How can you control a phone with just your face?
This option is available on Android as part of the Switch Access accessibility feature. Switch Access adds a blue selection window to your display and allows you to move that selection window through the many different items on your screen using external switches, a keyboard, or the buttons on your Android until you find the one you want to select.
Switch Access has been updated to make facial gestures the triggers for moving the selection window across your screen. This new feature is included in the Android Accessibility Suite 12.0.0 beta, which is included with the most recent Android 12 beta (beta 4, to be exact). You won’t be able to use this cool new feature until Google seeds Android 12 to the general public if you aren’t running the beta on your Android device.
If you want to try it out right now, simply enroll your device in the Android 12 beta program, then download and install the still-in-development software.
How to set up facial gestures on Android 12
On an Android 12 beta 4 device, go to Settings > Accessibility > Switch Access, then tap the toggle next to Use Switch Access to get started. You’ll need to give the feature complete control over your device, which includes the ability to view and control the screen as well as view and perform actions. To confirm, tap Allow.
Android will automatically open the Switch Access setup guide the first time you do this. Tap Camera Switch, then Next to proceed. Choose between one or two switches on the next page, with Android recommending the latter. With a single switch, you can start highlighting items on the screen with the same gesture you use to select a specific item. With two switches, you can start highlighting with one and select with the other.
We’ll show you how to choose two switches by demonstrating the instructions. Choose how you want Android to scan through a specific page of options on the next page:
- Linear scanning (except keyboard): Move between items one at a time. If you’re using a keyboard, however, it will scan by row.
- Row-column scanning: Scan one row at a time. After the row is selected, move through items in that list.
- Group selection (advanced): All items will be assigned a color. You perform a face gesture corresponding to the color of the item you want to select. Narrow down the size of the group until you reach your choice.
For this walkthrough, we’ll use linear scanning. Choose Next after you’ve made your choice, and then assign a gesture to the action Next (which is what tells the blue selection window to move through the screen). You can assign as many of these gestures to a single action as you want, including Open Mouth, Smile, Raise Eyebrows, Look Left, Look Right, and Look Up. Just keep in mind that once you assign a gesture to an action, you can’t use it with another. Tap Next when you’re done.
Select a gesture for the action Select now (which selects an items that the blue selection window is hovering over). Except for any gestures you assigned to Next, you can choose from the same list as before. You can actually start using these gestures to continue once you’ve made your decision, because you can use your first gesture to scroll through the options and your second gesture to select.
Finally, to pause or unpause camera switches, select a gesture. You are not required to use this feature, but Android suggests that you do so. Choose your gesture or gestures, and then click Next. After that, the setup is complete, and you can now navigate Android using your facial gestures.
Other face gesture settings and options
After you’ve completed your setup, you’ll be able to explore some additional options. You’ll find all of the gesture options, as well as their associated actions, under Face Gesture Settings. Tap on one to try it out, change the gesture size, lengthen or shorten the gesture, and change the gesture’s assignment.
Beneath Additional settings for Camera Switches, you’ll find four more options to choose from:
- Enhanced visual feedback: Show a visual indication of how long you have held a gesture.
- Enhanced audio feedback: Play a sound when something on the screen changes in response to a gesture.
- Keep screen on: Keep the screen on when Camera Switches in enabled. Camera Switches cannot unlock the screen if it turns off.
- Ignore repeated Camera Switch triggers: You can choose a duration of time where the system will interpret multiple Camera Switch triggers as one trigger.
How to turn off facial gestures (Camera Switches)
If you decide that using facial gestures to control your phone isn’t for you, don’t worry; the feature is simple to disable. Simply return to Settings > Accessibility > Switch Access, and then select Settings. Then tap the slider next to Use Camera Switches, then tap Camera Switch Gestures. This will turn off the entire feature while also saving your settings. Return to this page at any time to reactivate the feature by tapping the toggle again.