Ambient light sensors on Chromebooks are nothing new and have been included in a vast array of devices for quite a few years. Up to this point, the only real use for them has been to set the brightness of your display when a Chromebook boots up. Helpful? Yes. What we really want from an ambient light sensor?
Not so much.
While auto screen brightness isn’t at the very top of necessary features on a laptop, many people would like to have this enabled as a battery-saving measure if nothing else. I know I’m guilty of setting my brightness a bit too high and leaving it there for hours when I don’t really need it that high. This type of behavior is a detriment to both battery life and my retinas, so I for one would love to be able to turn on some sort of automation for my screen brightness.
In a handful of new commits we’ve found in the Chromium Repositories, it looks like auto screen brightness is being actively worked on for both the Pixelbook and ‘Atlas’. Likely to be called Adaptive Brightness like we see on the Pixel phones from Google, this new feature looks to bring real-time auto brightness to at least Google’s Chromebooks in the future.
If it does in fact end up becoming the same Adaptive Brightness seen on Pixel phones, it could be a big step up for Chromebook users. For those who are unaware, Google’s Adaptive Brightness not only adjusts based on the light in the room, it also learns your behavior over time and adapts to the way you use screen brightness. I can attest that, over time, my Pixel 3 XL is better in most lighting scenarios without need for adjustment.
It makes sense that we’re seeing this added to the Pixelbook and ‘Atlas’ as we assume ‘Atlas’ is the Pixelbook 2. While we’re still a bit uncertain about Google’s release plans for ‘Atlas’, the proof that it belongs firmly to Google only continues to mount. Count this Adaptive Brightness feature as an addition to the pile of mounting evidence.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll see this new feature roll out soon and, perhaps, ‘Atlas’ may make a quiet debut at Google’s I/O developer conference in early May. After all, it has been in development for quite some time and the chipset included (the same as the Pixel Slate) will begin to feel a bit outdated for a new device if they hold it back too much longer.
UPDATE: as it turns out, the Pixelbook has a rudimentary version of this already active, but it is a tad bit quirky and unclear. If you reboot the Pixelbook and then do not manually adjust screen brightness, your screen will brighten/dim based on the light in the room and your keyboard backlight will also come on if it wasn’t already. It takes just a bit, but it does work!
While this isn’t the AI-driven Adaptive Brightness Google touts on the Pixel phones, it is better than nothing until the real deal shows up! Thanks to Sterf for pointing out this feature in the comments below!