Important household sounds become more accessible

Appliances beeping. Water running. Dogs barking. These are all sounds that are meant to grab your attention when something important is happening. But, if you have hearing loss or are wearing headphones, these sounds might not be able to draw your attention like they’re intended to. 

Sound Notifications is a new feature on Android that provides push notifications for critical sounds around you. Designed for the estimated 466 million people in the world with hearing loss, Sound Notifications makes important and critical household sounds more accessible with push notifications, a flash from your camera light, or vibrations on your Android phone. This feature can also be helpful if someone is unable to hear temporarily as a result of an injury, wearing earplugs or headphones.

Cropped Sound Notification.png

Receive real-time push notifications of critical sounds around you.

Sound Notifications works with other devices, including Wear OS by Google smartwatches. You can get text notifications with vibrations on your wrist when there is important noise detected by your phone. That way you can continue to get alerts about critical sounds even when you are asleep, a concern shared by many in the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Sound Notification Smartwatch.png

Receive critical sound notifications on other devices, including Wear OS by Google smartwatches.

Developed with machine learning, Sound Notifications works completely offline and uses your phone’s microphone to recognize ten different noises—including baby sounds, water running, smoke and fire alarms, appliances beeping and door knocking. This expands our sound detection work in Live Transcribe which shows over 30 sound events alongside real time captions, to provide a better picture of overall sound awareness.

Timeline_Snapshot.png

Use Timeline view to scroll through a snapshot of detected sounds from the past few hours.

While we can notify you about baby sounds or dog barking, it often helps to know more about the preceding events that might have caused that disturbance. With the Timeline view, you can scroll through a brief snapshot of detected sounds from the past few hours. This shows when and how long the sound occurred to get a better sense of the sound’s importance. So if the dog has been barking because of a siren heard before that for 10 minutes, you can see that.

To start using Sound Notifications, go into Settings, then the Accessibility menu and enable Sound Notifications. If you don’t see this option on your phone, you can download both Live Transcribe and Sound Notifications from Google Play, then go to your settings and turn on Sound Notifications. To learn more about using Sound Notifications, visit the help center.

Read More

Doing more to design for and with people with disabilities

In 2013, I joined Google’s Central Accessibility Team. Since then, I’ve continuously worked to include people with disabilities across all of the work that we do at Google. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to celebrate and recognize the contributions of people with disabilities. Today, we’re sharing a few ways we’re continuing to support hiring people with disabilities and how we design products for and with the one billion people in the world with disabilities.

Building a helpful workplace with new career resources 

In the United States, only 19 percent of people with disabilities are employed—leaving employers with a largely untapped talent pool. We need to do more to encourage the employment of people with disabilities, and we want to support that change at Google. Through the years, we’ve evaluated and iterated on our own processes to help improve disability inclusion and awareness in the workplace. Doing so has helped us build a more diverse team of people with different backgrounds and experiences that is more representative of the people using our products. 

Google PwD Careers Page

Visit the dedicated Google Careers resource page for people with disabilities to gain access to helpful resources.

We know that one of the first steps to finding a job at a new company is visiting their Careers website, but those resources may not be designed with people with disabilities in mind. This is why we’ve launched a dedicated Google Careers resource page that is specifically tailored toward what a job seeker with a disability might find helpful. Prospective candidates can find career resources and tips for applying, as well as read stories about Googlers with disabilities and our employee-led Google Disability Alliance community. The page also highlights the work we’re doing to create products with and for people with disabilities. 

Action Blocks makes communication more accessible

Earlier this year we launched Action Blocks, an Android app designed with people with cognitive disabilities in mind that allows you to create customizable home screen buttons to navigate your device. Today, we are beginning to roll out an update to Action Blocks that will help make communication more accessible for people who are non-verbal.  

People who are non-verbal often use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to communicate with those around them. Updates to Action Blocks make it more familiar for anyone who uses an AAC device to communicate.

Action Blocks - select speaking block.png

You can now create Action Blocks that speak common phrases. 

