Action Blocks are a new Android feature 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 app, which lets you give each action a name, type out a spoken command for Google’s voice assistant, and then assign it an image so it’s easily recognizable on your phone’s home screen.

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 multi-stage processes required with many common Android apps. Google’s hope is that the feature will help people with disabilities including advanced dementia, autism, and Down syndrome do common Android tasks like calling friends, sharing their location, or listening to music.

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

Action Blocks are an expansion of DIVA, the accessibility initiative Google announced back at I/O 2019. DIVA aims to make smart speakers more usable for anyone who finds it hard to use spoken commands, by hooking them up to physical controls that are programmed to activate pre-configured actions.

Although Google’s new initiative is clearly focused on helping people with disabilities, it’s not hard to see how the feature could be helpful to pretty much everyone. If there’s a Google Assistant voice command you use on a regular basis, 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 on iOS.

Google says the new feature is currently in its testing phase, and didn’t offer any information about when it might be released to the public.


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