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For years now, Pixel phones have offered an option to “Screen call,” allowing the Google Assistant to speak to an incoming caller on your behalf to find out who they are and what they want. This method is surprisingly effective for filtering out unwanted calls from unknown numbers, as many spam callers will hang up automatically, but it’s much less useful when you know who’s calling.
If someone in your contact list calls, you have the same option to screen their call and have the Assistant ask for more information. You can ask anyone who’s ever accidentally used the Assistant to screen a call from a family member why this is a terrible idea.
To address that, the Google Assistant call screening has gained a new option that only appears for people who are on your contact list. Appearing in the incoming call screen as “Ask if urgent,” tapping the option gives your friend or family member a somewhat friendlier greeting from the Google Assistant.
Hi I’m a Google virtual assistant on a recorded line. The person you are trying to reach wanted me to check is it urgent?
As before, Assistant transcribes and displays what the caller says in response, while the Phone app offers tappable options to ask for more information.
The feature was first demonstrated at the Pixel 8 unveiling event, with the company confirming the feature would be rolling out soon. As noted by Mishaal Rahman on X, the rollout has begun and includes older Pixel phones, not just the newly released Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. We’ve confirmed the new “Ask if urgent” option appeared on a Pixel 7 Pro over the weekend, but let us know in the comments if it appears on your older Pixel phone too.
I guess when Google said "soon" they meant "immediately" then. At least it's good to know this isn't exclusive to the Pixel 8, since my tipster saw this on their Pixel Fold.
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) October 23, 2023
Google brings Action Blocks customization to all Assistant Routines
Google is rolling out a number of new accessibility features, including the ability to use Action Blocks as Assistant Routine shortcuts on your Android homescreen.
Today, going to Assistant Settings > Routines lets you select one and add it to your homescreen as an app icon-sized shortcut that can start the macro.
Google will soon let you have Routines appear as “Custom rounded” or “Custom rectangle” widgets on your homescreen, with the old icon shortcut still supported. Besides being resizable, these Google Assistant Routine widgets support custom images and text without having to download the dedicated Action Blocks app.
Research has shown that this personalization can be particularly helpful for people with cognitive differences and disabilities and hope it will bring the helpfulness of Assistant Routines to even more people.
Google Maps Live View last year added the ability to search for nearby places, like restaurants, shops, transit stations, and ATMs, within the AR interface. Available in select cities, this feature is adding screen reader support starting today on iOS, with Android following “later this year.”
If your screen reader is enabled, you’ll receive auditory feedback of the places around you with helpful information like the name and category of a place and how far away it is.
Google Maps and Search business listings are gaining support for a “new identity attribute for the disability community.”
Google Maps is rolling out wheelchair-accessible walking routes. These stair-free routes can also be helpful for “people traveling with things like luggage or strollers.” This will be available “globally on iOS and Android wherever we have data available.”
Similarly, wheelchair accessibility information will be surfaced in the Android Auto and Automotive apps to find step-free entrances, as well as locations that have accessible parking, seating, and restrooms. Look for a wheelchair icon next to the search results.
Chrome on desktop can already “detect URL typos and suggest websites based on the corrections.” This is now coming to the Android and iOS browsers. It’s especially meant for people with “dyslexia, language learners, or anyone who may have typos.”
Finally, there’s the new Magnifier app for Pixel phones that Google designed in collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the National Federation of the Blind.