Google wants Android O to make users of accessibility services more productive

accessibility updates in android o dont buy your google pixel from verizon
The Android accessibility services team took the stage at Google’s I/O developer conference Wednesday to discuss a number of changes coming in Android O that aim to make the platform much more user-friendly for everyone.

Increasing productivity for accessibility services users was job one in preparing for Android O, according to Victor Tsaran, technical program manager on the Accessibility development team. To that end, the upcoming version of the mobile operating system delivers several critical improvements to TalkBack, an Android accessibility service that reads screen content to users who are visually impaired.

First, Android O introduces a separate volume stream for times when the system reads back to you. In other words, media like music and YouTube videos no longer has to play at the same volume that TalkBack does, so it’ll be easier to distinguish between them.

An even bigger addition is support for multilingual text-to-speech. Tsaran demonstrated the feature by having the system read an email out loud that contained phrases in several different languages. Android was intelligent enough to differentiate between them and adjust on the fly.

Android O will also allow fingerprint sensors on devices to support basic gestures so users can swipe between options. In tandem with TalkBack, this means a user who is unable to see the screen can swipe successively between menu items, hearing each one individually read back to them.

Finding and triggering accessibility services was another major focus for Android O. The update will bring a context-aware dedicated accessibility button at the bottom-right of the navigation bar, that will be able to trigger certain actions depending on what’s visible on the screen, and what services you have enabled.

For example, if you’re browsing the home screen, pressing the button will trigger magnification. If you’re using text-to-speech, it will bring up a remote control that allows you to start and stop screen reading, and determine the speed that the system reads to you.

accessibility updates in android o settings menu

The focus on just making accessibility services easier to understand has made its way to the settings menu as well. Gone are the vague category descriptors, like “System” and “Services.” The menu now groups features based on the actions they perform, and also contains descriptions for what each service does. What’s more, a new shortcut has been added to turn accessibility services on and off on the fly, by pressing both volume buttons.

During the event, the development team stressed that Google arrived at many of these improvements by testing them, in iterative fashion, with real users. Likewise, the company is imploring third-party developers to perform their own accessibility research.

Last year, Google released an app called Accessibility Scanner that could examine developers’ apps and suggest changes to help enhance accessibility, like improving text contrast. Since that time, the company says developers have used the app to find over one million opportunities to improve their apps’ functionality for users with accessibility needs.

Wearables

To be blunt, the Vuzix Blade smartglasses just don’t cut it

We tried out the Vuzix Blade to find out if it’s worth shelling out $1,000 for smartglasses. Are these augmented reality, Android-powered glasses really ready for primetime or just an expensive gimmick that no one really needs?
Computing

These 30 useful apps are absolutely essential for Mac lovers

There are literally hundreds of thousands of great software programs compatible with MacOS, but which should you download? Look no further than our list of the best Mac apps you can find.
Mobile

10 common problems with the Samsung Galaxy S8, and how to fix them

Despite being one of Samsung's flagship phones, some users are facing problems with the Galaxy S8. Thankfully, there are fixes and potential workarounds for those struggling. Our troubleshooting tips are easy to follow.
Computing

Tired of paying a monthly fee for Word? The best Microsoft Office alternatives

Looking for a competent word processor that isn't Microsoft Word? Thankfully, the best alternatives to Microsoft Office offer robust features, expansive compatibility, and an all-too-familiar aesthetic. Here are our favorites.
Mobile

Stop buying old tablets, says Samsung, buy the new Galaxy Tab S5e instead

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S5e -- the E is for Essential -- a reasonably priced tablet that includes many of the features we like from the Tab A 10.5, and the Tab S4. Here's what you need to know.
Mobile

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.
Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases to keep your titanic phone safe

The new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a gorgeous device, with one of the best dual-lens cameras we've ever seen. Keep your titanic device safe and scratch-free with the best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases.