Formerly a Pixel exclusive feature, the safety-focused “Heads Up” mode is now coming to more Android devices with an update to the Digital Wellbeing app.

The feature comes as part of the Digital Wellbeing suite of features and is able to detect when you’re walking or pacing while looking at your device. When in use, your phone will remind you to stay alert and even has the capability to ping when a hazard is detected such as a busy road or traffic intersection. However, like all features of this kind, it’s a supplementary safety feature that simply warns you of potential hazards and your device detects movement while the screen is active.

With the Heads Up feature, you can get reminders to look up and stay alert when you’re walking and using your phone. Launched first on Pixel earlier this year, Heads Up is now available through the Digital Wellbeing setting on devices running Android 9 and newer.

So long as you have a device running Android 9 or higher, after updating the Digital Wellbeing app you’ll be able to activate the “Heads Up” mode on your smartphone. When activated you’ll get specific on-screen alerts from the Digital Wellbeing app including:

  • Be careful
  • Look ahead
  • Stay focused
  • Look up
  • Stay alert
  • Watch out
  • Watch your step

Google is not only expanding “Heads Up” mode to more Android devices, the firm is also adding a number of new Android Accessibility features including enhanced “Camera Switches,” “Project Activate,” and “Lookout.” The “Camera Switches” feature is a brand-new Switch Access option that allows those with motor impairment and disabilities to navigate and control their Android smartphone by using facial gestures and eye movements.

This feature uses your smartphone front-facing camera in tandem with the Android Accessibility Suite to replicate keyboard, mouse, and screen touch input and allows you to navigate your device completely hands-free. For those that lack motor functions, have neurological conditions or are unable to speak, this is yet another exceptional device control method provided by Google’s growing Accessibility suite.

Facial gestures or eye movements can be used to create and activate preset actions that would otherwise be managed via voice commands or you’re able to use a combination of both. This is also being joined by handwriting recognition as part of Lookout, which is an app that uses your device camera to help those with limited or restricted vision detect things with greater ease.

When using the “Document” mode in Lookout, the app will read aloud both handwritten and printed text for any Latin-based languages. On top of this, Google is adding Euro and Indian Rupee recognition within Lookout’s “Currency” mode. The firm also confirmed that more currency recognition is also coming soon.

Heads Up mode is rolling out right now as part of the most recent Digital Wellbeing app for those with a device running Android 9.0 or higher, while the Lookout updates are coming very soon.

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Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter: @iamdamienwilde. Email: damien@9to5mac.com

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