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With a significant Pixel device update, Google is capping the year


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    Google is bringing some sophisticated new AI smarts to the Pixel 8 Pro today, but it’s not stopping there. The company is also rolling out its December feature drop for Pixel hardware, which includes two big software features for the 8 Pro — but plenty of new tricks for other devices as well.

    Video Boost, which is exclusive to Google’s larger-size flagship, will be available starting today. It “uploads your videos to the cloud where our computational photography models adjust color, lighting, stabilization and graininess,” according to Google’s blog post. After that, you receive a touched-up video that “looks true to life.” This isn’t something anyone’s really gotten to test much yet, so we’re all 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 conditions so you see rich detail and color.” Night Sight has long been a hallmark of Pixel phones but was limited to still images until now. Google says video Night Sight can produce some fantastic timelapse captures, if that’s your thing.

    A screenshot of Google’s Video Boost feature.

    Google’s 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 light mode in Google Photos that eliminates harsh shadows (including for shots already in your library), and Photo Unblur is now better at sharpening the faces of dogs and cats — not just your fellow humans. 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’re framing up a shot with the inside display; that’ll let your friends check how they look and strike their best pose before you fire off the shutter.

    Stuck with a mediocre 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 wrangle and organize your receipts, you’ll likely appreciate a new “clean” option that can rid them of smudges, stains, and creases before you attach them to your expense reports.

    Yep, there’s more. Pixel devices now include a Repair Mode that will safeguard your private data when your phone is in for servicing. This will keep your photos, messages, and other sensitive content away from anyone conducting the repair work. On the subject of security, Google’s password manager “can identify which of your accounts support passkeys and help you add them with just a few taps.”

    If you’ve bought into the Pixel ecosystem and are sporting a Pixel Watch or Pixel Watch 2 on your wrist, Google’s wearable can now automatically unlock your phone. That’s ever so slightly faster and more convenient than relying on face unlock or Google’s sometimes inconsistent fingerprint readers to bypass your lock screen.

    Also, Call Screen will now appear on the Pixel Watch, so you can dismiss or pick up a call from your wrist as you watch the live voicemail transcription. And for owners of the Pixel Tablet, Google is adding spatial audio — both via 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 combined clock / weather widget, new watchfaces for the original Pixel Watch, and more, check out Google’s blog post. The December update also contains bug fixes aplenty. It’s encouraging to see Google wrapping up 2023 by bringing even more synergy and cohesion to its product portfolio. And don’t forget that, as of the time 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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