Android Q has been out since March steadily progressing through its betas. This week Q hit its last step in the refinement process with the release of the final beta 6. The official release is “a few weeks away” at this point, but if you’re interested in exploring Q early there’s no better time than the present!
Changes With 6:
Spoiler Alert: there aren’t that many changes in the new version. Final APIs for developers were locked down in beta 4, so 5 and this new version are mostly bug fixes and small tweaks. But one big change is with gesture navigation. The back gesture has received a bit of a makeover. Here’s what Google had to say about it:
“We’ve made further refinements to Gesture Navigation in Beta 6 based on user feedback. First, to ensure reliable and consistent operation, there’s a 200dp vertical app exclusion limit for the Back gesture. Second, we’ve added a sensitivity preference setting for the Back gesture.”
To non-developers the 200dp may not make sense, but the concept is fairly simple. Apps have the option to opt out of the back button gesture navigation, but only to an extent. They’re only allowed to stop the back gesture for 200 “density-independent pixels”. The idea behind this is to make things easier if you’re in an app that involves horizontal scrolling. We don’t want a user to accidentally go back when they’re just trying to scroll through a list.
Feedback on Gestures:
Another somewhat confusing part of the left-side gesture recognition is that some apps have drawers you can open from this side. On trick you can use to view these instead of accidentally going back in the OS is swiping to the right but also up at a 45 degree angle. Not really something you should have to distinguish between as it feels like bad design, but that’s how things currently are.
Google says that feedback has played a lot into the gesture changes they’ve made with Q, and hopefully it works out in a manner that feels fluid and easy to use. Every beta seems to have had a different version of gestures, so Google only has so long to get it all right!
There are currently dozens of different navigation styles in the Android ecosystem thanks to the fact that not all phones are made in house by Google. But this is about to0 change with the release of Q. Google announced at I/O this year that gesture navigation will be standardized and that other phones must adhere to it in order to run Android OS. This will be a very welcome change for anyone who has felt lost swapping from one phone to another. But it’s also high stakes to make sure that things are done right.
Getting Q Today:
System images for this beta are currently available for all Pixel devices. If you have one then you’ll be running on Q soon enough, but if you’re looking to play around right away then go set it up and let us know what you think in the comments below. We also still don’t know what Q’s snack name is. It’s probably the most important part of any software, so stay tuned for that!
If you’re an Android junky then you’re probably still coming off of this years Google I/O high. We saw some really cool stuff we can leverage in our apps to create great user experiences. But the development fun is far from over. It’s already time to mark your calendars for another big upcoming development conference: Android Dev Summit 2019.
Last Year’s Summit:
Last year at Android’s annual developer conference we saw some big changes. These included things like App Bundles in place of old APKs to reduce the size of your app. On average app sizes were decreased 8% and some saw much bigger changes (30+ percent!). The idea behind an App Bundle is to only download the resources needed for your specific phone/version instead of downloading everything and then using what you need. We’ll actually be going into detail on it in another post soon.
That was a big size change, but a big code change was focused around Jetpack. Another topic we’ll dive into further with some tutorials if you haven’t applied it yet is updating your legacy support libraries to AndroidX. Basically your app functions the same way, but moving forward things are a lot cleaner on the Android support library!
What’s Coming This Year?
Those are some good topics that you should definitely be leveraging in your apps today, but the purpose of this post is to ask what may be coming this year. And if Google I/O is any indicator of it, then the answer is a lot. There’s not an official roster of topics posted yet, but we’ll likely be seeing deeper dives into some of the topics covered at I/O such as Android Q gestures and dark mode. And now with Kotlin as the preferred language for Android development I’m sure we’ll see some technical dives into what’s happening under the hood.
Along with some of these unique sessions come other perks for those of you attending in person. There will be more hands on experiences with product demos, and you’ll be able to meet with members of Android’s team and discuss topics in more detail. If you’re interested in attending then here’s a huge plus: ITS FREE! Yep no purchase necessary for a ticket, but you do haver to be accepted by invite, so there are no guarantees. Still, applications are open until August 15thso I’d highly recommend applying!
We’re Almost There:
There are a plethora of changes that could get whole sessions focused around them (permission changes, internal app sharing, optimizations). And if you want to make sure you’re up to date on it then keep an eye on our page or on the official Android Dev Summit page. If you can’t make it in person (Cali isn’t just around the corner for some of us), then don’t worry. All the sessions will be live streamed on the site as well.
What are you most excited about for Android Dev Summit 2019? Let us know in the comments below!
When Google I/O came and went in May one of the topics that captured a lot of interest was Flutter. Offering a whole new option for cross platform code, Flutter has been gaining traction over the past few years. I talked about it briefly a few weeks ago, but let’s dive more into the details of why it may be worth learning.
What is Flutter?
First, let’s get a quick primer of what Flutter actually is. It’s a toolkit developed in 2017 by Google that allows you to write code for both Android and iOS devices. You can write code once, and then implement it anywhere. And by anywhere, I mean Android, iOS, web, and desktop. Already if you’re a freelancer I’m sure you see some appeal here!
It’s written in Dart which hasn’t been too popular of a language in the past, but Flutter is breaking that trend. It’s been featured at I/O for a few years straight now, and Google uses it for internal apps, so it’s not going away any time soon. The framework revolves around widgets. Everything in a Flutter app is a widget. Widgets describe what a view should look like given its current state, and when that state changes a widget rebuilds its description. It sounds kind of foreign until you dive in.
Let’s see some code!
I won’t waste time going through how to set up Flutter on your computer. Here’s a good link to walk you through that (don’t worry it’s super simple). For my personal use I’ve been using Flutter in Visual Studio Code, but you can also develop in other IDE’s such as Android Studio if you’re more comfortable with those. To get started run the command flutter create hello_world. This will take care of everything for you creating a new application named hello_world. To run it, type cd hello_worldto enter that directory, and then type flutter runto kick things off.
Congratulations! You’re officially looking at your first flutter app. Whether you ran it on an iPhone or an Android device (or somewhere else) you should see an app that looks like this:
So what made this app? Well, this is from the default code that Flutter made for us. In your navigation sidebar you should see folders for things such as android, ios, and lib. There are some others as well, but I point these out because at its core you’ll work in the lib folder. And the others will allow you to transport that code into iOS and Android phones. That’s REALLY oversimplifying it, but it’s not wrong!
Let’s open the lib folder, and inside we’ll see one file named main.dart. This is the core of your app right now. If you open up main.dart you’ll see what is creating the widgets currently showing on your phone. For anyone just reading and not following along, here’s what it looks like:
In here we can see pretty hefty comments explaining everything. The app starts by calling the method runApp() and passing in an instance of our class MyApp. And as we can see right below that, MyApp is a StatelessWidget. There are stateful and stateless widgets in Flutter, and we’ll go into them down the road, but for now just know what a widget is.
One really cool thing about Flutter is hot reloading. When you want to rerun an app and see any changes you’ve made, you only have to recompile widgets that have changed their state. The end result of this is incredibly fast reload speeds (milliseconds). Go ahead and try this out. Under theprimarySwatchattribute change it from Colors.blue to Colors.red. Once you’ve done that save the project and in the terminal press “r”. Instantly you’ll see the theme of your app change from blue to red. It’s really that simple to reload!
I’ve loved my experience thus far with Flutter because of the way it is structured and hot-reloading. There’s a whole world of development to explore, but if you get started and want to let us know what you like/dislike about it let us know in the comments below!
You guys all remember Google Glasses right? The augmented reality headset designed to look like regular glasses, but do so much more? Well you might, but you probably didn’t get to know them too well because they flopped pretty hard in 2014. But don’t worry, Google Glasses 2.0 are here and look promising!
2ndTry’s the Charm:
The Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is on the market for $999. Kind of. It’s not being sold direct to consumers yet, but instead is entering the corporate world. The goal of these glasses is to “meet the demands of the growing market for wearables in the workplace” according to a post by Google. Of course given enough time I’m sure we’ll see them used for fun too!
