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.
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.
To start creating blocks it is only necessary to press the blue key that appears on the screen.
2 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.
-Custom action blocks: Allows you to perform custom actions such as reading the news. In addition, it offers you some examples of personalized actions.
-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.
Some of these actions (such as setting temperature) require that a smart home product has been previously configured on the device.
The application offers the option of customizing the blocks once the task to be carried out with that block has been assigned. These options are:
-Image: The image that accompanies the default block is a headset (music actions), a telephone (call actions), a camera (in video call actions), etc. Clicking on the camera button in the image offers you access to:
- PCS Symbols - These are symbols used in special education and to aid communication. Tobii Dynavox trademark.
- Action Blocks Symbols - Default images.
- No image: only text and emojis.
-Assigning 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 aloud: When activated, the Action Block plays the activation phrase aloud.
- 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, by holding it down, you can configure the size and position.
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 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 saying by pressing the microphone button).
As mentioned before, the Speak action out loud and Vibrate functions are enabled by default. It is possible to deactivate them 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.
-Telephone 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 that must be entered in the phrase Call [name], must be as it is saved in the phone book.
-Consult the time: For this query you must 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.
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.
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 you start it for the first time, the Google Assistant 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.
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 where 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 blocks can be created. 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.
Compared to 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 people with cognitive limitations 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.
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 limitations.
Accessibility for people with reduced vision - The application allows you to configure the blocks on the home screen with the size and position that 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 (which the application does not currently have) 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 having any problem, since there is no content in the form of video or audio.
These tests are intended to verify if the application has bugs 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.
It is an application that can provide simplicity and accessibility for some people in handling with Android devices.
The functions that it executes can be carried out 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.
- You can configure an action to be able 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.
- Total dependence on internet connection, in offline mode it does not 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 as those that can be run directly in the Wizard, so an application would be used to perform the same task.