Android 12 looks to be getting a new accessibility feature, which makes it easier for people to control their phone using facial expressions.
There’s a new Camera Switch feature within Android 12 beta 4, which enables users to choose facial gestures to match the action or functionality. The idea is to bypass the need for touchscreen input for those who may not be able to use it easily.
There are already wired and wireless external switches available, but it seems like Android 12 could negate the need for those, thanks to the feature first reported by Android Police.
Gestures like open mouth, smile, raise eyebrows, look left, look right, and look up can be customised to open the notifications panel, return to the home screen and more. It’s not clear whether Google will add more actions over time.
The set up of the feature comes via the camera, with users encouraged to demonstrate how they express an open mouth, for example.
The Camera Switch set-up asks people to “choose how big you want to make the gesture before it’s recognised” enabling users to be more deliberate with their gestures and avoid false positives.
There’ll also be a persistent camera notification within the status bar that informs the user the camera is in use.
It’s not clear whether this will be in the final version of Android 12 or a standalone option, or will come with an update of the Android Accessibility app for Google Play. Android Police says the feature was unavailable when using an Android 11 phone.
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While the feature is obviously intended for those with accessibility needs, it may prove something that’s also useful for a wider section of the Android user base. For example, when your hands are dirty, or you’re wearing gloves or any other instance when prodding the touchscreen or using the Google Assistant voice commands isn’t an option.
Android 12 is almost complete and will be rolled out by Google in the next couple of months.