When Google first released the glasses, they were aimed at the public, but they received a lot of backlash for issues related to privacy. It also didn’t help the glasses didn’t always work as intended. Due to the complaints the focus turned towards professional uses such as surgery or factory work. The business focus is sticking around for 2.0 as Google attempts to nail down a target market before expanding.
The Specs (Get it??):
2.0 actually looks a lot like the original Glass design. Instead of a full headset like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Glass actually looks like a simple pair of black thick rimmed glasses. But it can do quite a bit more than regular spectacles. It has a new processor, a souped up camera, and a better battery for longer life.
Google says that the new headset incorporates computer vision and advanced machine learning capabilities. Using Lens it can offer features like sign translation or info about restaurants nearby. It runs on Android, so there’s no reason to start moving away from the core topics off app development. Instead they’ll be incorporated into newer forms of technology like this one.
Putting the Competition in Focus:
Unlike some of the other headsets we’ve seen in recent years, Google’s Glass Enterprise Edition 2 actually looks like a pair of regular glasses. So regardless of what it can do, that’s already a good step in the right direction. The less invasive a piece of technology can be the better from a user’s experience. It’s available in a frameless version or with a Smith Optics supplied safety frame (for use in manufacturing type jobs).
Glass is augmented reality focused with this smaller hardware, whereas some other entrants have focused on virtual reality. Take the Vive headset for example. It’s a complete headset that wraps around your head and obscures any vision unless it’s turned on. The end result of course being that you can see into whatever virtual world is created. Glass instead builds on top of the real world. In this sense it’s more like Magic Leap. And with strides in ARCore over the past few years the ways it can interact with everyday objects are probably pretty impressive. It’s important to consider this when thinking of competing forces. There are multiple headsets, but they also don’t necessary completely rule out one another.
What are your thoughts on the new Google glasses? Let us know in the comments below!
Time after time we’ve seen Google Duplex in the news, but it’s always been just on the horizon for the mass market. Well here’s some news that isn’t just a tease: Duplex is now on your phone!
Pixels Now Have Duplex:
Ok, sorry to get your hopes up if you’re not team Pixel, but if you are, then this is good news for you. Google has just rolled out Duplex to Pixel phones in 43 states. This means that if you own a Pixel and live in one of these states, you can now have your Google Assistant call on your behalf. Looking for a restaurant reservation? Just say “Ok Google, make a reservation at ___”.
That’s it. Duplex will call the restaurant and take care of everything else. Ok, it will ask you a few more details (such as for what time and for how many people), but it takes care of all the conversing on the phone. The future is now.
Just how good is it?
Google actually received a ton of criticism after I/O last year when Duplex made its debut. People were concerned that it mimicked a human toowell. In June the company promised that Google Assistant would introduce itself before engaging in any conversation. If you’ve used Google’s call screening feature before then you’re somewhat familiar with this introduction.
Duplex uses Google’s WaveNet audio processing neural network, and as such it sounds incredibly natural. It throws “ums” into the conversation to mimic how people actually converse. While these may seem arbitrary, the VP of engineering for Google Assistant said that they are actually the key to keeping people engrossed in conversation. Otherwise things start to feel too artificial and people hang up.
While this technology is incredible, there are certainly going to be people that want nothing to do with it yet. And as such Duplex makes it very clear that the call is automated, and informs everyone it calls that their being recorded. If they respond with anything along the lines of “I don’t want to be recorded” or “I don’t want to speak with this” then the call is handed off to a human operator.
There’s sure to be some legal/ethical issues that arise despite this, but it’s good to at least see people are given the option to opt out. Duplex is going to continue its rollout to other devices over time, and eventually it will just be taken for granted. But for now its cutting edge tech and Pixel users can take advantage of it.
What are your thoughts on Duplex and its rollout? Let us know in the comments below!
