Android's various voice input methods, from the Google Assistant to the accessibility-minded Voice Access, are all getting an upgrade. The Assistant will let you search for actions or activities inside third-party apps, and Voice Access is getting improved support for password input and a beta "gaze detection" feature that restricts it to work only when you're looking at your phone.

The Assistant feature that Google is announcing today sounds awfully like the Shortcuts the company rolled out last year, and which are getting some feature expansions as part of Android 12, letting you jump to specific parts of apps. We aren't sure if Google is re-announcing those features again or if they're genuinely new, but at a minimum, it sounds like more apps are picking up these integrations soon, and you can ask "Hey Google, shortcuts" to see a list of options based on your apps and integrations.

Voice Access, in case you're unfamiliar, is an accessibility app by Google that lets you do more actions on your Android phone without having to tap your screen. In addition to basic commands for app navigation and scrolling, you can also do more advanced and precise input. Now that includes an enhanced password input method that can let you input individual letters, numbers, and symbols more easily. It engages when it recognizes you're entering text into a password field, so you aren't stuck typing out every word you say with your voice. You can say things like "dollar sign" to input that symbol and "capital" to denote upper-case letters — it's all pretty intuitive and simple.

Gaze detection, also for Voice Access, limits the app and its enhanced functionality to only work when you're looking at your screen — similar to the Look to Speak app or like recent Pixels' Screen Attention feature. The feature is still in beta for now, but it means you can talk to those around you without accidentally triggering actions on your phone via Voice Access, as your phone will know based on your eyes and where you're looking whether you meant to speak to it or not. Some similar features have elevated hardware requirements (Google wasn't able to bring Screen Attention to older devices, as an example), so there could be some restrictions.