You can now use a quick setup process to create Action Blocks that speak common phrases. For instance, you can set up your blocks to say, “yes,” “no,” or “Excuse me, I have something to say.” 

Action Blocks Tobii Symbols.png

Use Tobii Dynavox’s library of Picture Communication Symbols to customize your Action Blocks.

Action Blocks also comes loaded with thousands of Picture Communication Symbols from Tobii Dynavox’s library, which is commonly used on other AAC devices to communicate efficiently using pictures and symbols assigned to blocks. Having a similar set of icons available makes using Action Blocks’ AAC features more familiar for people who use Tobii Dynavox technology. 

Action Blocks works on Android phones without any additional hardware, making communication more convenient and accessible to people whether they are on the go, without their AAC devices, or don’t have access to an AAC device. And it’s now available to more people with expanded language options such as French, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese. 

In addition to AAC functionality, if you prefer to use physical adaptive switches—which can make it easier to navigate assistive technology—you can now assign a switch to an Action Block. This way, you can tap a physical button to easily trigger a Google Assistant action on your phone—such as making a call, watching a video or controlling a home device like a thermostat. To learn more about using Action Blocks, visit the help center. 

We believe designing for and with people with disabilities means building better products all around. Today’s announcements are a few steps forward in the journey to make the world a more inclusive place for people with disabilities. 

Read More

Say hello to safer phone calls

Businesses often rely on phone calls to reach out to new customers and serve existing ones. But here’s the hang-up: customers often don’t answer the call if they don’t recognize the number. They worry it could be spam, or worse, a scam: a 2019 FTC report found that phone calls were the number one way people reported being contacted by scammers. While most people said they hung up on those calls, those who lost money reported a median loss of $1,000. Spam and scam calls erode trust in businesses and increase costs to consumers.

Verified Calls by Google

Verified Calls aims to solve this problem by showing the caller’s name, logo, reason for calling and a verification symbol indicating the business has been authenticated by Google. This is done in a secure way—Google doesn’t collect or store any personally identifiable information after verification.

  • #1 Banking Global@2x.png
  • #2 Travel_Airline@2x.png
  • #4 Food Delivery@2x.png

Verified Calls is a feature on Google’s Phone app, which comes pre-loaded on many Android phones and will be available for download starting later this week on even more Android devices.

Better answer rates

We’ve been piloting Verified Calls for a few months, and the early results indicate that it improves the likelihood of someone answering a call. This in turn helps reduce business costs while identifying relevant calls to people in a trustworthy way. A wide range of businesses and institutions have been using Verified Calls during the pilot. For instance, banks calling to alert a customer about a possible fraudulent transaction can increase answer rates by stating the call reason. A food delivery or logistics company can do the same to make sure customers are available to receive their deliveries. 

Verification increases consumer trust

Based on last year’s launch of Verified SMS, which confirms the identity of the business that’s texting you, we learned that verified communication is valuable to both businesses and consumers. A study in the U.S. and Brazil found that Verified SMS increased consumer trust in brands, which significantly improved performance on metrics like likelihood to purchase, brand satisfaction, and likelihood to recommend.

Getting started

Verified Calls is initially rolling out in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Spain and India, with more countries to come. Brand and channel partners can get more information on our website. We also have existing partners—including Neustar, Five9, Vonage, Aspect, Bandwidth, Prestus, Telecall, and JustCall—ready to help brands improve their answer rates by using Verified Calls. To understand how Verified Calls works, tune in to our special session at Google Cloud Next ‘20 On Air.

Read More

Turning it up to Android 11

Android 11 has arrived! The latest release is all about helping you get to what’s important on your phone with easier ways to help you manage your conversations, connected devices, privacy, and much more. In honor of the 11th version of Android, here are 11 new things that are coming in Android 11:

Better ways to communicate with the people in your life

1. I often find myself switching between multiple messaging apps to stay connected with people I care about. In Android 11, conversations across messaging apps will be moved to a dedicated space in the notifications section, making it easy to manage your conversations in one spot. You can also prioritize conversations from the key people in your life so you never miss an important message. 

