Tech

Google adds new accessibility features to Android including Action Blocks, Live Transcribe updates and more

For Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which due to the timeline was yesterday for us, Google has announced a slew of new accessibility features for Android including the long awaited Action Blocks, as well as new features for Live Transcribe and more.

Action Blocks is the headline feature for the announcement, and in short it’s an app which let’s you create shortcuts on your homescreen for any Google Assistant action – if the Google Assistant can do it, Action Blocks can create a one-tap shortcut to do it. This means making video calls, controlling smart devices around the house and more, you can even set a custom icon for each Action Block as a visual reminder.

The app – available on Google Play – is aimed at people with cognitive disabilities who may have trouble remembering commands, or learning and remembering the steps to perform a function – but they are rather easy to use and set up, with the option to use an array of Assistant commands, or you can set your own.

Also announced today are update to Live Transcribe, Google’s immensely useful live transcription feature.There are three new features, as well as additional language support being added to Live Transcribe:

  • Set your phone to vibrate when someone nearby says your name. If you’re looking elsewhere or want to maintain social distance, your phone will let you know when someone is trying to get your attention. 
  • Add custom names or terms for different places and objects not commonly found in the dictionary. With the ability to customize your experience, Live Transcribe can better recognize and spell words that are important to you. 
  • It’s now easier to search past conversations. Simply use the search bar to look through past transcriptions. To use the feature, turn on ‘Saving Transcriptions’ in Settings. Once turned on, transcriptions will be saved locally on your device for three days.
  • We’re expanding our support of 70 languages to include: Albanian, Burmese, Estonian, Macedonian, Mongolian, Punjabi, and Uzbek.

The option to vibrate your phone when someone says your name is fantastic for those who are hard of hearing, and the new Sound Amplify feature will be a welcome addition for those people as well.

Android’s Sound Amplify feature already exists, allowing you to use your phone to both amplify and clear up a conversation. The only drawback until now has been the requirement to use a wired headphone. From today you can now use a more discreet Bluetooth headset or headphone to hear more clearly. This means you can put your phone next to a TV or a lecturer and listen on your Bluetooth headphones.

While these features are rolling out for Android, Google has also added new Accessibility features to Google Maps for both Android and iOS users. Google Maps will now offer users the option to show wheelchair access in search results, rather than having to delve into the details of the location.

As usual for Google we’ll see some of the updates straight away, some you may have to wait a little while for. Action Blocks however is live right now and ready to download so give it a whirl.

Google adds new accessibility features to Android including Action Blocks, Live Transcribe updates and more
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