Google’s hands-free Voice Access app, which we first heard about last year, appeared in beta form on Monday, giving a few lucky testers the chance to take it for a spin.
Voice Access is aimed primarily at individuals with a disability that hinders smartphone or tablet interaction, though it’s a feature that’s bound to come in useful in any number of situations where our hands are busy with other tasks or simply too messy to touch the display.
Of course, you can already control some elements of your Android phone via voice, but Voice Access takes it to a whole new level, giving you the option of resting your hard-working fingers and handing the strain of smartphone operation to your vocal cords instead.
“For example, you can say ‘open Chrome’ or ‘go home’ to navigate around the phone, or interact with the screen by saying ‘click next’ or ‘scroll down,'” Google explained in a post about the new feature.
Further functionality comes via numbers that appear at action points around the screen, as shown in the image. While this certainly helps to simplify commands even further, it could leave your display looking rather busy depending on the kind of content you’re looking at.
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Voice Access is expected to land soon – and for free – in the Google Play store, and is part of several new accessibility features announced by the company. These include the ability to use voice commands to type, edit, and format documents in Google Docs, and an improved screen reader for Chromebooks.
Beta-tester positions for the Voice Access app have already been snapped up, so be patient if the idea of some downtime for your digits appeals.
In other hands-free news out of Mountain View, Google recently announced an in-store mobile payment service that means you don’t even have to reach for your smartphone – or anything at all for that matter – when it’s time to pay. Very few stores support the service at the current time, though judging by the extreme clumsiness of customers in Google’s promo video, it really couldn’t come soon enough.