2. Bubbles makes multitasking on your device a breeze. You can now respond to important conversations without having to switch back and forth between what you’re doing and your messaging app.  

3. Built-in screen recording is finally here: Now you can capture and share what’s happening on your phone. Record with sound from your mic, device or both—no extra app required. 

New ways to control your connected devices & media

4. You can now access all your smart devices in one place, simply by long pressing the power button. Control your connected devices like your thermostat or smart lock with a tap, so there’s no need to open multiple apps. 

5. Media controls have been redesigned and are more helpful than ever. You can now quickly switch the device your media is playing on, so you can take your music with you from your headphones to your speaker without missing a beat.

6. Android Auto now works wirelessly for all phones running Android 11 as long as you have a compatible vehicle. So you can bring the best of your phone on every drive while skipping the cable—get directions with a tap, talk to send a text, play your favorite media and get help from Google Assistant. 

More control over your privacy and data

7. One-time permissions will allow you to grant single use access to your most sensitive permissions: microphone, camera and location. The next time the app needs access to the sensors, it must ask you for your permission again.  

8. If you haven’t used an app that you installed on your device in a while, you may not want it to keep accessing your data. Android will now “auto-reset” permissions for your unused apps and notify you accordingly. You can always decide to re-grant the app permissions the next time you use the app. 

9. With additional Google Play system update modules, even more security and privacy fixes can be sent to your phone from Google Play, in the same way your apps update. So you’ll get these fixes as soon as they’re available, without having to wait for a full OS update. 

10. For Android Enterprise users, Android 11 brings the privacy protections you get on a personally-owned device to your company-owned device. The work profile gives your IT department tools to manage a device without monitoring your personal profile data or activity on your phone. 

Even more on Pixel

11. If you’re using a Pixel 2 or above you’ll get additional features to organize and manage your phone, like app suggestions on the home screen based on your daily routines, and new overview actions that allow you to take a screenshot of an app and select text and images, and more.

Android 11 will begin rolling out today on select Pixel, OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO and realme phones, with more partners launching and upgrading devices over the coming months. Learn more at android.com/android-11.

Read More

Google Play is helping to safeguard elections

At Google Play, our policies are designed to promote transparency for our users and help protect against misinformation. This work is critically important when it comes to safeguarding elections as people use apps to research candidates, register to vote, or find a polling place. As mobile apps disseminate voting information and increasingly support voting activity, we’re ensuring safety and transparency for app users. Recently, we’ve updated some policies to improve election safety and have committed additional resources to help safeguard elections.

Preventing deceptive behavior 

We don’t allow apps that enable people to distribute misleading information, such as altering media clips or sending fake text messages. While this policy applies broadly, addressing this content is particularly important as manipulated content increasingly appears in political discourse. To date, we’ve removed thousands of apps for engaging in deceptive behavior, generating manipulated content without the appropriate transparency measures or promoting demonstrably misleading claims. Read our deceptive behavior and manipulated media policies for more information. Additionally, our misleading claims policy prohibits demonstrably deceptive content that may interfere with voting processes, such as listing incorrect polling location information.    

Transparent government information

Whether people are looking for information on paying taxes or how to register to vote, they should have reliable and clearly-sourced information. In November 2019, we implemented changes that require any app that shares official government information to be clear about the source of that information and the app’s affiliation with the government. This information should be apparent from the app’s description. We also work with governments to verify their apps so people can be confident when reading and engaging with government information. Read this articlefor more information on communicating government information. Governments and any app communicating government information can visit this site for new information on keeping their apps secure.

Minimum requirements for news apps

To promote transparency in news publishing, we’ve recently introduced minimum requirements that apps must meet in order to be classified in the News category on Google Play. These include transparency requirements about the source and ownership of in-app news content, requirements applicable to news subscription services, and requirements regarding the use of affiliate marketing and ad revenue. These changes don’t make judgements about the content or the quality of the news itself. You can find more information about these requirements here.

