With the release of the Android 12 Developer Preview appearing imminent, we knew that Pixel smartphones might be getting a new face-based option for auto-rotation.
Today’s Pixel smartphones, and popular Android devices, allow you to rotate the display to match the orientation of the device. For example, you can browse YouTube in portrait mode and then point your device to one or the other to maximize the video.
However, this experience has an interesting quirk. Or you can think of it as a discrepancy between what the phone expects and human behavior. Despite Google’s Digital Wellbeing efforts, many of us have a habit of using mobile phones in bed. And when you lie down and do this, both your head and your phone will lie down.
With the current auto-rotation, the phone goes into landscape mode and leaves it in portrait mode for readability. With Android Pie, we’ve added a handy button to your smartphone to rotate the display that appears when you turn your smartphone sideways and turn off auto-rotation. People who lie down and use their phones may leave auto-rotation off and use this button when they need to rotate the screen.
According to information viewed by 9to5Google, Android 12 is set to introduce an optional face-based version of auto-rotation on Pixel smartphones. In essence, mobile phones use a frontal camera to see if someone is looking at the screen and, if so, in which direction they are facing.
The technology behind this could be a simplified version of apps such as Snapchat and Google Duo that recognize face shapes. For obvious privacy reasons, this camera-based check is done entirely on your device and will not store or send your photos anywhere.
This face-based version of Auto-Rotate may be released as a broader Android 12 feature, but at this time we believe it will be dedicated to Pixel smartphones, at least in the short term. Alternatively, face-based auto-rotation could arrive as part of the Pixel Feature Drop, as previously happened with features discovered in newer versions of Android.
Dylan Roussel contributed to this article
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