The new version of Android enables a hidden chip inside Google's newest Pixel phones

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesThe Pixel 2 XL.

Google is releasing a beta preview of Android 8.1, a new software update – still based on Oreo – for its Pixel and Nexus devices.

The new version doesn’t add many features, as The Verge first reported, but enables the dormant Pixel Visual Core inside the most recent Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones.

The Visual Core is Google’s first self-designed silicon available in a consumer device, which couples with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 system-on-a-chip inside the newest Pixel devices to offload – and enhance – a number of camera-related tasks.

With Android 8.1, developers can take advantage of new, Pixel Visual Core-enabled APIs to use Google’s HDR+ algorithms in their custom camera apps, for instance, while also targeting the chip’s cores specifically to keep things speedy.

Android 8.1 Oreo is still only available in beta – which you can sign up for through Google’s dedicated program – but should roll out more widely to eligible Pixel and Nexus devices over the course of December.

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