Dedicated election support

We’ve also created dedicated teams across Google Play solely focused on elections to provide additional support and adapt to the changing landscape. This includes additional support for government agencies, specially trained app reviewers, and a safety team to address election threats and abuse. 

As part of Google’s work to prevent abuse on our platforms and help voters, Google Play and Android will continue to promote transparency for users, fight abuse on our platform, and equip developers with information and training resources to secure their apps. For more information about Google’s support for democratic processes around the world, please visit elections.google.

Read More

5 new things your Android phone can do

Your Android phone should get better and more helpful over time, even while you wait for the latest OS update to arrive. Like the recently announced Nearby Share that supports devices going back to Android 6.0, we’re building new features that improve the experience of billions of devices around the world. Today, we’re introducing five new features to your Android phone for added safety, restful sleep and more. 

1. Save precious seconds during an emergency

Your Android phone can’t put out a fire, but it can provide help sooner with Android Emergency Location Service (ELS) now available to over 800 million people across 29 countries. Since launching ELS in 2016, we’ve worked with local public safety officials to shorten emergency response times around the world by improving access to accurate location information.

Now, your Android phone can share your device language setting when you dial your local emergency number wherever ELS is available. So if you don’t speak the local language, emergency operators can get the appropriate translator sooner and send you the help you need.

Android ELS is available on devices running Android 4.1 and above with Google Play Services installed.

2. Get alerted to earthquakes around you

Android phones around the world can now detect earthquakes with the Android Earthquake Alerts System, creating the world’s largest earthquake detection network. To start, this will lead to faster, more accurate earthquake information when you look up “earthquake near me” on Google Search. 

The Android Earthquake Alerts System will be available on devices running Android 5.0 and above. And if you are in California, you will now receive earthquake alerts powered by ShakeAlert® directly on your Android phone. 

3. Get more done in the car

AAP_Calendar_20200804_1 (1).png

When driving, your safety is dependent on keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. With new updates to Android Auto, you can stay on top of your day without having to glance at your phone. 

Get a quick look into your daily schedule on your car display with the new calendar app. With a few taps from a calendar event, get directions to the bakery where you ordered that birthday cake or make a quick phone call to tell them you’ll be arriving soon. 

And with the new settings app, you can manage your Android Auto preferences directly on your car display.

In-Car-Settings (1).gif

4. Rest easy, without interruptions

Remember that time when checking one notification turned into staying up an hour past your bedtime? We bet you weren’t too happy. So we created Bedtime mode to remind you when it’s time for bed and limit interruptions by keeping your phone dark and quiet while you sleep. 

Now with the addition of the Bedtime tab in Clock, you can maintain a consistent sleep schedule, track your screen time at night, and fall asleep to soothing sounds from Calm, Spotify, YouTube Music and more. And if you dread feeling startled by your alarm, you can wake up more gently with visual cues from the Sunrise Alarm and your favorite sounds or song.  

The Bedtime tab in the Clock app is now available for devices running Android 6.0 and above. For devices with Digital Wellbeing installed, turn on Bedtime mode in your settings or schedule it directly from the Clock app.

5. Lookout makes the physical world more accessible

We’re bringing new features to Lookout, an app that uses computer vision to help people who are blind or low-vision get things done faster and more easily. Built with and for the blind and low-vision community, this update debuts two new modes and a more accessible design. Now Lookout can scan long form documents into readable text, identify products from their food labels, and is even more compatible with screen readers. It also includes expansion to new languages and phones, automatic flash, and more. 

ScanDocument_1024X512_WhiteBG (1).gif

Download Lookout on Google Play today, available for all devices with more than 2GB of RAM running Android 6.0 and later.

Read More

Use Lookout to take care of daily tasks faster

Everyone has a routine to their day, from pulling out ingredients to cook a meal, sorting through their mail, or perusing through documents. To help people who are blind or low-vision complete these daily tasks faster and more easily, we’re introducing updates to Lookout on Android: new modes, a more accessible design, and expansion to even more Android devices. 

