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Google rolls out new features that allow users to control phones with face gestures

2021 Sep 24, 15:42, Washington
The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

American tech giant Google has rolled out two new features for people with speech or physical disabilities. Through the recently-released features, users can now operate their Android-powered smartphones hands-free.

As per TechCrunch, 'Project Activate' and 'Camera Switches' let users perform tasks like speaking a custom phrase or navigating using a switch interface, through facial gestures alone.

'Camera Switches' is a feature for the existing Switch Access that now lets users operate Android with just their face.

Camera Switches will allow users to set a facial gesture (looking left, right, or up; smiling, raising your eyebrows, or opening your mouth) to a specific action. People can customize how sensitive the trigger for each gesture is to make sure it only happens when you want it to and assign functions like scrolling forward or backward, navigating home or back, or even simple things like long-pressing. Users can also augment it with Switch Access's existing support for physical switches.

Ultimately, the combination sounds like users should be able to use their phone entirely using nothing but their face. No touching, external hardware or fine motor control is required. It will likely take longer to do the same things, though.

'Project Activate' is Google's other new feature, and it's kind of similar, allowing you to use the same facial gestures that Camera Switches uses, but you'll be able to activate more complicated pre-set actions, like having your phone say a phrase or make a call. It's a standalone app that was just published to the Play Store.

That means rather than toting around a complicated or expensive speech-generating device, you might be able to simply use your phone to trigger a handful of common phrases. That could cover a range from complicated multi-word messages to even just something as simple as having a fast way to say "yes" or "no."

On top of these two new features, Google's also rolling out some changes to its Lookout app for those with impaired vision. In case you aren't familiar, the app lets you point your phone at stuff and have your phone describe it, covering a range from reading physical documents to describing food labels so you can tell jars apart in the pantry.

Now it will also be able to read handwritten documents, including things like post-it notes or birthday cards -- first for Latin-based languages, but others are planned. Currency mode can also now recognize Euros and Rupees.

The new features rely on the smartphone's front-facing camera, which can watch the user's face in real-time.


Google Android new features face detection disabilities apps technology
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