Mark your calendars, Google 1/0 2019 has been announced! The company’s annual developer conference will be kicking off May 7th and run though the 9th. Google tweeted about the event yesterday, and as usual it looks like there are some exciting things on the agenda.
Flash Back To 2018:
Last year’s I/O was a particularly exciting one, and there were a few core themes behind it. While buzz-wordy, the event revolved around the ideas of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. We got to see demonstrations of Google’s Duplex making a phone call, as well as learning about what Android P brought to the table. It offered improved battery life, brightness, and app suggestions to refine the mobile experience for users.
Up This Year:
Last year had a lot of interesting concepts, and this year is sure to be even more impressive. It’s far too early to say everything that will be taking place in this year’s reveals, but there are a few things we can be certain are on the agenda. The first of these is of course a new version of Android. Following it’s alphabetical trend, Q is next on the roster.
We’ve talked a little about Q here before but very little has been revealed thus far. Rumors have it that the new version will be featuring an expansive Dark Theme for battery saving and, well because dark themes are all the rage right now. There is also discussion about a change to the android activity life cycle to include a multi-resume. This could allow for easier interaction with multiple apps at the same time when using split screen on your phone.
Watch and Learn:
Many believe we are about to see the reveal of a Pixel Watch. iOS has definitely been the dominant culture when it comes to accessories for your primary device, but that’s all the more reason for Google to try and match it. No leaks have come yet regarding what it will look like but news that Google bought $40 million of smartwatch technology and researchers from Fossil is a definite hint that big things are coming.
There are also bound to be Google Assistant improvements this year, an we could see these play a big role in how the watch functions for things like speech-to-text. Duplex was demoed last year but we haven’t seen to much of it in the real world up until the last few months either. I would predict the artificial intelligence of the Assistant opens up a few new doors this year.
Fuchsia is the Future:
And of course there is the ever prevalent mystery that is Fuchsia in development. Said to be Android’s replacement, Fuchsia is on the rise and will likely be utilized in some demos this year. It’s a ways off from being the new OS for smartphones, but it’s been development for a few years now and it is starting to make it’s way into the limelight.
For the fourth consecutive year the event will be held at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. What are you most excited about for Google I/O 2019? Do you have any predictions about what we may see this year? Let us know in the comments below!
Pie made its debut earlier this year on Pixel devices, and
since then other users have been waiting patiently for it to expand. Now Christmas presents have been delivered and
Android has begun rolling out Pie to a number of other devices. So read on and see if Google got you anything
for the holidays.
Android Is SLOW:
Android’s OS offers some incredible experiences, but there’s no denying that rollouts take forever. Roughly a year after Oreo’s release it made it onto 12% of Android phones. Five months after its release it was only at 1%! While these statistics aren’t perfect due to factors such as the Play Store’s unavailability in China, it still paints a good picture. Things move slow.
With rollouts taking so long, every new wave of devices is
big news when it’s yours. Today rollouts
have begun to a number of new phones.
These include the Galaxy S9/S9+, the OnePlus 5/5T, and the Infinix Smart
2 (a very popular phone in India). Older
phones will be receiving this update as the year goes on, but Christmas came
just in time for these parties.
Times Are Changing:
The Android circle of life must continue. As new versions like Pie come out, they replace the older ones. With a shrinking number of phones running earlier versions of Android support for them becomes difficult in an efficient manner. Earlier this month Google Play Services ceased support for Ice Cream Sandwich. The version came out seven years ago, and it’s userbase has dwindled below the 1% mark for a while.
And along with this new Android apps must target at least
Oreo when they are released to the Play Store.
It may seem tough to leave users behind, but it really just makes sense. At a certain point upgrades need to take
place so that companies/developers can make new features available in their
apps without having to worry too much about ancient versions.
There is still a span of versions that run any app on the
Play Store, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. The good news with this is that deprecating
versions simply means that new and improved versions are being released.
