We knew that Google had been working on a new "audio zoom" feature in the Google Camera since back in July, but even when developers were able to manually enable it, it didn't work at the time. Many assumed it might need additional hardware to work, and a recent video confirms that the Pixel 5 ships with the feature enabled. You can even hear what "zoomed" audio sounds like.
To really know how well it works, we'll have to play with the feature ourselves, but totallydubbedHD managed to pick up a Pixel 5 early and has been publishing details regarding the phone on YouTube over the last week or so. One rather detailed hands-on video exposed not just the audio zoom camera feature, but has an example that demonstrates how audio changes when zoomed in. It's not the best example given the sounds in the scene, but you can hear a clear and obvious change in audio as it zooms in and out (especially in higher frequencies):
Mentioned in another section of the video, the audio zoom feature is controlled by a toggle in the app's settings menu that states "zooming in on the subject boosts sound and reduces background noise." The version of the Google Camera app used in the video is a v7.6 release. If that's the feature working in the video above, it's able to focus in on the higher-frequency sounds of rain falling on leaves (presumably in the direction the zoomed-in video is focused on) and our narrator's voice also drops out just a bit. But, though it claims to reduce background noise, it sounds like it was having a bit more trouble dealing with the wind when zoomed in.
Again, this isn't the best demonstration of this specific feature, they simply ran through all the various camera features in a quick (but useful) survey. We'll have to play with it ourselves in more and different environments to be more sure of how it works. But it very clearly does something to the sound when recording video.
We still don't know if the feature requires extra or different hardware to work. We've reached out to Google for more information and to see if this is a Pixel 5 exclusive or if audio zoom will come to older devices as well. We'll let you know if we hear anything back.