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Google Action Blocks

Google Action Blocks icon
Overall rating:
  • 3/5
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  • Actions screen
  • Add to home screen
  •  Block creation information
  •  Action Blocks setup screen
  •  Main screen with created blocks
  • Permissions
  • Action Blocks edition
  • Custom functions screen
  •  More actions screen
  •  Music block look
  •  Image selection screen
  •  PCS symbols

What is it about:

October 2020

Google Action Blocks is an application for Android that allows accessibility and greater simplicity in the handling of the mobile phone or other devices with Android 5.0 or higher.

Allows you to create blocks to make calls, set alarms, put music, etc. and add them to the home screen, being able to modify their size and position.

This application is based on performing the tasks that we ask the Google assistant so that instead of executing it by saying it by voice, it does so by pressing a block on the screen.

The purpose is to help groups such as the elderly, physical or cognitive limitations or even people who seek simplicity and ease of use.

Forms of acquisition:

The application can be purchased for free and is available on Android.

Download the Android version at the following link:

Google Play

Support

The application has support within it in the help tab (represented by a question mark button) where you can describe the problem and send comments including screenshots that you want to attach.

Technical verification:

Google Action Blocks is an application that allows you to create blocks to make calls, listen to music, set the phone alarm, etc. and be able to add these blocks to the home screen, modifying their size and position.

Functioning

Once the application has been downloaded from the Google Play store, the app asks for permission to collect data on the use of the application, such as how many blocks are created, types of blocks and frequency of use. It also gives access to the conditions of service indicating the data they collect. It offers a screen where it indicates how it works.

Permissions Starting screen

To start creating blocks, you only need to press the blue key that appears on the screen.

Create Action Blocks

Two types of blocks can be created:

-Blocks of common shares: Within the common shares are.

  • Call by telephone.
  • Start video call.
  • Send text message.
  • Play video.
  • Play music.

Common actions screen

-Custom Action Blocks: Allows you to perform custom actions such as reading the news. In addition, it offers you some examples of personalized actions.

Custom Action Blocks screen

-Blocks of more actions: In this section you can find.

  • Set alarm.
  • Create reminder.
  • Open the application.
  • Open calendar.
  • Get directions.

       Home automation actions 

  • Set temperature.
  • Turn on the lights.
  • Turn off the lights.

More actions screen

Some of these actions (such as setting temperature) require that a smart home product has been previously configured on the device.

Block configuration

The application offers the option of customizing the blocks once the task to be performed with that block has been assigned. These options are:

-Image: The image that accompanies the block by default is a headset (music actions), a phone (call actions), a camera (in video call actions), etc. Clicking on the camera button in the image offers you access to:

Images´ configuration

  • Your photo library.

Images

  • Camera.
  • PCS Symbols: These are symbols used in special education and to aid communication. Tobii Dynavox trademark.

PCS symbols

  • Action Blocks Symbols:Default images.
  • No image: only text and emojis.

-Assignment of a name: In addition to the image, it allows adding a name to the block that will be displayed on the home screen where the block is placed.

-Assignment to an external switch: This function can be useful for people with motor disabilities who prefer to use adapted switches. To use it you will need:

1st Connect the switch to the phone via USB or bluetooth and check that this switch has not already been assigned to another Action Block or to another application.

2nd Open the application, choose the Action Block that you want to use with the external switch and select Edit.

3rd Select Assign to external switch (it may be necessary to enable the Action Blocks accessibility service).

4th Select save to register the switch assignment.

5th To enable the on-screen keyboard, do so from the Settings application> System> Languages ​​and text input> Physical keyboard. Turn on Show virtual keyboard.

-Extra options: In addition to these options, they are also enabled (and it will be possible to disable them).

  • Always show full image.
  • Say action out loud: When activated the Action Block plays the activation phrase out loud.
  • Vibrate: When the Action Block is activated it emits a vibration.

-Size and position: Once the image, text, etc. of the block has been configured, press the Save Action Block button, where the application shows that it is going to add it to the home screen and from there, keeping it pressed, you can configure the size and position.

Add to home screen

Examples 

To illustrate the creation of blocks, the creation of some of them will be exposed as examples. 

Note: when testing the actions they are executed. 

-Alarm: The alarm function is found in the More actions block. When accessing this block, the phrase Set an alarm tomorrow at seven in the morning is displayed, which can be modified (time, day) by rewriting / editing it (or by pressing the microphone button). 

As mentioned before, the Speak action out loud and Vibrate functions are enabled by default. They can be deactivated by pressing the button on the right side of each one. 

You can go to the next menu by clicking Next, where you configure the name and image of the block, as explained above. Also, it is possible to test the action before moving to the next menu by clicking Test Action, which opens the wizard and configures the alarm. 

Once the test has been carried out and the size and image of the block is configured, it is placed on the home screen as already indicated. 

-Phone call: The call function is found within the Common Actions, so once it is accessed, the same steps must be followed as in the explanation of the previous example. 

It should be noted that the name to be entered in the phrase Call [name], must be as it is saved in the phone book. 

-Consult the time: For this query you have to access the Custom Actions. In this case, the screen does not show a written sentence as in the previous cases, so a sentence similar to What is the weather today in Madrid? What is the weather tomorrow in Toledo? 

