped details about the new the 8-core “Pixel Visual Core” ISP (Image Processing Unit) which is present inside both the pixel 2 and the pixel 2 XL
“Pixel Visual Core”- the image processing unit (IPU)!
The Googe “Pixel Visual Core” an Image Processing unit, can be Google’s foray into the custom SOC (System On A Chip) business . And that will certainly give Google an hardware edge over other manufacturers. Although both the Pixel 2 and the pixel 2 XL house a Snapdragon 835 SOC as a primary solution for graphical processing and image processing. Google has silently fitted it’s separate Image Processing Unit which is dormant at this stage , but according to Google it will be activated later via OTA update with the release of Android Oreo 8.1 and will thus boost the Pixel’s HDR+ camera magic which is already the king in mobile photography getting a score of 98 in DxOMark.
The new ISP has been made by google in partnership with Intel . The involvement of intel is not official but the codename SR3 over the SOC suggest Intel’s involvement.
The “Pixel Visual Core” will make the image processing faster, smoother, and more efficient once it is activated via software update. Google maybe testing it in beta phase and maybe rolled out when it is fully tried and tested. This explains the fact, why Google didn’t speak a word about it and chose remain silent. Any company would like to boast about it’s hardware feature which is insanely awesome.
Google going the Apple way!
Apple has been ahead in SOC quality due to its independent R&D for it’s custom A-series chips.The latest being the A-11 bionic chip is way ahead in competition to the other mobile SOC’s. It does not depend upon ARM’s latest architecture unlike snapdragon ,exynos, kirin, mediatek or surge. And for google to be able to handle the Phone in a better way, it certainly has to get unique hardware which are not there in other android flagships.
The further reports suggest that the “Pixel Visual Core” is a separate Image Processing Unit with 8-cores , purposefully designed to process and enhance images and videos. It also includes the power efficient ARM’s A-53 cores. This results in a battery saving more powerful image processing unit and will provide hardware -accelerated image processing The dedicated harware is a custom made by google and thus it gives an extra edge for tweaking and more software friendly, which google can certainly use for its best software algotithms using artificial intelligence and machine learning to make the photos look even better. With HDR+ camera app Google is already ahead in mobile photography and later the HDR+ api will also be made available to third party camera apps. Maybe this experiment can pave the roadmap of google for making standalone custom SOC without needing to rely on snapdragon.
Is it an investment for the Google ARCore??
Another point of possibility is that the special hardware can be used for the ARCore. As we know both Apple and Google have been competeting to get ahead in the Augmented Reality business . This new hardware could be the Google’s key in getting ahead in the augmented reality race. Also the Image processing unit in Snapdragon 835 is not so powerful for Augmented Reality. So Google may have made it’s own custom Image Processing unit.
Solidifying this possibilty Google showed the Phone’s Augmented Reality capabilities in the keynote. Although Google ARCore can run on any android device with the API support by google, but having a dedicated hardware will certainly give a boost in overall performance and better graphics.
Time will see more and more competition in mobile devices which is good for consumers. But for now Google Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL are the best android flagships. And more capabilties will open up when google unlocks the Pixel Visual Core via software update in few weeks for the consumers.