Google has announced it will be giving Android users a whole new set of improvements and novel features for the mobile operating system in the coming year, although there’s no set date yet for when they are officially coming out (there are release dates on only some of them).
A few of the improvements are catered specifically towards facilitating smartphone navigation for users suffering from motor impairments, which is a welcome move on Google’s part (of course, anybody who finds them convenient can also use them).
These updates not only span elements across the entire operating system, from accessibility to fun & productivity—but there’s also a special something for those who own a Google TV device.
One of the cool new features coming to Android will be called Camera Switches. This is one of those special accessibility features, and it is designed with people suffering from speech and motor impairments in mind. It essentially turns your selfie camera into a switch, allowing you to use specific eye movements in place of physical taps to navigate your Android phone.
What’s more, unlike some of the other upcoming features, we actually know the date for the release of Camera Switches: September 30.
You can choose a particular movement to scan your phone’s screen, and a different one to make a selection. There is great flexibility for customization when it comes to gesture combinations, to accommodate various people’s range of movement and preferences.
Just like Camera Switches, Project Activate caters for those who cannot speak or have difficulty interacting with smartphones in the regular physical way. This includes those stricken by ALS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and others. Project Activate lets you use all the communicative functions of a smartphone simply by making facial gestures in front of the front camera, such as “smiling or looking up.”
The app allows you to play audio or control a smart speaker, make phone calls, send text messages, listen to your messages in text-to-speech, and so on—all with your facial muscles! The user’s loved ones or carers are able to customize the gestures for them to a great extent, as well as adjust the sensitivity for each facial gesture.
While Camera Switches and Project Activate cater to those with motor impairments, Google’s Lookout app has been available since 2019 and is designed for those with low vision or blindness. The newest update coming to Google Lookout is adding two new features which Google says have long been requested: handwriting recognition, and currency recognition (so far only for dollars, euros, and rupees at the moment).
Heads Up is a new feature coming to Android’s Digital Wellbeing dashboard, which is meant to help you take control of your digital life and stay aware of how you are using your smartphone. When activated from within Android’s Digital Wellbeing settings, Heads Up seems like it will feature some sort of pop-up warning on your screen if you’re using your phone while walking, to make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and staying safe. “Use with caution,” says Google: “Heads Up doesn’t replace paying attention.”
- In upcoming Android updates, there will be some great new features.
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