During an onstage presentation at today’s Pixel 8 Pro launch, Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh showed off how the smartphone is able to retroactively add detail to a photograph when you pinch to zoom in. “So the kind of zoom enhancement you used to see in science fiction? It’s right in the phone in your hand,” Osterloh said after introducing the feature, which Google is calling “Zoom Enhance.”
Osterloh is referring, of course, to the countless sci-fi movies and police procedural shows that have shown characters zooming impossibly far into photos to reveal clues and details that simply could not have been present in the original image. Often, these scenes hinge on “enhancing” unbelievably small reflections, inevitably revealing the identity of a murder suspect.
Osterloh isn’t claiming that Google’s “Zoom Enhance” feature goes quite this far, mind you. “When you pinch in, Zoom Enhance can intelligently sharpen and enhance the details of your images, so you can get closer than ever, even when you forget to zoom” is how he described the feature onstage, while a video showed a blurry, zoomed-in photo of a bridge being sharpened.
Although it’s a novel feature, there are examples of smartphones pulling similar tricks to this in the past, albeit behind the scenes. Most notably, Samsung’s phones are able to sharpen photos taken of the Moon, adding detail that’s not present in the original image. But with Google’s implementation users have direct control over the sharpening feature, with the implication being that they can choose to apply it to whatever subject they choose.
Google says it plans to make the Zoom Enhance feature available alongside other new AI capabilities to the Pixel 8 Pro in a series of feature drops this December.