Google is opening up user studies once again, this time with a focus on what the company calls "Switch Access." According to the sign-up page, Switch Access is a set of features intended to help the "dexterity impaired" to operate a smartphone. To that end, Switch Access users interact with their device without the use of the touchscreen, including the on-screen keyboard. The study's researchers are looking for participants with devices running Android 5.0 or better to help test those features. The company made the new study known through Reddit, via the verified user profile "GoogleUserResearch," on May 1 and the research will run from May 8 through May 12.
As mentioned above, the purpose of the current user experience research being conducted by the search giant is to really test how usable the accessibility features of Switch Access are. As such, those taking part in the study will need to be able to interact with their device without the touchscreen. That probably sounds counter-intuitive to most everyday smartphone users, but it really is very simple. The Switch Access page lists three different methods of interaction including the use of an external switch, an external keyboard, or the physical buttons of the device itself. For external switches, Google says that a switch is really just any device that sends a keystroke signal to an Android device. They ordinarily connect via USB or through Bluetooth. While the company doesn't actually endorse any of the companies it lists that make accessibility switches, it does list some. Those include devices made by AbleNet, Enabling Devices, RJ Cooper, and Tecla. Meanwhile, use of an external keyboard and device buttons is fairly self-explanatory with some explanation as to how using a switch works. While using a switch, Switch Access actively scans items on the Android device's screen. It will highlight them as it scans them, and the user simply makes a selection. Presumably, having a switch with multiple assignable keys will allow for more versatile use, while using physical device buttons would limit interaction by comparison. Google does also warn that the use of the physical buttons on the device itself is currently intended specifically for developers.
Several Reddit users have also commented on the announcement, mentioning that Google sometimes provides compensation for participants in its research groups. However, there is no mention of compensation at either the sign-up page or at the Reddit thread as of this writing so there is no guarantee that participants will be given any kind of reward in this case – aside from feeling good about having helped out with Android's accessibility options. If you're interested in taking part, you can check out the source link below.