Tag: pictures

Google’s First Mobile Chip Is An Image Processor Hidden In The Pixel 2

One thing that Google left unannounced during its Pixel 2 launch event on October 4th is being revealed today: it’s called the Pixel Visual Core, and it is Google’s first custom system-on-a-chip (SOC) for consumer products.

You can think of it as a very scaled-down and simplified, purpose-built version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, Samsung’s Exynos, or Apple’s A series chips. The purpose in this case?

Accelerating the HDR+ camera magic that makes Pixel photos so uniquely superior to everything else on the mobile market.

Google plans to use the Pixel Visual Core to make image processing on its smartphones much smoother and faster, but not only that, the Mountain View also plans to use it to open up HDR+ to third-party camera apps.




The coolest aspects of the Pixel Visual Core might be that it’s already in Google’s devices. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both have it built in, but laying dormant until activation at some point “over the coming months.”

It’s highly likely that Google didn’t have time to finish optimizing the implementation of its brand-new hardware, so instead of yanking it out of the new Pixels, it decided to ship the phones as they are and then flip the Visual Core activation switch when the software becomes ready.

In that way, it’s a rather delightful bonus for new Pixel buyers.

The Pixel 2 devices are already much faster at processing HDR shots than the original Pixel, and when the Pixel Visual Core is live, they’ll be faster and more efficient.

Looking at the layout of Google’s chip, which is dubbed an Image Processing Unit (IPU) for obvious reasons, we see something sort of resembling a regular 8-core SOC.

Technically, there’s a ninth core, in the shape of the power-efficient ARM Cortex-A53 CPU in the top left corner.

But the important thing is that each of those eight processors that Google designed has been tailored to handle HDR+ duties, resulting in HDR+ performance that is “5x faster and [uses] less than 1/10th the energy” of the current implementation, according to Google.

This is the sort of advantage a company can gain when it shifts to purpose-specific hardware rather than general-purpose processing.

Google says that it will enable Pixel Visual Core as a developer option in its preview of Android Oreo 8.1, before updating the Android Camera API to allow access to HDR+ for third-party camera devs.

Obviously, all of this tech is limited strictly to the Pixel 2 generation, ruling out current Pixel owners and other Android users.

As much as Google likes to talk about enriching the entire Android ecosystem, the company is evidently cognizant of how much of a unique selling point its Pixel camera system is, and it’s working hard to develop and expand the lead that it has.

As a final note, Google’s announcement today says that HDR+ is only the first application to run on the programmable Pixel Visual Core, and with time we should expect to see more imaging and machine learning enhancements being added to the Pixel 2.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Social Media Is Making You Depressed: Let’s Learn To Turn It Off

Do Facebook and Twitter make us happier? The answer it would seem is: no. A recent survey found as many as one in five people say they feel depressed as a result of using social media.

That might come as a surprise to the generation under 30; social media is part of their DNA and teenagers are rapidly losing the ability to communicate if not through their smartphones.

But the stress of constantly monitoring our statuses and endlessly documenting every aspect of our lives via networks like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram is taking its toll.




Employers claim many school leavers are unprepared for the world of work, where they will have to interact with people outside their peer group and actually speak face-to-face with total strangers.

Meanwhile, there have been countless academic studies since 2015 on the negative impacts of social media, showing that its regular use leads to feelings of anxiety, isolation and low self-esteem, not to mention poor sleep.

We use these outlets to present a false picture of our lives to the online community; with flattering selfies and faux-glamorous images of holidays, parties and meals.

It’s as if we’re starring in a movie of the life we’d like to lead, not the humdrum one we actually inhabit. An underwhelming number lack of shares or ‘likes’ can lead to debilitating feelings of inadequacy.

We post intimate fragments of our lives to total strangers, falsely believing that a ‘friend’ online is a real friend whose opinions matter.

As for Twitter, it is a vehicle for screaming, nothing more and nothing less. Best not to read tweets if you are of a vulnerable disposition.

Twitter has an effect on one’s disposition; augmenting anger and upset. Many of the women I know have come off Twitter because of the constant abuse that waits every time they pick up their phone or log in to their computer.

The latest fashion among hipsters is to have a ‘digital-free’ home. That could be a good move.

Arianna Huffington has just written a book (The Sleep Revolution) citing experts who say there should be no screens in the bedroom and we shouldn’t use social media in the hour before lights-out.

How many times have we read a message on our phones and then spent hours in turmoil? Social media never switches off: someone, somewhere, is posting pictures, comments or messages, asking you to join a chat or wade in with an opinion.

No wonder many teenagers suffer from what shrinks call “decision paralysis”. The options are simply too enormous for any human brain to deal with.

For many people (not just teenagers), it seems the only way we can validate ourselves is though a screen, a habit which is just as bad for our health as over-indulging in drink or drugs.

And just as addictive.

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Pass it on: Popular Science