Ever since it was revealed as Google’s hidden chip inside the Pixel 2, the Pixel Visual Core has been clad in a little bit of mystery. Google hasn’t helped matters in its communications, and until recently it seemed like the Visual Core would aid the main camera app — by making the company’s signature HDR+ image processing faster and more efficient — as well as third-party apps like Instagram and Snapchat. As it turns out, however, the Pixel Visual Core is, for now at least, only used in helping other apps gain the HDR+ functionality.
This became clear as Google announced that it was activating the Visual Core this week, noting that the beneficiaries of the change would be any third-party apps that use the Pixel’s camera. The reason why Google isn’t making use of its dedicated image-processing accelerator inside its own app has been revealed in a November interview by the Pixel camera team: they’ve done a lot of custom optimizations already, and the Visual Core just isn’t necessary.