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Is this the future of camera phones? Control your phone with your face!

Google phone
(Image credit: Bruce Mars on Unsplash)

Google has recently released its fourth Android 12 beta release, rolling this update out to Google Pixel phones last week. Part of this update includes an interesting new feature that enables users to control their phones with their face via Google's Android Accessibility Suite. This is done via the front-facing camera, which is now able to read facial expressions and then perform certain tasks.

This new feature is called Camera Switches and is found in the Accessibility Suite. Google Pixel users were previously able to control their camera phone without the use of the touchscreen through a feature called Switch Access, which enabled the use of an external device such as a keyboard or mouse. However, mapping and interpreting facial expressions is definitely a futuristic step forward.

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As reported by XDA Developers, the Camera Switches option features a few different facial expression options, including Open Mouth, Smile, Raise Eyebrows, Look Left, Look Right and Look Up. These actions can be assigned different tasks, giving users a hands-free and subtle way to control their camera phone. 

As XDA Developers explains, "you can, for example, have the app detect when you open your mouth and then map that to open the notifications panel. You can also have it check for when you raise your eyebrows and then have the phone return to the home screen." 

When the Camera Switches function is active, there will be a persistent notification icon that will inform the user that the front-facing camera is on. However, XDA Developers advises that Android 12 will show a status bar indicator whenever the camera is being users, "so this notification icon may seem redundant". 

As this feature is part of the Android 12 beta, the general public won't be able to get their hands (or, indeed, face) on this software just yet. However, it seems that Google Pixel users will be able to take advantage of this interesting new piece of tech when Android 12 is officially launched later this year. 

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Louise Carey

With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine and  Digital Photographer. Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.