The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL devices out in the wild has a dormant image processor called the Visual Core, and now Google is starting to flip the switch with the Android 8.1 Oreo developer preview.
Needless to say, it's limited to developers for now, as the name suggests. In other words, it's not rolling out to consumers just yet, but it's expected to launch sometime in December for them.
Android 8.1 Oreo Developer Preview Goes Live
Now Android 8.1 Oreo isn't a huge update, and it doesn't bring much to the table.
According to Google, it's coming in with "near-final Android 8.1 system images for Pixel and Nexus devices, with official APIs (API level 27), the latest optimizations and bug fixes, and the November 2017 security patch updates." Developers can also access Android 8.1 features such as the Neural Networks API.
For average users, that might not mean much at all, except that Pixel and Nexus devices will become more stable and secure.
However, in the case of Pixel 2 owners, there's one bit that's worth taking note of.
"Also, for Pixel 2 users, the Android 8.1 update on these devices enables Pixel Visual Core -- Google's first custom-designed co-processor for image processing and ML -- through a new developer option."
Sure, that doesn't mean consumers will have their Visual Cores enabled with the developer preview, but if anything, that's an indication that Google is about to turn them on in the next official Android update.
The Secret Ingredient: Pixel Visual Core
The Visual Core is just one of the many hidden things in the phones, and for those who don't know what it does, it'll allow users to take HDR+ pictures with apps that use the Android Camera API on their Pixel 2 devices.
That's just the tip of the iceberg too. Moving forward, Google can continually improve the quality of images the Pixel 2 can capture because it can just send updates over the air that'll enhance the chip in question.
The Bottom Line
Pixel 2 owners' mobile photography game is about to go way up once the Visual Core is activated, and users can expect to see it fire up sometime in December.
As for developers, they can tinker with the secret processor and see for themselves what all the fuss is about, and even make apps that take advantage of Android 8.1 features. Perhaps a troubleshooting wizard like Google Assistant or something along those lines.
It should be noted that anyone who wants to download and install the developer preview can sign up for Android beta program, but be warned: bugs and other similar hurdles are normal in early-access software.