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New Google app adds Assistant-powered shortcuts to your homescreen

Google is also updating Live Transcribe, Sound Amplifier, and Google Maps with new accessibility features.

Published onMay 21, 2020

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It’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and Google is updating several Android apps with new accessibility features that’ll be rather useful for just about anyone who uses the mobile OS, and especially those with disabilities.

The main feature coming to Android through a new app is called Action Blocks. The feature lets users create big widgets on their home screen that can perform complex actions with a single tap. It’s not necessarily a new feature, as it’s been in testing for some time, but today is the finalized public release of it.

Action Blocks could be a game-changer for anyone with a cognitive disability, but it could also be useful for anyone looking to speed up some of the functions they perform on their device regularly. To take advantage of Action Blocks, users will need to download the app. From there, users can choose from a list of predefined actions or create their own custom ones based on what they need to do.

Google’s Live Transcribe app is getting some improvements as well. It has always been a useful way to interact with an Android device, but the new update now gives it the ability to learn custom words such as a name or technical term. Google also added the ability to search transcriptions using keywords. Importantly, the data is stored locally and not on Google’s servers.

Another really cool feature coming to Live Transcribe is the ability to set a name as a keyword. This will cause the device to vibrate whenever it hears that keyword mentioned. For anyone with hearing disabilities, this could be a fantastic way for others to get their attention.

The best Android 11 features you need to know
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Sound Amplifier is another app that’s getting a nice update. Before, users could only take advantage of the boosted volume with wired headphones, but Google has rolled out support for Bluetooth now.

One final update that’s coming to both iOS and Android versions of Google Maps is the ability to show wheelchair access right away instead of hiding it under an extra button press. It’s a small tweak, but it’s one that could save some time for users who need to know whether a location is wheelchair accessible regularly.

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