Google is set to launch its new phones, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, powered by a new artificial intelligence (AI) chip.

Known as Tensor, it’s the company’s first custom-built, system on a chip (SoC) that will use AI and machine learning (ML) to guide the phone’s operations.

“It’s not simply about adding more computing resources, it’s about using that ML to unlock specific experiences for our Pixel users,” Google said on its blog.

Google sees AI as underpinning its innovations, but up until now computing limitations had prevented it from fully pursuing its mission, so it worked to build its own technology platform for mobile that enabled it to bring its most innovative AI and ML to the Pixel.

“We set out to make our own System on a Chip (SoC) to power Pixel 6. And now, years later, it’s almost here,” the company said.

Launching in the US autumn and light on technical detail at this stage, Google is promising big things with the new Pixel, including the Tensor SoC and Android 12, billed as its fastest on internal benchmark tests, smartest and most secure Pixel yet. “A new design that combines the same beautiful aesthetic across software and hardware,” it promises.

With Tensor, Google has customised it to run Google's computational photography models, bringing new features and improvements to existing ones.

The rear camera system will get a boost from improved sensors and lenses, now too big to fit into the traditional square, requiring a new design that gives the whole camera system a new home with the camera bar.

It’s also getting a security boost, with a new security core and Titan M2, claiming the most layers of hardware security in any phone, based on a count of independent hardware security subsystems and components.

New design aesthetic

The Tensor chip has also been designed to support Google’s ‘Material You’ design language that was announced with Android 12 at Google I/O, its annual developer conference held in May this year.

Material You has an adaptable interface for accessibility and customisation, new design and colour palettes, and is intended to be responsive to personal use and preference.

It’s the latest iteration of its 2014 Material Design principle, which was built to now enable personalised expressiveness and control for users.

“Tensor enables us to make the Google phones we’ve always envisioned — phones that keep getting better, while tapping the most powerful parts of Google, all in a highly personalised experience,” the company said.

On the materials side, the upcoming Pixel will be constructed with new materials and have new finishes, such as the Pro’s light polished aluminium frame and the 6’s matte aluminium finish.

Launched in 2016, the Pixel was Google’s answer to the continuing popularity of iPhones and an attempt to create a point of difference with advanced photography features tapping AI.

Since then, it has introduced HDR+ and Night Sight that rely on computational photography and applied speech recognition technology to build Recorder, its tool to record and transcribe audio on the device.