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In the best way possible, Qualcomm’s plans for persistent machine vision remind one of Google

One of the most startling and exciting aspects of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that Qualcomm announced last December was its ability to enable phones to have a “always-on camera,” which was itself a huge makeover for the long-running flagship chipset series. Whether or whether Qualcomm’s motives were good, the novelty of face recognition technology was quickly overshadowed by fears of Big Brother, thus the company’s branding was doomed from the start. Experts in the field of security were sure to be alarmed by the description of any camera as “always-on,” and with good cause.

The fuss that was made over it was, to be honest, exaggerated. You need not seek very hard to find passionate defenders of the idea. Once you understood the restricted scope of Qualcomm’s intentions, it was simple to throw off most security concerns, as former AP editor Ryne Hager described at the time.

Qualcomm renamed this function the “always-sensing camera” for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that was released this year. Although I haven’t seen nearly as much fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) from tech media as I did previously, it’s still unclear whether this new moniker will help minimise privacy and security issues in the future.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 from last year could only do one thing: detect the presence or absence of a face in an image. The first iteration of the always-sensing camera was deliberately stripped down to the bare essentials, even though the manufacturer assured customers that more advanced functionality will be added in the future. In my opinion, this year’s offerings from Qualcomm maintain the same degree of security (crucial while talking about camera functions) while achieving Google-esque levels of knowledge about the environment around you.

The most notable feature remains facial recognition, but now it’s far more sophisticated. You may argue that Qualcomm’s inability to distinguish between your face and a stranger’s gives the security here. However, when a new face enters the picture, Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 smartphones will be able to do a predetermined action. Moreover, they aren’t theoretical scenarios; rather, they’re examples of where the enhanced intelligence and quality of service promised by the concept might be put to good use.

In the event that you feel unsafe, your phone may sound an alarm and/or completely black out the display. This isn’t only for your personal peace of mind; if the camera detects that someone is observing from behind you, Do Not Disturb will activate.

The instantaneous reading of QR codes that was promised a year ago is also now a reality. Scanning involves nothing more than holding the smartphone in front of the code, even if the screen is off, so you can forget about unlocking your phone at the restaurant.

These functions remind us of those found in Google’s newest Pixel smartphones. They make subtle but significant adjustments to your routine by making the most of recent developments in power efficiency and sensor technologies and exercising some judgement when determining when to take action.

However, it is important to note that no actual photographs are taken when utilising this function. This data is a simple yes/no and never leaves the chip’s isolated Sensing Hub, therefore there is no picture output or video capture. It’s like a light switch that understands its surroundings and responds appropriately when flipped.

This is the type of development we need to see going forward if smartphones are going to become your intelligent portable assistant. After all, the Pixel’s unique selling point is that it simplifies your daily life. In 2023, many of the top Android phones will likely be powered by Qualcomm’s newest CPU.