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Google ends the year with a big update for Pixel devices

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Google is bringing sophisticated new AI intelligence to the Pixel 8 Pro today, but it doesn’t stop there. The company is also rolling out its December feature for Pixel hardware, which includes two important software features for the 8 Pro, but also many new tricks for other devices.

Video Boost, exclusive to Google’s larger flagship, will be available starting today. It “uploads your videos to the cloud where our computer photography models adjust color, lighting, stabilization, and grain,” according to Google’s blog. After that, you receive an edited video that “looks true to life.” This isn’t something anyone has really been able to test yet, so we’re about to find out together where Video Boost works well and where it doesn’t.

Video Boost also includes another bonus feature: Night Sight for video. This “uses AI to apply noise reduction to videos recorded at night or in low light so you can see rich details and colors.” Night Sight has long been a hallmark of Pixel phones, but until now it’s been limited to still images. Google says Night Sight video can produce fantastic time-lapse captures, if that’s your thing.

Google Video Boost optimizes your video clips by processing them in the cloud.
Image: Google

But the December drop is a big one and includes a ton of other features. There’s a new Balance portrait lighting mode in Google Photos that eliminates harsh shadows (including for photos already in your library), and Photo Unblur is now more effective at sharpening the faces of dogs and cats, not just those of your fellow human beings. Specific to the Pixel Fold, a new “dual screen preview” will show a preview of what the camera sees on the outer screen while you frame a photo with the inner screen; This will allow your friends to check how they look and strike their best pose before releasing the shutter.

Are you stuck with a poor built-in camera on your laptop? Google says that recent Pixel phones (the Pixel 6 and newer) can now be used as USB webcams on computers that support UVC (USB Video Class). And if you’re trying to hassle and organize your receipts, you’ll probably appreciate a new “clean” option that can rid them of stains, smudges and creases before attaching them to your expense reports.

Yes, there is more. Pixel devices now include a repair mode that will protect your private data when your phone is under maintenance. This will keep your photos, messages and other sensitive content out of reach of anyone carrying out the repair work. When it comes to security, Google’s password manager “can identify which of your accounts support passwords and help you add them in just a few clicks.”

If you’ve joined the Pixel ecosystem and are wearing a Pixel Watch or Pixel Watch 2 on your wrist, Google’s wearable can now automatically unlock your phone. It’s a bit faster and more convenient than relying on face unlock or Google’s sometimes inconsistent fingerprint readers to bypass your lock screen.

Additionally, the call screen will now appear on the Pixel Watch, allowing you to reject or answer a call from your wrist while you watch the live voicemail transcription. And for owners of the Pixel tablet, Google is adding spatial audio – both through its built-in speakers and through the Pixel Buds Pro – and Clear Calling with the December update.

To read the full rundown, including a new clock/weather combo widget, new watch faces for the original Pixel Watch, and more, check out Google’s blog. The December update also contains numerous bug fixes. It’s encouraging to see Google close out 2023 by bringing even more synergy and cohesion to its product portfolio. And remember, as of this writing, the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro are still on sale at prices that match their Black Friday discounts.

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