Pie Is Hot
And for the most part Pie has been just that; new and improved. Having played around with a Pixel 3XL running Pie for some time I have to say that its user interface has been very pleasant. Pixel users have experienced a some bugs over the past months, but nothing has come close to outweighing the pro’s the new version has offered. My personal favorite has been Google Call Screen to identify unknown numbers. I’ve taken 0 calls from telemarketers since upgrading to this phone!
There are certainly things users wish Pie could do that it doesn’t. One of these being multi-resume. The software allows users to have two different apps open simultaneously, but as the Android Activity Lifecycle is currently implemented only one can be in the resumed state at a time. This can lead to funky behavior if you’re trying to play two videos as the same time, but there are already rumors that this is in the works.
The bottom line is Pie rolling out is good news, and it’s
sure to continue doing so as time goes on.
Hopefully Pie proves to roll out faster than previous Android versions,
but only time will tell. And if you want
to run your phone on a different version flashing is always an option. What are your thoughts on the Pie
rollout? Let us know in the comments
Mobile users have developed a rigorous set of standards in
the past few years. If an app takes more
than a few seconds to launch, they’re annoyed.
If a button takes more than one second to react to a click, there will
be some uninstalls. With such high
expectations for performance app developers need to make sure they do
everything in their power to speed up their apps.
The Android OS has grown alongside user expectations. New libraries and views have emerged to offer improvements to an app’s efficiency. One of these that EVERY Android developer should know is the RecyclerView. RecyclerView is (as defined byAndroid) a flexible view for providing a limited window into a large data set.
Basically, think about every list you scroll through on an
app. Odds are that list is a RecyclerView. The idea is you can map out how large you
want the space to be on a user’s screen, and then that portion of the screen will
be scrollable showing a number of smaller layouts. Each of these can be designed however you see
Think of Spotify’s list of songs in your library for
example. Each layout in the list holds TextViews
displaying the song name, artist, an ImageView of the album cover, and an arrow
on the right indicating you can click on it for more information. This layout is used again and again but
different information is loaded into it each time.
But How Is It Efficient?
So if you saved 2000 songs to your library then every time
you open the app you’ll have to load 2000 layouts? That sounds like an awful
user experience as they have to wait. No
you won’t, and that’s the beauty of a Recyclerview. Your app is only going to create 10-15 of
those layouts. Then as you scroll it will empty the top layout’s info, kick it
back down to the bottom of the RecyclerView, and load it with new data.
Your app has all the info from the list, but it only has to create
views for items as they appear to the user.
And once a few views have been created, it won’t ever have to make new
views since it recycles them as you scroll.
I wonder how they came up with the name RecyclerView…
Adding a RecyclerView to your app’s layout is not too complicated, but there is a fair amount of work involved. Phonlab’s Android App Developer Course shows a detailed step by step tutorial, but we’ll cover the 30,000ft view here. The process essentially breaks down into two parts: Your layout and your adapter. The layout is more straightforward; it’s you creating an xml wireframe view for where you want the info to load. What should a layout look like when it’s given the proper info?
The adapter is a little more complicated. There are three methods that your RecyclerView adapter will override. These are onCreateViewHolder(), onBindViewHolder(), and getItemCount(). In order these tell your adapter what to do when creating a new layout, adding new data to a layout, and how many items are in the list total. onCreateViewHolder will be called every time we need to make a new layout, but once the initial work is done and a user begins to scroll onBindViewHolder will be where you add click listeners and other interaction logic.
Seeing it in action:
After you have all of your logic for loading the data into a
ViewHolder (layout) you need to create an instance of the RecyclerView in your
app. Then set the RecyclerView’s LayoutManager
and Adapter using the class’s methods. If
everything is set up correctly and you’ve added an xml RecyclerView in your
parent layout, then clicking run should show your scrollable list of views.
It’s essential your app meets current standards for
efficiency. RecyclerView is a great way
to improve responsiveness. With it you can
present users with immense amounts of data without slowing down their
experience at all!
