A cutting-edge enhancement to portrait mode was introduced in a recent Google smartphone model, the Pixel 3. Instead of relying on a single device like its predecessor, the Pixel 2, researchers utilized a unique setup comprising five phones to refine the feature. The portrait mode feature emulates the shallow depth of field produced by high-end cameras, directing focus on the subject while creating a pleasing blur in the background. Achieving this effect accurately is challenging, as errors can be noticeable. To address this, Google integrated artificial intelligence (AI) technology into the Pixel 3 to rectify any imperfections.

To train the AI effectively, Google needed a diverse range of photos. This led to the creation of a “Frankenphone” rig, housing five Pixel 3 phones arranged closely together. By capturing images simultaneously from slightly varied perspectives, these phones enabled the AI to discern the varying distances of elements within a scene. This information is used to generate a “depth map,” crucial for accurately blurring the background.

The innovative use of AI and sophisticated hardware marks a significant shift in the realm of photography. While smartphones may have inherent limitations due to their smaller image sensors, Google has surged ahead by implementing computational photography techniques. These methods enable users to achieve various effects such as background blurring, enhanced resolution, optimized exposure, improved shadow details, and even low-light photography capabilities.

The Frankenphone serves a pivotal role in mimicking human vision more authentically. Unlike smartphones with dual cameras, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 rely on a single rear-facing camera. However, each pixel in the photos captured by these devices comprises two light detectors, each providing a slightly distinct perspective. This “parallax” effect aids in gauging depth information, although it has its constraints. Google has augmented the Pixel 3 with AI to address these limitations effectively.

The AI algorithm, trained using data from the Frankenphone setup and another system that identifies humans in images, significantly elevates the Pixel’s portrait mode proficiency. By incorporating additional factors like focus variances and object size distinctions, the AI enhances the overall quality of portrait-mode photographs.


  1. What is portrait mode in smartphones?
    Portrait mode is a feature that mimics the shallow depth of field seen in high-end cameras, focusing on the subject while blurring the background for a visually appealing effect.

  2. How does Google improve portrait mode in the Pixel 3?
    Google enhanced portrait mode in the Pixel 3 by integrating artificial intelligence technology to address existing glitches effectively.

  3. Why did Google use a setup with multiple phones for the Pixel 3 camera?
    Google utilized a setup with five phones, termed the “Frankenphone,” to capture images from varied perspectives simultaneously, aiding the AI in generating accurate depth information for background blurring.

  4. What role does AI play in the Pixel 3 camera system?
    AI in the Pixel 3 enhances the camera’s portrait mode capabilities by training the system to judge distances within a scene accurately.

  5. How does the Frankenphone aid in training the Pixel 3 AI?
    The Frankenphone setup provides real-world data to train the AI, enabling it to discern depth information effectively for improved portrait mode results.

  6. What benefits do computational photography methods offer in smartphones?
    Computational photography methods in smartphones like the Pixel 3 enable users to achieve various photographic effects, including background blurring, enhanced resolution, and low-light photography capabilities.

  7. Why is the Frankenphone setup crucial for Pixel 3 photography?
    The Frankenphone setup allows the Pixel 3 AI to mimic human vision more accurately by capturing images from multiple perspectives simultaneously.

  8. How does parallax information contribute to depth perception in the Pixel 3 camera?
    The Pixel 3 camera utilizes parallax information, where each pixel in an image consists of two light detectors, aiding in gauging depth information within a scene.

  9. What is the significance of training AI models with real-world data?
    Training AI models with real-world data, such as that collected from the Frankenphone setup, enhances the AI’s ability to produce more accurate and visually pleasing portrait-mode photographs.

  10. How does Google differentiate the Pixel 3 camera from traditional cameras?
    Google differentiates the Pixel 3 camera by leveraging computational photography techniques to overcome limitations associated with small image sensors in smartphones.

  11. What sets the Pixel 3 apart in terms of photography capabilities?
    The Pixel 3 sets itself apart with its advanced AI technology, enabling features like background blurring, enhanced resolution, and improved shadow details.

  12. How does the Pixel 3 AI distinguish foreground from background in portrait mode?
    The Pixel 3 AI distinguishes foreground from background by analyzing various factors such as focus differences and object sizes, resulting in superior portrait mode photos.


The introduction of portrait mode in the Google Pixel 3 smartphone marked a significant advancement in smartphone photography. By utilizing a unique setup involving multiple phones, researchers enhanced the portrait mode feature using artificial intelligence technology. The “Frankenphone” rig, comprising five Pixel 3 devices, played a crucial role in training the AI to accurately discern depth information for background blurring. This innovative approach showcases how AI and computational photography methods are revolutionizing smartphone photography, enabling users to capture impressive portrait-mode photos with enhanced visual appeal.

For readers interested in exploring the capabilities of the Pixel 3 camera further and experiencing the benefits of computational photography firsthand, visiting the official website to learn more and make informed decisions on their photography needs and preferences is highly recommended.