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The tech behind Resonance Audio, Pixel 2 portrait mode are now open source

Google just made two technologies open source: its Resonance Audio application for AR and VR games, and the Pixel 2 portrait mode system.
By
March 15, 2018
Google Pixel 2 XL
TL;DR
  • Google announced that the semantic image segmentation technology that powers portrait mode in the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is now open source.
  • Additionally, Google moved Resonance Audio to open source, which creates spatial sound applications for VR and AR games.
  • Many Google technologies are open source, with the most famous being Android, of course.

If you wish you had the photo portrait mode feature on Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, you’re in luck: Google just made the tech behind portrait mode open source, allowing anyone to use it.

Portrait mode creates an artificial depth-of-field effect in a photo, essentially keeping the focal point of the picture in focus while blurring out the background. This type of photography used only to be available with professional photography equipment, but now many smartphones include the feature in their native camera apps.

To create the portrait mode effect, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL use what Google refers to as “semantic image segmentation,” which is a fancy term for assigning labels to each pixel in a given photo. For example, the software identifies a human face, or a road, or a tree, etc., and uses that information to determine what should be blurred out and what should remain in focus.

Google launches new website to bring together all of its open source projects
News

Google’s research blog goes into great technical depth into how semantic image segmentation works, if you care to dig deeper. But for most people, all you really need to know is that this powerful feature is now open source, which means other smartphones will be able to incorporate Pixel 2-quality portrait mode.

In related news, Google also made Resonance Audio open source. Primarily used in virtual reality or augmented reality apps, Resonance Audio creates a sense of space through audio signals. For example, if you’re playing an AR game, and the game wants you to hear a sound coming from behind you, Resonance Audio enables that to happen.

The whole concept is similar to 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, which have been around for years in both movies and games. But Google giving an open source license to technology that enables AR and VR game developers to easily incorporate spatial sound aspects into their games is terrific news.

While Google’s Android operating system is probably its most famous open source product, the company has a good history of making even its most prized technology open source eventually. However, sometimes it has dubious reasons for pushing an open source technology, like the alleged ulterior motives of gaining advertising revenue through its AMP web development technology.