Mobile OS or the operating systems used in smartphones, smartwatches and other mobile devices are the epitome of advancement and progress. These systems are very different from the ones that are found on laptops and desktops. Various companies have different features and different ways of functioning. Android and the iOS are two of the most popular operating systems that are used and preferred. Although Microsoft’s Windows OS had some fans, Android and iOS continue to dominate the markets.
But the market wasn’t always like this. We had multiple operatingsystems with each bringing something unique to the table in terms of functionality, design and features.Today, we look at some of the mobile operating systems that no longer exist.
The many flavours of Linux before Android:
At this moment, almost 81% of the world’s smartphones run on Linux OS, Android being one of the most popular ones of all. However, not all the Linux OS have had a good past, some version of Mobile Linux is no longer in use. Maemo OS is one of those OS.
This open source OS was developed by Nokia, for smartphones and tablets. Like many hand-held devices,this OS featured a home screen, which allows the users to access other applications, a Google Search bar and a menu. This OS projects from Linux kernel, Debian, and GNOME and is based on Debian GNU/Linux. Further more, it draws from GUI, frameworks, and libraries from the GNOME project.
The last known version of the OS in any smartphone was called Maemo 5 which was found on Nokia’s N900 smartphone. However, in 2010, Nokia announced that Maemo was being merged with Moblin OS, another Linux OS, to create MeeGo.
Moblin stands for Mobile Linuxwas produced by Intel. However, this OS has been discontinued and only surfaced in one smartphone. This OS first featured in the Acer netbooks.LG Electronics chose to use Moblin OS 2.1 for mobile Internet device class smartphone, the LG GW990.
This OS was known to enhance the power management policy, UI framework and other things.
MeeGo is a discontinued Linux version, hosted by the Linux Foundation. This OS made use of the source code obtained from Moblin produced by Intel and by Maemo produced by Nokia.This OS was developed in order to offer a better operating system to the hardware of various appliances, including smartphones.
The best part about this OS was that it offered various kinds of interface options which were termed as user experiences inside the OS.
Depending on the hardware of the smartphone, the users could find applications for their smartphone by making use of Nokia Ovi digital software distribution systems or the Intel App Up. The MeeGo OS was seen in the Nokia N9and N950 models.
Windows for mobiles and phones:
For some years Nokia had favored the Windows OS for their new line of smartphones. However, Windows Mobile phones and software have been permanently discontinued and are not being manufactured anymore.
Nokia Lumia was the brand face of the OS, which featured a different UI and a totally different look than your regular Android phones. Although the Windows OS was aeons ahead of what Apple and regular Android smartphones were offering in terms of smoothness and design, the fact that it joined the race a bit too late did not fare well for Microsoft.
The biggest aspect to Windows success had been that the phones were well-built and had great features along with being priced affordably. However, players such as Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi killed the game for it. Furthermore, the lack of developer support also had a large part to play in the downfall of the Windows OS. The last version to released was Windows 8.1, which now has been updated to Windows 10. Microsoft has nothing planned for these phones, and there will be no updates in the future.
The other big players:
The Palm OS was one of the most popular OS from the 90s, this OS was found in the PDAs manufactured and marketed by Palm Inc. The now discontinued OS came with an easy to handle OS, which made the use of touchscreens easy. Furthermore, there was a personal suite of applications which allowed the users to manage their personal data.Later versions of the OS were even adapted to work with smartphones.
Although Palm had a lot of things planned, the ideas and the plans simply did not work as they should have. Palm’s marketing for Pre and Pixi were nothing to sneeze at. What’s more is that Palm did not allow developers to develop WebOS applications until too late. So, all in all, Palm’s downfall was just like BlackBerry’s and similar to what happened to Nokia’s Lumia series while they offered great functionality there was always something missing.
There was a time when BlackBerry enjoyed the popularity that Apple’s iPhone enjoys now, but now things have changed, and BlackBerry is a thing of the past now. The BlackBerry OS is a proprietary OS specifically made for the BlackBerry line of smartphones. The OS supported multitasking and was adapted in order to offer away to various features such as trackball, track wheel and touchscreens, as seen more recently.
