One of the coolest, and perhaps least talked about, features on the latest Google Pixel phones is the Magic Eraser, a reality-altering photo-editing tool that lets you remove people, objects, and unwanted interruptions from your best photos.
Until recently I had never tried it. Maybe it’s because I pride myself on framing every photo perfectly. No, it is not. My photos are far from perfect, and I often forget to pay attention to what’s going on behind or around my subject.
The truth is, I didn’t spend much time with the Google Pixel 6, the phone on which Google introduced Magic Eraser, and it wasn’t on my short list of must-have or must-try image enhancement features.
However, I made it a point to spend more time with the gorgeous new Google Pixel 7 Pro, an Android 13 phone that has made our list of the best smartphones, and is likely to feature in more than a few Black Friday deals.
It has some excellent cameras, including a 50MP main camera, 48MP 5x zoom and a 12MP ultra-wide lens. How could I resist taking pictures with it?
But when I started using the phone and looking at the crystal-clear images, I wondered how I could try using the Tensor G2-powered Magic Eraser, which uses AI to let you mark an object for erasure from virtually any photo.
What if, I thought, instead of getting rid of what I didn’t want, I started getting rid of things I love?
Living near and working in New York City, there are few things I love more than its landmarks. I am particularly fond of some of the buildings.
Could Google’s Magic Eraser remove them from my photos, I wondered?
To test this, I started taking extra photos of cityscapes. I was even lucky enough to travel to the 68th floor of One World Trade Center, which gave me an even better vantage point.
As I mentioned above, the Google Pixel 7 Pro has a wonderful 48MP 5X telephoto camera, and this one was perfect for taking a cool shot of one of the world’s most iconic landmarks: the Statue of Liberty.
It turns out that while the 5x zoom is great, I really needed to use the 30x digital zoom to get much closer. The phone’s electronic image stabilization and larger 48MP sensor helped turn this long-range shot into a decent shot, one that would be perfect for my erasure efforts.
Google doesn’t do much to highlight Magic Eraser. Its power is hidden under the Photos apps Edit and Tools menus (basically two levels deep), and the tool itself is pretty basic, which is mostly a plus since I doubt anyone will have trouble figuring out how to use it .
You have two choices: Delete or Camouflage. In the latter mode, the AI tries to take surrounding footage and hide whatever you choose. Erase, on the other hand, is designed to remove and leave no trace of the unwanted item – and that’s what I wanted.
In both cases, you draw with what looks like a white marker on top of what you want to delete.
I pulled up my photo of the Statue of Liberty and tried to use my finger to mark Lady Liberty for removal. I quickly realized that she was still too small in the frame, or that my finger was too big, to see what I was doing. It was a good lesson for this and subsequent images: I had to pinch and zoom before starting my Magic Eraser work.
Even zoomed in, the Magic Eraser pen feels like a blunt object drawing thick, semi-transparent white lines on top of the statue. The idea is that you keep drawing until you’ve covered what you want to remove, and then Magic Eraser’s AI does the rest.
I pulled my finger away from the screen, saw the selection turn bright white, and then the Statue of Liberty disappeared… but her shadow in the water remained, making the effect even more eerie.
I didn’t expect to get an emotional reaction to my little experiment. I had, with a little AI magic, removed Lady Liberty from my photo, leaving an image that showed what New York’s iconic harbor would look like without her. And I did it in seconds and without Photoshop.
Color me shaken.
I was also stuck.
Next, I took a photo of the Empire State Building, my favorite building in all of New York City. I actually used multiple images. Anyway, I pinched and zoomed in on the photo, colored over the building with the Magic Eraser, and then watched it disappear. But sometimes the Magic Eraser left small pieces of the building, and I had to do a second pass.
The results ranged from really good to a little weird. This is an AI, after all, and since the Empire State Building sits among a cluster of large and small buildings, the Magic Eraser couldn’t always tell exactly where one building ended and another began. Some results took my beloved Empire State Building cleanly, but others left bits and pieces near other buildings, or completely confused the boundary between one building and another to create what can only be described as a distinct AI impression.
It didn’t stop me. I erased the gigantic One World Trade Center, America’s tallest building, and the effect was particularly striking, given the remarkable impact the building—also known as the Freedom Tower—has had on the New York skyline since it was erected to replace the Twin Towers .
Later I left New York and tried it on the statue of President Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. It was a lot of statue to erase, but the Magic Eraser did it – sort of. With such a large object, the AI had to guess a lot. In the end, it erased the statue but left an inexplicable shadow in its place.
Finally I went interstellar and removed the moon. This proved easier than any previous effort because the Moon is a free-standing sphere. The Magic Eraser pulled it from the sky, but left behind a trail in the form of a yellowish glow.
Google Pixel 7 Pro’s Magic Eraser is a powerful tool that can do much more than just clean up bad photos. If you end up buying a new Google Pixel 7 or 7 Pro, I suggest you try it ASAP.
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