Pixel 2 Features Google’s First Custom Designed Chip Called Pixel Visual Core; Will Be Enabled with Android 8.1 Oreo Update

Google today announced that the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL come with its first custom-designed ISP dubbed Pixel Visual Core. The company did not mention anything about this chip when it first unveiled the new Pixel handsets in early October and there is a good reason for that.

When the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will first ship, the Pixel Visual Core will not be activated. Instead, Google will turn it on in “the coming months” through a software update. Apple, Samsung, Huawei, LG, and Huawei have designed their own custom chips for their chips, and this is the first time that Google has designed one for its own devices as well. This shows just how serious the company is about its hardware division and the product it releases. The Pixel Visual Core consists of an Image Processing Unit (IPU) designed by Google which is aimed at delivering the maximum performance while consuming very little power. It features eight custom cores with each of them featuring 512 ALUs. Google says this chip has a raw performance of over 3 trillion operations/sec.

Pixel Visual Core

So, what exactly does the Pixel Visual Core do and how will it benefit the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL when activated? Well, as per Google, the Pixel Visual Core can process HDR+ photos up to 5x faster while consuming 1/10th of the energy consumed by an Application Processor (AP). Google has been able to achieve this thanks to a tight integration between software and hardware. The company has even made a custom compiler which optimises the code for the underlying hardware.

Another benefit of the Pixel Visual Core is that it will allow Google to bring HDR+ processing to third-party camera apps on Android as well. The company will be enabling the Pixel Visual Core with the upcoming developer preview build of Android 8.1 Oreo which will be released in the coming weeks. Then, down the line, it will update the Android Camera API to provide third-party apps with access to the HDR+ technology.

Left: Picture shot on Pixel 2 with third-party camera app; Right: Shot on a third-party camera app with HDR+

What’s even more impressive is the fact that the Pixel Visual Core is fully programmable and can be used by Google as it desires. The company notes it is already preparing the next set of apps which make use of the Pixel Visual Core that will help improve the Pixel 2 over time.

It goes without saying that the Pixel Visual Core is only inside the second-generation Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL so these improvements will only be available on those devices. Original Pixel owners, you are sadly out of luck.