Coming this fall, Google Pixel 6 series smartphones looks set to pack a neat feature to fix blurry faces captured in motion using the capabilities of the Tensor, Google’s own custom-built processor specifically designed for Pixel.
Google’s flagship Pixel 6 camera design was leaked earlier in May, and Google officially unveiled the phones this month. The two phones in the series — Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro — sport a horizontal camera bump that stretches across the support portion of the rear of the device. No particular details about the camera specifications have been released as of yet, except that the Tensor will make the Pixel 6 series Google’s “smartest, most, secure, and personal phones ever.”
Most smartphone users have likely been disappointed to see blurry faces when photographing friends and family who might have moved or if the smartphone itself wasn’t still enough. To fix this, the Pixel 6 will capture a photo from the main sensor using normal exposure while at the same time capturing a secondary photo using the ultrawide lens at a much faster shutter speed.
Using the aforementioned new Tensor chip, the images will be combined, with colors and detail taken from the longer exposure and facial clarity preserved thanks to the shorter exposure.
In the demo shared with The Verge and Wired, Google showed a blurry photo of a toddler who was moving during the capture and a second version of the same photo but run through Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), and the child’s face was comparably sharper. The chip corrects the motion and also runs a face detection model to identify a face and ensure that it is prioritized to be in focus.
Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh explained to Wired that “this is done with a series of different sophisticated machine learning models running parallel in real-time, fusing images from multiple different sensors at once,” but the Pixel camera recognizes that both sensors don’t need to be used for every photo and only in challenging shooting situations.
Similarly, TPU was put into play for video — Google set up a demo of a simple pan across a beach, with the setting sun fully in the frame for most of the shot. The same rig was set up with Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 Pro Max, but the Pixel 6 came out ahead of the two — it didn’t artificially brighten shadows too much like the iPhone 12 Pro Max and maintained a natural white balance, says The Verge.
Although face unblurring is an impressive feature that makes the Pixel 6 series appealing, The Verge notes that it was only shown a demo. Google has previously promised to remove chain link fences from photos in 2017, but that feature never materialized in the real world, so it remains to be seen if Google delivers on the promise of unblurring moving faces.
Image credits: Header illustration photo licensed from Depositphotos