How an AI camera can make everyone’s photos better.
Shooting like a pro has gotten easier thanks to artificial intelligence software that powers smartphone cameras.

Today’s smartphones let you take clearer, more vibrant photos than ever – whether you’re up close and personal or far away.

While better lenses and sensors are responsible for some of these advances, the biggest improvements come from powerful artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology that meld hardware with software to create an AI camera – like that of Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

These AI tools combine the capabilities of a professional camera with features that previously have been available only in editing software. For example, AI in the Pixel 6 camera lets you take sharp photos in low light, remove unwanted items from an image, or unblur your kids’ faces, even when they start jumping in the middle of a shot.

“Early camera phones were all about doing old-school optics right,” says Alexei Efros, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who teaches computational photography, the image capture and processing techniques that go into making an AI camera. “Better and bigger lenses, and so on. They missed the boat on this idea that cameras should be more than physical-optical machines.” Most of the improvements now, Efros adds, “can all be done in a cell phone, in software.”

The Pixel 6 camera’s capabilities are further enhanced by the new Google Tensor chip, a custom-built processor made by Google, which lets the camera perform complex AI tasks. The result is a phone that lets you take stunning photos without having to master any new or complex tools, and at a much lower price than professional-grade cameras.

What is an AI camera and how does it work?

An AI camera relies on special software to give users the ability to snap images that previously only high-end cameras were able to capture. For example, “optical flow” technology can snap a dozen or more pictures in rapid succession, then use AI software to align and combine them into a single image free of any blur from camera shake. 

This technology powers Pixel’s Night Sight feature, where photos shot in very low light look bright, crisp, and detailed – a result that previously would have required a professional camera, a tripod, and quite a bit of photography know-how.

Similarly, the AI software in Pixel phones can fix the exposure challenges of taking photos in high-contrast situations, where shadows typically make one part of the image look dark and bright light makes another part look washed out. It may process multiple images to capture visual details otherwise lost to shadows and reduce the overexposure of bright sections.

“All of this is extended down to the average cell phone user,” Efros says. “Anyone can be a creator.”

What can you do with an AI camera? The AI-powered camera in Google’s Pixel 6 powers a lot of features that make it easier to take beautiful and creative photographs. These include:
  • Intelligent exposure. This feature automatically accounts for different light levels in various parts of an image – foreground, subject, background – and sets the exposure appropriately for each area.

  • Face Unblur. The Pixel camera system taps into Google Tensor’s powerful processing and advanced machine learning to unblur a face, so a photo isn’t ruined because of a little movement.1

  • Real Tone. Historically, people of color have appeared washed out or lost in shadows in photos. Real Tone relies on AI software to adjust color balance and lighting to represent everyone more accurately, making the camera more inclusive and equitable.

  • Night Sight. This mode allows you to shoot photos in extremely low light without losing sharpness – and even capture crisp images of the night sky.

  • Motion Mode. When you use Motion Mode, Pixel’s AI software adds blur creatively to capture the energy in the scene in front of you. You can take an action shot that keeps the moving subjects sharp but the background blurred. And you can simulate a traditional long exposure that beautifully blurs the motion of waterfalls or moving cars.

  • Magic Eraser. You can remove just about anything you don’t want in the final picture with little more than a few taps – and the background will get filled so no one will notice the image was edited.2

Pixel 6 Pro
Premium, immersive phone that adapts to you.
How AI cameras are changing the game in photography

Efros says that AI technology has made everyday camera photos so good that many professional photographers he works with tell him that pictures taken on a modern phone are better than those that come from an expensive, pro-grade SLR. “AI gives the artist more and better tools to work with,” he says.

For everyone else – the amateur photographers, the parents taking family pictures, the social media sharers – an AI camera will dramatically improve their images, no matter the situation.

  1. Deblurring may not work on all photos or videos with faces.

  2. Magic Eraser may not work on all image elements.

Takeaways
AI tools let you remove unwanted objects, create special effects, even shoot clearly in low lightThe Google Tensor chip helps your camera learn to identify objects, and more quickly, since the processing happens right on the phoneEven the pros think AI cameras often take better pictures than an SLR
Pixel 6 Pro
Premium, immersive phone that adapts to you.
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