Google improved its TalkBack accessibility service with a “Select to Speak” feature that allows owners of Android smartphones and tablets to receive audio feedback from their devices by simply selecting any piece of writing and having TalkBack voice it out for them. The Mountain View, California-based Internet giant started implementing the functionality since at least late April, though the feature only went live at a later date and has now received a number of changes pertaining to its performance on Android O, i.e. Android 8.0. Anyone running the third developer preview of Google’s experimental operating system build can still enable Select to Speak in a few taps, by finding the dedicated option to do so in the Accessibility menu of the Settings app. The functionality itself is controlled via a binary toggle that can only be turned on or off, though the Alphabet-owned company may opt to expand on it in the future, something that it already started doing to a degree, at least in the context of Android O optimization.
Enabling Select to Speak in your device’s settings will present you with an overlay button that will be permanently placed on your screen, ready to be used to activate Android’s text-to-speech feature. Tapping the button on any screen containing selectable text will prompt you to identify the portion you’d like Google’s service to read, which TalkBack will do as soon as you confirm that you’re happy with your selection. The Select to Speak action button is relatively compact and can be dragged around the screen, though changing its opacity still isn’t possible in the latest version of the service.
An alternative solution is found in TalkBack 5.2 on any compatible device running the latest developer preview of Android O that will simply add an accessibility icon to the right corner of your on-screen navigation bar. This particular solution allows users to access the same service without cluttering their screens, though it’s currently unclear whether Google has any plans to bring the navigation bar icon to Android Nougat at some point in the future. You can download the latest version of TalkBack by following the Google Play Store link below or refer to the gallery beneath this writing to see how Select to Speak looks in practice.