Saturday, November 4, 2017

Google was Working on a New Lift Gesture to Launch the Camera on Pixel Phones

Google is really proud of the camera prowess on its Pixel smartphone lineup, and for good reason. The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are receiving rave reviews from all over for the quality of the pictures these phones can take. Thus, it’s no surprise that Google would want to center many of their software features around the camera app. A few of the gestures available on the Pixel smartphones are aimed at making launching the camera faster, such as the double tap power gesture to launch the camera and double twisting your phone to switch between front and rear cameras.

Gestures on the Google Pixel 2

But it turns out that Google was planning on adding yet another way to quickly launch the camera app—lifting your smartphone. At one point during the development of the Google Pixel 2, Google was testing a gesture which launched the camera app if you lifted your phone up into a picture-taking position. According to the source code, the new gesture would show up in settings as “Lift to open camera” and per the summary description:

To open the camera automatically, lift up your phone into a photo-taking position (landscape or portrait). Works when your phone is asleep or locked.

Google had a settings interface for this gesture and even a small video showing the user how to perform this gesture. The linked commit shows that Google intended to limit showing this camera lift gesture to the Pixel, though it’s unclear if that means both the first and second generation Pixel devices.

At some point during testing, however, it appears that Google decided to disable access to this gesture entirely. Strings related to this feature are still present in the source code release of Android 8.1 Oreo Developer Preview 1, and they show that this feature may require a specific sensor type to detect this kind of gesture which supports the idea behind why the gesture is limited to Pixel devices.

<!-- The OEM specified sensor type for the lift trigger to launch the camera app. -->
<integer name="config_cameraLiftTriggerSensorType">-1</integer>
<!-- The OEM specified sensor string type for the gesture to launch camera app, this value
must match the value of config_cameraLiftTriggerSensorType in OEM's HAL -->
<string translatable="false" name="config_cameraLiftTriggerSensorStringType"></string>

Since Android 8.1 Oreo is only in its first developer preview, it’s possible that this feature may be introduced in the final release of Android 8.1. Perhaps the feature wasn’t ready for the initial release of the Google Pixel 2. There’s really no way for us to tell why it wasn’t implemented, but the feature looks like it was pretty close to being ready before it was scrapped.

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