Mobile news

Smartphone AI Is Turning Reality Into A Video Game Photo Mode

The Google Pixel 8 appears to feature an AI-powered photo editing option that lets you completely change peoples’ faces. A reliable leak from mobile tech reporter and leaker Kamila Wojciechowska to phone site 91mobiles revealed the feature, which is like using Cyberpunk 2077’s fleet of customizable facial expressions in photo mode, except it’s real life, and it’s more terrifying.

In the leaked trailer for the Pixel 8, which is expected to launch with the Pixel 8 Pro on October 4, a narrator lists off a number of camera options. “Engineered by Google, with AI controlled by you,” they say. The Pixel 8 can do what we now gluttonously expect of most smartphones—night vision, microscopic zoom—but it seems to add the rarer ability to edit photos with AI directly in its camera app.

“Swap this,” the narrator says while we look at a little boy grimacing. Suddenly, he’s smiling. And a man checking out his feet is now staring directly into the camera, also smiling. Another boy—this one making the kind of overextended, open mouth grin kids make when they’re allowed a whole Snickers bar—becomes more decorous after the ad’s phone user clicks a small, alternate grin from three possible options. “Nice,” says the narrator. “Photos made perfect with a tap.”

From the trailer, it looks like the Pixel 8’s photo editor also uses AI to remove unwanted objects and completely exchange entire sections of a photo, like a gray sky the ad’s user ditches for a prettier sunset.

“It’ll make you wonder, ‘can a phone be made of magic?’” says the narrator, “Nope. It’s AI.”

The ad doesn’t get into specifics about how AI photo editing works, or the extent to which it does; Kotaku reached out to Google for comment. Other modern smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Pixel 8 predecessor, the Pixel 7, also use AI to touch-up or modify photos, including one S23 Ultra feature that gave toothless babies an unnatural row of chompers.

Historically, people have always made representations of reality more attractive than life itself, commissioning portraits without their blackened teeth and scraping at their albumen prints to reveal smooth skin. But the Pixel 8’s proposed feature makes me pause. It looks more spotless than the S23 Ultra’s graceless shot at AI, and the photos we take now are usually shared to about a million strangers, not only a few friends with access to our Victorian albums.

Reposing Aloy in Horizon Forbidden West’s adjustable photo mode feels okay—she’s not real. She can’t decide what she wants. I worry, though, that the Pixel 8’s AI editing could encourage us to think of ourselves that same way.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.