The Google Pixel 6a may have been a relatively unsung part of Google I/O 2022, but one of its new camera features shows that Google clearly has ambitions rivaling Photoshop.
We’ve seen its nifty Magic Eraser tool, which lets you quickly remove unwanted people or objects from a photo, before on the Google Pixel 6. But now Google has announced that the tool is getting a new feature that will let you change the color of objects in your photos with one tap.
The example Google gave at Google I/O 2022 was a beach shot with a garish green cooler in the background. Rather than removing the object and ruining your composition, the improved Magic Eraser instead made the object’s color and shading blend naturally into the overall scene.
It might seem like a minor update, but it does mean a tool now lets you do some pretty extensive photo editing – ones that a few years ago would have involved messing with masks and eyedropper tools. – with just one click. And that means Magic Eraser, and its cousins Face Unblur and Motion Mode, and quickly turning into Photoshop for people who don’t like or need real Photoshop.
The updated Magic Eraser tool will also no doubt spark “photography vs digital art” debates, which future Pixel 6a owners probably won’t care about. For traditionalists, the line between the two is crossed when you start adding light or elements to a scene that weren’t there at the time of capture – removing objects is one thing, but letting the AI and his digital brush to let go of your shots is quite different.
But what Google is doing is clearly aimed at the point-and-shoot crowd. The Magic Eraser is a next-gen healing brush, surpassing rivals like Snapseed and PhotoShop – and that ‘healing’ now includes the color palette of your photos.
Google versus Adobe
That means Photoshop is something of an arms race with built-in tools like Google’s Magic Eraser, which is why Adobe recently hired the person who drove Google’s Pixel phones, Marc Levoy.
In a fascinating recent chat with Adobe’s own Life blog, Levoy revealed that Adobe is working on a “universal camera app” that will have some of the computing “witchcraft” we saw in those early Pixel phones.
But Adobe actually takes the opposite approach to Google’s Magic Eraser. Levoy said that while his role at Google is to “democratize good photography,” his goal at Adobe is instead to “democratize creative photography.” And that means “marrying professional controls to computational photography image processing pipelines.”
Instead, Google’s improved Magic Eraser falls firmly into that “democratizing good photography” camp, and it’s something the tool is getting more adept at. Avid photographers often spend hours thinking about the color palette of a scene or waiting for the right moment, but with Magic Eraser, you’ll soon be able to do it with just a tap. And that’s probably just the beginning of his talents.
Which weapon is more powerful, the Magic Eraser or Photoshop? It depends on which side of the photo fence you’re on, but there’s no doubt that Google wins the point-and-shoot side of the battle.