In October, Google unveiled the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, the latest step in our work to build an inclusive and accessible camera that works for everyone. We introduced a big upgrade to Real Tone, which Pixel 6 originally introduced to improve photographs of people of color, especially those with darker skin. And we continue to build on accessibility with Guided Frame, which uses a combination of audio cues, high-contrast animations and haptic (tactile) feedback to help people who are blind and low-vision take selfies and group photos.
The testing process for both of these features relied on the communities they’re trying to serve. Here’s the inside scoop on how we tested Real Tone and Guided Frame.
How we tested Real Tone
To make Real Tone better we worked with more people in more places, including internationally. The goal was to see how the Real Tone upgrade the team had been working on performed across more of the world, which required expanding who was testing these tools.
“We worked with image-makers who represented the U.K., Australia, India and Laos,” says Florian Koenigsberger, Real Tone lead product manager. “We really tried to have a more globally diverse perspective.” And Google didn’t just send a checklist or a survey — someone from the Real Tone team was there, working with the experts and collecting data. “We needed to make sure we represented ourselves to these communities in a real, human way,” Florian says. “It wasn’t just like, ‘Hey, show up, sign this paper, boom-boom-boom.’ We really made an effort to tell people about the history of this project and why we’re doing it. We wanted everyone to be respected in this process.”
Once on the ground, the Real Tone team asked these aesthetic experts to try to “break” the camera — in other words, to take pictures in places where the camera historically didn’t work for people with dark skin tones. “We wanted to understand the nuance of what was and wasn’t working, and take that back to our engineering team in an actionable way,” Florian explains.
Team members also asked — and were allowed — to watch the experts edit photos, which, for photographers, was a very big request: “That’s very intimate for them,” Florian says. “But then we could see if they were an exposure slider person, or a color slider person. Are you manipulating tones individually? It was really interesting information we took back.”
To get the best feedback, the team shared prototype Pixel devices very early — so early that the phones often crashed. “The Real Tone team member who was there had access to special tools and techniques required to keep the product running,” says Isaac Reynolds, the lead Product Manager for Pixel Camera.