Beta Android accessibility feature uses facial expressions to control your phone

Google is developing a new accessibility feature for Android that lets you control a phone using facial expressions like a smile or raised eyebrows, XDA Developers reports. The “Camera Switch” feature has arrived with version 12 of Android’s Accessibility Suite app, released alongside Android 12’s fourth beta. The new version of the app isn’t available via Google Play just yet, XDA reports, but there’s an APK to sideload if you want to give it a try.

According to XDA Developers, facial expressions (which also include looking left, right, or up) can be used to access a number of controls, ranging from scrolling, going home, or viewing quick settings or notifications. Screenshots show you can adjust how sensitive the software is when recognizing expressions, which should hopefully limit the potential for accidental activations. However, there’s also a warning that the feature can be power-intensive, and that phones should ideally be plugged in while it’s in use.

Facial expressions include “open mouth,” “smile,” and “raise eyebrows.”
Image: XDA Developers

A settings page for the feature warns that it can be power-intensive.
Image: XDA Developers

It’s not hard to see how the feature could be useful for anyone who might struggle with certain touch controls. And unlike voice commands, facial expressions are silent, which could make the controls easier to use in public or in quieter environments.

Android has received a number of accessibility features with recent releases, which like these facial expression controls are aimed at making the phones easier to use for people with disabilities. Last year’s Android 11, for example, delivered improvements to the operating system’s voice control feature. Earlier in the year, Google released a collection of other accessibility updates including customizable “Action Blocks,” which let users assign custom actions to large on-screen buttons.

The arrival of the new feature alongside the latest Android 12 beta suggests it’ll officially launch as part of the operating system update later in the year. But XDA Developers notes that the latest version of the Accessibility Suite app appears to be backwards compatible with Android 11, suggesting it might not be exclusive to Android 12.

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