Lookout now has two new modes: Food Label and Scan Document. With Food Label, you can quickly identify packaged foods by pointing your phone’s camera at the label. Lookout will guide you to position the food product so that it can be properly identified through its packaging or barcode. This can be particularly helpful if you’re putting away groceries and want to make sure you’re handling the right items that might feel the same to your touch. For example, Food Label would be able to distinguish between a can of corn and a can of green beans.

FoodLabel_1080X1080_TransparentBG.gif

Use Food Label to identify different food products.

Scan Document makes it easier to go through letters and mail. Use Lookout to take a snapshot of a document, and it will capture the entire document’s content in detail so that it can be read aloud by your screen reader.

ScanDocument_1080X1080_TransparentBG (1).gif

Use Scan Document to read long-form documents.

Based on feedback from the blind and low-vision community, we’re introducing an accessible design that is even more compatible with TalkBack, our Android screen reader. This includes making more space for the camera view, which makes it easier to frame the object you want more information about. In addition, we’ve changed navigation between modes to require fewer taps and less time by making it possible to scroll between them at the bottom of the screen. 

With this update, Lookout will be available on all devices with more than 2GB of RAM running Android 6.0 and later. Lookout also now works in French, Italian, German and Spanish. Expanding this app to more people and devices is part of our commitment to make the world’s information universally accessible and to build helpful products with and for people with disabilities.

Download Lookout today on Google Play.

Read More

Earthquake detection and early alerts, now on your Android phone

Earthquakes happen daily around the world, with hundreds of millions of people living in earthquake prone regions.  An early warning can help people prepare for shaking, but the public infrastructure to detect and alert everyone about an earthquake is costly to build and deploy.  We saw an opportunity to use Android to provide people with timely, helpful earthquake information when they search, as well as a few seconds warning to get themselves and their loved ones to safety if needed.  

Sending earthquake alerts to Android devices in California

First, we collaborated with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to send earthquake alerts, powered by ShakeAlert®, directly to Android devices in California. 

Developed by the nation’s leading seismologists, the ShakeAlert system uses signals from more than 700 seismometers installed across the state by USGS, Cal OES, University of California Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology. A few seconds of warning can make a difference in giving you time to drop, cover, and hold on before the shaking arrives.

Asset1_nocaptions (1).gif

Building the world’s largest earthquake detection network 

Installing a ground network of seismometers, as California has done, may not be feasible in all impacted areas around the world. So we’re using the reach of Android’s platform to help detect earthquakes.  

Starting today, your Android phone can be part of the Android Earthquake Alerts System, wherever you live in the world. This means your Android phone can be a mini seismometer, joining millions of other Android phones out there to form the world’s largest earthquake detection network. 

All smartphones come with tiny accelerometers that can sense signals that indicate an earthquake might be happening. If the phone detects something that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then combines information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening. We’re essentially racing the speed of light (which is roughly the speed at which signals from a phone travel) against the speed of an earthquake. And lucky for us, the speed of light is much faster! 

To start, we’ll use this technology to share a fast, accurate view of the impacted area on Google Search. When you look up “earthquake” or “earthquake near me,” you’ll find relevant results for your area, along with helpful resources on what to do after an earthquake. 

Asset3_nocaption (1).gif

We’ve worked with globally-renowned seismology and disaster experts Dr. Richard Allen, Dr. Qingkai Kong and Dr. Lucy Jones to develop this crowdsourced approach for detecting earthquakes all around the world.

You might be wondering, “what’s next?” We’re starting with earthquake alerts in California since there’s already a great seismometer-based system in place. Over the coming year, you can expect to see the earthquake alerts coming to more states and countries using Android’s phone-based earthquake detection. 

Read More

Phone backup and a new storage manager in the Google One app

Two years ago we launched Google One: a membership that gives you more out of Google. We started with expanded storage plans, the ability to share your storage with family members, live support for all your Google questions, and member benefits like Google Play credits and Google Store member rewards.

Last year, we launched automatic phone backup for members on Android devices. So no matter what happens to your phone, you won’t lose the important stuff like texts, contacts and apps, and photos and videos.

