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Google Pixel’s AI photo revisions are making me uncomfortable

OPINION: Google is leading the way when it comes to AI-powered features on smartphones, with the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro flaunting numerous eye-popping powers that seemingly work like magic. 

I’m excited about the future of AI in consumer gadgets, and welcome the Pixel 8’s powers to detect spam calls and reduce irritating background noise during a call.

Best of all, Google is using its AI skills to allow average people like me to make stunning photos. But following a demo of the Pixel 8’s new features, I am starting to get uncomfortable with the extent that AI is able to alter your snaps. 

Best Take is a new feature for Pixel 8 phones that allows you to change the facial expression of a person in a photo. Google used an example of someone pulling a face in a group photo, and then editing the photo to make it look like they were smiling instead. 

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Google suggests it’s a great feature for making sure you can capture a perfect group photo where everyone is smiling at the same time, but I’m personally not a fan of using editing tools to rewrite the past. 

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It’s important to note that the Pixel 8 does require a second photo to take your preferred facial expression from – it can’t create a smiling image of you from scratch. But I fear that this could be too easily manipulated. If there was an occasion where I was feeling upset on a particular day, I wouldn’t be very happy if friends or family were able to modify my face just for the sake of a more aesthetically pleasing photo. 

Google Pixel 8
Google Pixel 8’s Best Take feature

Many will argue that the horse has already bolted, as many people have been using Photoshop to alter photos for years now. However, you often need to be fairly skilled to make an edit without clear telltales. I’ve seen plenty of images that have obviously been doctored. With Google’s Best Take feature, the average person will be able to make the tweaks that are seemingly undetectable in the final image. 

With Pixel 8 phones out in the public, I’m going to become increasingly less confident that any image I see on the image accurately portrays true events. The Magic Editor feature on Pixel even allows you to reposition people and objects in the image, while the Magic Eraser allows you to easily remove people from an image, like an ex-partner at a party. 

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I personally think that editing an image in this way defeats the purpose of taking a photo in the first place. Photos are invaluable for capturing a specific moment in time, helping me to jog my memory. Maybe I have a red wine stain on my shirt that perfectionists will be keen to erase, but I’d argue that imperfections such as this make photos all the more authentic and enjoyable. 

I also shudder at the thought that my grandchildren could one day be looking at an AI-edited photo of me and wondering whether or not that smile is genuine. I’m sure they wouldn’t be too fussed whether I’m frowning or pouting – they’d just want to see the real me, warts and all. 

That’s not to say I’m against AI being used in photography at all. I love the idea of being able to unblur a photo, improve the clarity or even zoom into an image for greater detail. In my opinion, AI should only be used to help novice snappers take fantastic photos, and not to rewrite history for the sake of perfection. Otherwise, photos will become just as unreliable as my deteriorating memory.

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