Google’s Android Accessibility Suite is a collection of apps that make it easier for people with disabilities to interact with Android phones and tablets. And starting with Android 12, a new accessibility feature will make use of your phone’s camera to let you control your phone with your face.

According to a report from xda-developers, a beta version of Android Accessibility Suite 12.0.0 was included in the latest Android 12 beta, and it has a feature called a “Camera Switch” that lets you use facial gestures to interact with your mobile device.

Google first added support for “Switch Access” to Android’s accessibility features in 2017. At the time, the idea was to let you use a physical hardware device with at least two buttons (for “next operation,” and “enter”). Those button controllers could be USB or Bluetooth devices.

The addition of a Camera Switch to Android 12 means that you don’t need third-party hardware to control your phone using Switch Access. Just choose the Camera Switch option, set up your preferences, and you can use facial expressions to navigate through individual items, rows and columns, or groups of items (arranged by color).

For example, you could open your mouth to move to the next item in a list, and then smile to select it. Or if you’d prefer a simpler, single-facial-gesture setup, you could open your mouth to scan items, and then open your mouth again to select.

Screenshots posted to xda-developers show that available gestures include:

  • Open Mouth
  • Smile
  • Raise Eyebrows
  • Look Left
  • Look Right
  • Look Up

You can also adjust settings for the “size” or duration of a gesture, to prevent the phone from reacting to false positives.

It’s possible that additional gestures or actions may be added in the future. And it’s also possible that the Camera Switch feature may not require Android 12 to function – xda-developers was able to sideload the application on a device running Android 11. So perhaps Google will roll out this feature first with the version of the Android Accessibility Suite designed for Android 12, but eventually make it available to folks running older versions of Android with an update delivered through the Google Play Store.

via @MishaalRahman

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5 replies on “Android 12 will let you control your phone by making faces at it (accessibility features)”

  1. “No, I’m not making an obscene licking gesture, I’m scrolling a webpage!”

  2. I do wish they bring back the fingerprint sensor back – its hard to unlock the phone, much less gestures while using a face mask.

  3. Like 3D touch and those weird hover your hand over the screen gestures, I would expect this feature to be dropped 3 versions from now.
    …If it was introduced for accessibility alone!
    I’d bet money that Google added this as an excuse to keep the front camera on ALL THE TIME (if you opt out/in). Just like that time they made some fitness app that measures your breathing rate with the front camera instead of doing the obvious and telling you to hold the mic in front of your nose. The phone can then use this to examine what you’re reading/watching, then look at how you react to it, sort your expression into a predefined category, then send that off to Analytics.
    The way things are going I would not be surprised at all to one day read that certain reactions to certain things could have consequences for doing things we take for granted now, or took for granted two years ago.
    But I would also not be surprised to one day hear that this went nowhere and they just dropped it.

    Remember that the Android that comes with your phone is proprietary, so there’s no guarantee that this is actually OFF. I recommend using Lineage OS, /e/, Graphene OS, Calyx OS, or a Linux phone.

    1. Agreed. I have everything turned off deep into the OS, and I’m still concerned I’m missing an “off” button somewhere. After all, it is supposed to be a phone, and not a computer. It’s amazing to me the younger generation has grown up putting their whole life into the cloud, and doesn’t care one bit about their privacy.

      1. You mean the like the security phone sold to criminals but made by the government, and then used as evidence to arrest the criminals. Sure your safe otherwise, your are a tin foil hat wearer 🤔

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