Google takes a step towards accessibility and personalisation

Google has announced the launch of Action Blocks, allowing users to customise commands for its personal assistant.

Based on a concept developed by one of its own software engineers, Lorenzo Caggioni, Action Blocks have initially been designed to aid users with cognitive disabilities. The feature allows users to build action commands which trigger a specific outcome. The outcome and the command can be customised to suit the individual user.

“The Action Block icon—for example, a photograph of a cab—triggers the corresponding Assistant command, like ordering a rideshare,” said Google’s Ajit Narayanan. “Action Blocks can be configured to do anything the Assistant can do, in just one tap: call a loved one, share your location, watch your favourite show, control the lights and more.”

While this announcement has been geared around accessibility, the feature could be made applicable to every Google user.

Google has often preached it capabilities to personalise the experience for each user, and while this has been successful to date, this feature could take it up a level. With Action Block, the power of personalisation is put in the hands of the user. Each user will want their device to perform in a different way, and this is one step in that direction.

Right now, the commands are triggered by an icon on the desktop, though there is no reason why this can’t be blended with the voice user interface in the future.

Securing a ride home is a good example. The command could be set at ‘get me home’ which could trigger several different actions. One might be to launch Uber and order a taxi, another could be to open-up Google Maps and the navigation features. This is only one example, but if applied correctly, there is no reason why such triggers could not be applied to almost any feature on the phone. The voice user interface is one which is gathering momentum and it opens-up a plethora of new ways users can interact with devices and the digital economy.

The Action Block feature is currently in trial phase, though this is something which we very much like the look of. Firstly, Google is increasing accessibility of its services to those who are often ignored by society, and secondly, the idea could be developed into something which is applicable to everyone. There is potential to put personalisation into the hands of the user.