The success of this giant began with its pagers, seen on the belts of lawyers, doctors and various other kinds of successful people; BlackBerry had made it possible for you to reach just about anybody. Then came BBM, a way to get in touch with everyone.However, when the world was evolving, and Android smartphones along with iPhones began dominating the markets, BlackBerry stuck to what it did. In 2013,BlackBerry did try to enter the game with its touchscreen, BlackBerry 10, butit was already too late.
The BlackBerry name still remains even today but is merely licensed to TCL to making Android-powered devices that are overpriced and just do not have the same appeal as the older BlackBerry’s.
Once the Symbian OS was the king of all OS’. Used by Samsung, Nokia and Motorola, this OS was one of the most popular ones, at one point. Nokia made use of the Symbian OS the most out of all the other brands and rose to prominence in the smartphone market.
However, right about the time, the iPhone came around, Symbian tech started to fall behind. The main attractive component of this OS was the UI, and iPhone had a better, bolder and slicker interface. However, the death of Nokia’s popularity and Symbian OS came slowly with the popularity of Android and iPhones, which were easier to use and had a ton more apps in their app stores.
Android, today is one of the most popular OS alongside iOS. However, the massive popularity enjoyed by these two does not simply stem from the ease use of the OS but also from the support of the developers.
As we just read about the other kinds OS that came around, and are no more, the only drawback was that they joined the race a bit too late or refused to change themselves quickly to adapt to the new generation. By the time Nokia made its come back with Android, or even brought in Microsoft, which offered top-end features seen in no Android or Apple phone, it was too late.
Furthermore, Palm and BlackBerry also decided to jump in a bit too late. By the time the other OS decided to join in, Android and iPhone had developed by leaps and bounds and was out their reach.
As smartphone technology has advanced over the years there have been efforts to make sure no users are left behind. Android Accessibility features have evolved alongside to help users with disabilities. These have ranged from voice commands to braille displays. And now, thanks to BrainGate, even paralyzed users who can’t pick up a phone have the opportunity to use one.
The IBCI unleashed:
Researchers have developed a new brain-computer interface that lets people with paralysis control a tablet fresh out of the box. In the study, three participants with tetraplegia used the IBCI (intracortical brain-computer interface). The IBCI was then connected to the tablet with a point-and-click wireless Bluetooth mouse. The end result being that user were able to move a mouse around on the tablet screen and interact without ever touching the product.
Testers were able to use common apps ranging from web browsing to texting to playing music on a piano app. Two of the users were able to use the device to “chat” with each other in real time. Let me again emphasize that all of this was able to happen with a tablet that had no altercations done to it. Users who were unable to move their arms or legs at all were able to experience the cutting-edge technologies that a lot of us take for granted.
While the research for this achievement has been done by BrainGate, Android has taken steps as well to try making smartphone technology accessible to any and all users. Android Accessibility’s feature set includes things such as the TalkBack function and Braille display. TalkBack allows users to interact with their devices using spoken feedback. The BrailleBack feature lets people connect a refreshable braille display to an android device via Bluetooth. This way users can read their phone even though they can’t see the screen.
There are other Bluetooth connections that Android thrives on such as switch, keyboard, and mouse. These help users with limited mobility, and they’re constantly undergoing innovations and improvements. Fuchsia, proclaimed as Android’s successor, is working heavily on these kinds of integrations.
Taking Tech to The Next Level:
BrainGate’s research is truly amazing, but we also shouldn’t just pigeon hole it into something that can help those with paralysis. As this technology continues to develop it will likely expand into all of our life’s until we’re eventually at the “Google Glasses” stage. By this I mean seeing an entire virtual work around us and being able to interact with just our thoughts.
I’m incredibly excited to see this helping people experience what they otherwise couldn’t. But there’s tons of opportunity for every smartphone user to utilize this tech down the road too. What are your thoughts on the IBCI? How far off do you think we are from this being a commodity that we all by at the store? Let us know in the comments below!