Nikhil SubramaniamApr 28, 2014 11:47:11 IST
We know that Google is working on bringing some UI changes to Android in the next release, but it looks like the company is preparing for a massive overhaul in interface and functionality when it comes to the mobile OS. If the rumours are true, this could be the biggest shift in Android UI and navigation since Google moved to software buttons with Android 3.0 all those years ago.
Android Police reports based on information received from sources that Google wants to put the 'OK Google' hotword and voice-based actions throughout the OS. The report calls it 'OK Google Everywhere'. The feature would allow users to control different apps including possibly third-party apps with voice commands. The voice recognition feature would reportedly be always-on, just like the Moto X and will only work when it recognises the phone owner’s voice. Google could also add specific actions for individual apps through voice commands, such as sharing a just-clicked photo from the gallery app or sending a reply to a new email, using a combination of commands with the ‘OK Google’ hotword. It could extend beyond just such simple actions to actions related to the content of emails and messages, such as when a friend asks you to check out movie timings in a new Hangouts message, Google will be able to launch actions related to that using voice commands. It’s like Android’s powerful ‘Share’ button but totally voice dependent.
The report explains how this could be made to work: “From an implementation perspective, our information indicates that Google plans to create and deploy new actions using a modular structure. To get an idea of what this means, think about telling Google to send an email. Google needs to know who you're sending it to, what the body should contain, and what the subject is. Each of those parameters would be a module that could be unplugged and put into other actions. These pieces of code would evidently be able to snap together (metaphorically) to create new actions on Google's side. Whether anyone besides Google would be able to create such actions is unclear.”
It’s not just enhanced voice control, but Android Police says Google is considering new navigation buttons for Android. However, it must be noted that this could only be available for Nexus or Google Play Edition (GPE) devices, just like the current Google Now Launcher. The home button is said to be replaced with a Google button or a ‘g’ logo in places, so that users can quickly access the voice functionalities. It’s as yet unclear how users can get to the homescreen, but seeing as Google Now already is the launcher in Nexus and GPE devices, the Google button could just be the new home button.
In any case, it’s a dramatic shift, if at all this rumour pans out and could deserve a X.0 update. This will most likely be seen later in the year as part of the L update, which is rumoured to be coming with the next Nexus smartphone. So we are not likely to see the final version of this update at I/O, though Google may give us a glimpse of what’s in store during its June event.
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