To bring this peace of mind to more people, we’re making some Google One features—phone backup and a new storage manager tool—free for Google users wherever Google One is available. You can back up your devices and clean up your files across Google Photos, Google Drive, and Gmail—all in the new Google One app for Android and iOS.

Back up your Android or iOS phone

Automatic phone backup will be available on Android phones, even if you don’t have a Google One membership. And if you have an iPhone, we’re introducing a new iOS app that lets you store photos, videos, contacts, and calendar events with Google. Start backing up your phone with the Google One app, and save the stuff you care about using the free 15 GB of storage that comes with your Google Account. If you break, lose, or upgrade your phone, you can rest easy knowing that your data is safe in the cloud.

G1_BackUp_Blog.gif

Clean up and organize your storage

But peace of mind is about more than just safekeeping your information—it’s just as important to be able to easily manage and clean up your files across Drive, Gmail, and Photos. That’s why we’re also adding a new storage manager in the Google One app and on the web, which gives you an easy way to see how you’re using your storage, and free up space. You can keep the files you want, get rid of the ones you no longer need, and make room for more—all in one place.

G1_Storage_Blog.gif

And if you need more storage and want the full Google One experience, you can always upgrade to a Google One membership right from the app. With plans of all sizes, you can get the additional storage you need at a price that works for you, starting at $1.99/month. As a member, you can share your plan with up to five additional family members, access live help with anything Google, and get benefits including premium support and family sharing. The best part? We’re always looking to improve your membership so your plan keeps getting better.

To learn more and get started, download the Google One app. The new features will be rolling out for Android on the Play Store in the coming days, and the iOS app will be available soon. These updates only apply to consumer accounts and will not be available for G Suite business customers.

Read More

The Indie Game Festival announces its nine winners

The talent of independent and small game developers shines this year at Google Play’s Indie Games Festival,a celebration of the creativity of game developers. We received hundreds of submissions for the three competitions in Europe, Japan and South Korea. This year’s winning games have something for everyone, from a food-themed puzzle game with cats to a Mars Survival Project. Join us in congratulating the developers and trying out their games!

Europe

Indie Games Festival winners - Europe

Cookies Must Die by Rebel Twins, Poland: This husband and wife duo knocked it out of the park with this fun, frenzied and humorous game. It has lovely animations and engaging mechanics that will entertain whether you want to play for five minutes or five hours. 

inbento by Afterburn, Poland: Eating lunch at the office inspired the concept for this family-friendly game, which is available in 17 languages. Preparing a bento lunch is serious business, and these adorable cats are here to teach you the ropes with charming yet challenging puzzles. 

The White Door by Rusty Lake, Netherlands: The latest game from this two-man team is inspired by a real-life story. They impressed the jury with this  unique comic strip point-and-click adventure, set in the world of the phenomenal Cube Escape and Rusty Lake series.

Japan

Indie Games Festival winners - Japan

GIGAFALL by Shiki Game Studio: Great game for lovers of b-bit graphics and retro style where you can control the satellite lasers that orbit the Earth and destroy meteorites,

METBOY!  by REBUILD GAMES: This action game has a retro style with a catchy soundtrack for those who miss old game consoles.

Wasurenaide, otona ni natte mo by GAGEX Co.,Ltd: This cinematic adventure game in Minecraft style follows a boy who is looking for his father.

Korea

Indie Games Festival winners - Korea

Heroes Restaurant by Team Tapas: If you ever dreamed of running a restaurant and fighting with a big squid at the same time, then this game is  for you. It’s an interesting mix of catchy RPG mechanics and anime style art.

Magic Survival by LEME: A casual game where you can survive by defeating spirits in a 21st century magical civilization.

Project Mars by Moontm: An unusual game for those who aspire to colonize Mars, become a part of the space expedition and help to make the red planet a place where people can live. 

Check out the remaining Top 10 for Europe, Japan and South Korea. Winning developers receive prize packages designed to help them grow their business on Android and Google Play. Prizes include promotions on the Google Play Store, consultations with members of the Google Play team, Google hardware, and extra promotion campaigns.

Read More