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The Pixel 8's Mind-Blowing AI Photo Features Leave Me in Awe

The Pixel 8's Mind-Blowing AI Photo Features Leave Me in Awe

Magic Editor and Audio Magic Eraser grant you exhilarating (and somewhat eerie) fresh capabilities for your photos and videos.

In all my years of assessing personal technology gadgets, I can count on one hand the occasions my astonishment was piqued by a new product. Maintaining a journalist's skepticism is paramount, but that skepticism waned when Google demonstrated a few astonishing imaging features on their new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro smartphones. 


When viewed in isolation, these functions may appear achievable by anyone skilled in Photoshop or video editing software. However, what distinguishes the new Pixel phones is their ability to make these features accessible to everyone, which is both exciting and, frankly, a little unsettling. Let's explore them in more detail.

Magic Editor


The Pixel 8's Mind-Blowing AI Photo Features Leave Me in Awe

Google provided a glimpse of this feature during its developer conference back in May. It represents the natural progression from Magic Eraser, a tool Google introduced a few years ago. While Magic Eraser was designed to remove unwanted objects from photos, like fire hydrants or people in the background, Magic Editor takes photo editing to a whole new level.


During a demonstration, Google showcased an image of a girl running on a beach. With Magic Editor in the Google Photos app, a spokesperson selected the subject, and the software accurately created a cutout. They could then relocate the subject anywhere within the scene, and the software seamlessly filled in the vacant space with what it deemed appropriate. These were photos chosen by Google, but Magic Editor handled them with remarkable precision.


Magic Editor also offered the option to alter the lighting conditions of a scene. For instance, if you had taken a photo in harsh noon lighting, you could effortlessly transform it into a golden-hour shot, complete with the warm evening hues and, perhaps, even a sunset.


In another example, there was a photo of a child about to make a basketball shot from the ground. The spokesperson selected the subject in the photo, elevated them into the air to create the illusion of a slam dunk, and casually mentioned, "You can even adjust their shadow!"


Last year, I spoke with Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at MIT Media Lab, about computational photography and digital image manipulation. His insights seem prophetic now. Companies are operating under the assumption that "most consumers want to simply take a photo, press a button, and get an image they'd really like to see, whether or not it reflects reality," Raskar explained. For instance, if you arrive in Paris and the Eiffel Tower is obscured by haze, "what you'd prefer is to capture a photo with your family against the Eiffel Tower backdrop as if it were a bright, sunny day, right? If someone can insert a vibrant, sunlit image of the Eiffel Tower behind your family, you'd be quite pleased."


This is now more achievable than ever with Magic Editor. However, there's also the possibility of encountering deceptive, altered images that subtly distort the truth of a scene, similar to the AI-generated viral images of Donald Trump that circulated over the summer. There is some hope for truth seekers, as Google claims that metadata will indicate whether Magic Editor was employed. Nevertheless, it's relatively easy to remove metadata from images, raising questions about the effectiveness of this safeguard.


Best Take


The Pixel 8's Mind-Blowing AI Photo Features Leave Me in Awe

We've all experienced group photos where someone ends up looking away or has their eyes closed. Best Take is set to provide a welcome relief for parents of active kids (while potentially inducing mild panic as well).


When you capture a photo with most smartphones, they actually take multiple shots at different exposures, enabling you to achieve well-exposed photos in various lighting conditions. Google's solution for rectifying closed eyes in photos is to extract another frame from the set it has captured and substitute the person's face with one where their eyes are open.


This approach bears a resemblance to a feature Google introduced several years ago called "Top Shot," which suggests a potentially superior frame from a series of photos taken when you press the shutter button. However, Best Take can retrieve a frame from a sequence of up to six photos taken within seconds of each other—a handy feature if the photographer snapped multiple shots in quick succession.


I observed as the spokesperson selected a person's face and scrolled through alternative versions of that face from recent images and other frames. Simply pick the desired face (an unusual phrase to write) to complete your ideal group photo. Google reassured me that it isn't generating facial expressions; rather, it's utilizing an on-device face recognition algorithm (similar to what Google Photos uses to identify familiar faces) to match up the images.


Audio Magic Eraser


Magic Eraser excels at removing unwanted elements from your photos, and with the Pixel 8 series, it now extends its capabilities to eliminate undesirable sounds as well.


During one of my demonstrations, I witnessed a video featuring someone playing a cello in a park. In the background, there was the unmistakable sound of a distant siren (a quintessential New York City experience). With Audio Magic Eraser, you can edit the clip and effectively filter out the siren's frequencies, leaving you with a video that solely features the cello's sounds. It was a truly impressive transformation. Moreover, this feature allows you to isolate and play just the siren if that's your preference.


Google explains that the system employs machine learning to identify up to five common sound categories, such as "sirens," "animals," and "crowds." While it may not achieve flawless results every time—as demonstrated when a person hummed at the beach, and attempts were made to suppress the sounds of the ocean—there's room for improvement.


Video Boost


This particular feature is less on the eerie side and more about being genuinely remarkable. Video Boost is an exclusive feature of the Pixel 8 Pro, and you can enable it when recording videos in low-light conditions or when there's a lot of action involved.


When you activate Video Boost, a copy of your video, which can go up to 4K at 30 frames per second, is transmitted to Google's Cloud for processing. This processing can significantly enhance stabilization, enhance clarity, and reduce noise. Subsequently, the improved video is returned to your device. The time this takes depends on the video's length, ranging from minutes to potentially overnight.


However, the results were truly astonishing when I saw a comparison between the Pixel 8 Pro and an iPhone 14 Pro in similar low-light conditions. The Pixel 8 Pro's video exhibited markedly superior clarity, brightness, color vibrancy, and stability. It's something to look forward to, although it won't be available at launch.


Once again, it's worth noting that none of the aforementioned features are entirely novel in the world of technology, but the capability to democratize them and make them accessible to anyone with a smartphone, without necessitating technical expertise, left me truly impressed. For more details on the Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and Pixel Watch 2, you can find additional information here. Google's AI innovations extend beyond these features, as evidenced by its recent announcement regarding the enhancement of Google Assistant with Bard, which you can read about as well.



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