Android’s new Action Blocks make Google Assistant more accessible

Action Blocks are a new feature of Android that will allow you to pre-write Google Assistant commands and place shortcuts to them on your home screen. They work using a new Action Block application, which allows you to assign a name to each action, write a spoken command to the Google voice assistant, and then assign an image so that it is easily recognizable on the home screen of your phone.

The new feature is aimed at simplifying the Android user experience for people with cognitive disabilities, who may not be able to go through the multistage processes required with many common Android applications. Google's hope is that the function will help people with disabilities, including advanced dementia, autism and Down syndrome, to perform common Android tasks, such as calling friends, sharing their location or listening to music.


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A demo video shows an Action Block created to read the user a story before bedtime.
Image: Google

The action blocks are an expansion of DIVA, the accessibility initiative that Google announced in I / O 2019. DIVA aims to make smart speakers more useful for anyone who finds it difficult use spoken commands, connecting them to physical controls that are programmed to activate preconfigured actions.

Although Google's new initiative is clearly focused on helping people with disabilities, it is not difficult to see how the function could be useful for almost everyone. If there is a Google Assistant voice command that you use regularly, Action Blocks could allow you to add it as a simple shortcut to your Android home screen, similar to how you can add Siri Shortcuts to your home screen at iOS.

Google says the new feature is currently in its testing phase and did not offer any information on when it could be released to the public.

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