Android announces six new features, emphasizing safety and accessibility – TechCrunch

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Android shared information today about six features that will roll out this summer. Some of these are just quality-of-life upgrades, like starring text messages to easily find them later or getting contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions depending on your typing. But other aspects of this update emphasize security, safety, and accessibility. Last summer, Google added a feature on Android that uses your phone as a seismometer to create “the world’s largest earthquake detection network.” The system is free, and since testing in California, it’s also launched in New Zealand and Greece. Now, Google will introduce this feature in Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. This year, the company says they’ll continue expanding the quality, prioritizing countries with the highest earthquake risk.

Google is also expanding on another feature released last year, making Google Assistant compatible with Android apps. The initial update included apps like Spotify, Snapchat, Twitter, Walmart, Discord, Etsy, MyFitnessPal, Mint, Nike Adapt, Nike Run Club, eBay, Kroger, Postmates, and Wayfair. Today’s update mentioned apps like eBay, Yahoo! Finance, Strava, and Capital One. These features are comparable to Apple’s support of Siri with iOS apps, which includes opening apps, performing tasks, and recording a custom command. When it comes to accessibility, Google is ramping up its gaze detection feature, which is now in beta. Gaze detection allows people to ask for Voice Access only to respond when looking at their screen, allowing people to move between talking with friends and using their phones naturally.


Now, Voice Access will also have enhanced password input. When it detects a password field, it will allow you to input letters, numbers, and symbols by saying “capital P” or “dollar sign,” for example, making it easier for users to enter this sensitive information more quickly. In October, Google Assistant became available on gaze-powered accessible devices. In the same month, Google researchers debuted a demo that made it so people using sign language could be identified as the “active speaker” in video calls. Apple doesn’t have a similar gaze detection feature yet that’s widely available, though they acquired SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), an eye-tracking firm, in 2017.

Today’s Android update lets Android Auto users customize more of their experience. Now, you can manually set your launcher screen from your phone, set the dark mode, and browse content on media apps more easily with an A-Z scroll bar and a “back to top” button. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messages will now be compatible on the launch screen — proceed with caution and don’t drive distracted — and EV charging, parking, and navigation apps will now be available for use. So, hopefully, similar accessibility features will be in the works at Apple, especially as Google continues to build out theirs. So, hopefully, similar accessibility features will be in the works at Apple, especially as Google continues to build out theirs.

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