When performing the test, as the action is executed, it already offers that information, however, you can create the block if you want to leave the same question ready for other occasions. 

-Set a reminder: This function is found in the More actions menu, once it is accessed the phrase Remind me to take my medication at eight in the morning appears. This phrase can be rewritten, edited or dictated a new one. For the following steps, proceed as in the previous cases.

Tests performed 

In order to analyze and evaluate the application, a series of tests have been carried out to verify its operation. The tests have been carried out on a Samsung Galaxy S8 device (Android 8.0.0) with version 1.2.334662909. 

Functionality tests 

In order to use the application on the device, it was necessary to install it through the Android Google Play store. 

Once the application is installed, when starting it for the first time, the Google Assistant asks for permission to collect data on the application's use, such as how many blocks are created, types of blocks and frequency of use. It also gives access to the conditions of the service indicating the data they collect. 

Usability testing 

These tests are intended to measure the possibilities of the application to be understood by the user. In this case, create blocks to perform actions providing simplicity and accessibility to the device. 

The application is quite easy to use, since it has a simple interface. It consists of a main screen in which the Action Blocks already created appear so that they can be edited, deleted, placed on the home screen and / or tested with the wizard.In addition, on the main screen there is the Create Action Block button, from which you can create the blocks. Being simple to use, if the application is uninstalled at some point the simplicity of the interface makes it very easy to remember how it works.

Home screen with blocks Functions of created blocks

Faced with effectiveness, the application performs the same functions that can be performed with the Google voice assistant. The only advantage compared to the voice assistant is that it can be left already configured for the elderly or with cognitive disabilities and access the already programmed function with just one press. 

Regarding portability, Google Action Blocks works on any device with Android operating system and version 5.0 or higher. 

Taking this analysis into account, it can be affirmed that the product fulfills its functions, although it does not provide high effectiveness. 

Accessibility tests 

In this section, different criteria have been applied to assess whether the application can be used regardless of the capabilities of the user. 

Cognitive accessibility - Incorporates the PCS symbols to associate with the blocks, so that they can provide greater accessibility to people with cognitive disabilities. 

Accessibility for people with reduced vision - The application allows you to configure the blocks on the home screen with the size and position you choose. In addition, it allows you to choose the image that you want to assign to the block. However, it would be an extra point to be able to choose the color of the background of the block or the colors of the default images to achieve greater accessibility. 

Accessibility for people with hearing difficulties - People with hearing difficulties can use the application without any problem, as there is no content in the form of video or audio. 

Reliability tests 

These tests are intended to verify if the application has errors that do not allow it to perform its functions. 

During the days that the application was tested, no notable or critical failure was detected in its operation. 

Privacy & Security 

Regarding the privacy and security of the application, Google Action Blocks collects data, such as the blocks that are created or the number of blocks that one has. 

Conclusions

It is an application that can provide simplicity and accessibility for some people in handling with Android devices. 

The functions it executes can be performed directly with the Google voice assistant, except for identifying the action with the PCS symbols and connecting with external switches. 

It is directly connected to Google's voice assistant, leaving it open by activating the block and collecting data. 

This application has a simple interface, which allows it to be used by a wide range of users.

Highlights

  • You can configure an action to activate it with a click. This makes it easier to configure the mobile device for people who find it difficult to use these devices.
  • It allows to integrate the PCS symbols and external switches to activate the block.

Improvement points

  • Total dependence on internet connection, in offline mode it doesn't work.
  • Excessive dependence on the Google Assistant. There are blocks that could work without the wizard, which could close and not stay open once it has been used.
  • The tasks it performs are the same that can be run directly in the Wizard, so an application would be used to perform the same task.
  • Design and manufacturing: 3 sobre 5(3/5)
    3
    Refers to the physical aspects and details of the manufacturing of the technological product
  • User Experience: 3 sobre 5(3/5)
    3
    This criterion is linked to the user's assessment of the product or application
  • Technical features: 4 sobre 5(4/5)
    4
    Description of the quality of the technical specifications of the technological solution
  • Accessibility: 4 sobre 5(4/5)
    4
    It is the degree to which people can use or access a product, technological solution or service, regardless of their technical, cognitive or physical capabilities

Social valuation:

After the period of use that the volunteer Pepe has made of the product, the technical review is complemented with certain points of interest, although a large part of his comments have already been taken into account during the description of said technical review. 

Pepe has created 4 types of blocks: alarm clock, call, check the weather and set a reminder. 

-Alarm Clock: It should be noted that the creation of this block is simple and the alarm time can be modified by pressing the microphone symbol. Consider that it is not a very functional block because you can perform this same task through the Google voice assistant without having to create the button. 

-Call: It stands out as a difference compared to creating a direct access to the call, the possibility of configuring the size of the block, being this larger. 

-Consult the time: You can make the query by clicking without having to speak. As before, it does not consider it to be a very functional block since it can perform these tasks through the Google voice assistant. 

-Establish a reminder: It puts the focus, in the aforementioned, this function can be performed through the Google voice assistant, so the creation of the button is not very functional.

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