Pixel Buds Attention Alerts May Soon Provide Situational Awareness


Google has just started shipping its Pixel Buds today but a new feature called 'attention alerts' already appears to be in the works. The feature was spotted in a recent APK teardown of the Google Pixel Buds app. So it isn't quite ready for release just yet. But its branding effectively says it all. The new feature would apparently alert users to external circumstances, requiring users' attention.

As the branding might imply, the goal is to help users maintain situational awareness. More directly, the alerts appear to center around AI-based listening. When the Ai hears certain sounds, it responds by alerting the user to that sound.

That way, users can enjoy great noise isolation preventing external noises from marring the listening experience provided by the newly launched Google Pixel Buds. Simultaneously, they won't be completely oblivious to what's going on around them.


Pixel Buds attention alerts use cases would be limited, for now

The use cases for the new feature would be fairly limited. The purpose of that is likely to help alleviate instances involving false alarms.

Specifically, strings of code associated with attention alerts for Pixel Buds point to three different sounds that the AI would be actively listening for. The first is aimed more directly at parents and others who frequently care for young children and infants. That's marked in the code as an option to listen for a crying baby.

Google also includes a string suggesting users can be alerted in the event of a fire alarm.


Pet owners using Pixel Buds will also find that an option exists to listen for a barking dog. The reason for that inclusion should be fairly obvious since dogs often only bark at a select number of things. For instance, a dog might bark if somebody is at the door or if something is wrong in the house.

The strings of code behind the feature seem to suggest that users will be able to set the alerts off or on by category. That will undoubtedly if prove useful Google releases the AI feature, for any user whose pet isn't well behaved. Or in cases where the earbuds might be worn in public in the presence of dogs or babies.

If Google does opt to allow the features to be individually set, that could also pave the way for more options to be added in the future.


This proves how AI listening can be useful but when is it coming?

Now, Google will almost certainly utilize on-device AI always-on detection, listening, and processing to enable the attention alerts feature. And it will almost certainly use similar methods to its other AI offerings, such as Assistant, to keep those secure and privacy intact. But none of that means this feature will arrive any time soon.

The search giant only just announced its Pixel Buds at the end of 2019 and didn't start shipping them until this week. Attention alerts aren't fully fleshed out yet either. Moreover, the feature is marked out explicitly for developers. That all suggests that the company likely hasn't gotten very far into development at this point. So, although attention alerts would probably be extremely useful, it remains to be seen if the feature will release at all.