Google preps mysterious Assistant feature for the Pixel Tablet

Pixel Tablet on kitchen countertop

What you need to know

  • Google appears to be preparing a new Pixel Tablet feature called "Look and Sign."
  • It's unclear what Look and Sign might do, but it could offer a way for people to interact with the device through sign language, or more basic hand gestures. 
  • Look and Sign is likely similar to Look and Talk, which is available currently on the Nest Hub Max.

The Google Pixel Tablet is already a great smart home companion thanks to its included charging speaker dock. With it, the Pixel Tablet essentially works as a Nest Hub Max, answering questions with Google Assistant and managing your smart home devices. However, the Pixel Tablet might become more like the Nest Hub Max in a future update, according to an APK teardown of the Google Search app from 9to5Google

The teardown reveals an upcoming feature that Google appears to be trying to hide. It's disguised as "LnS" in code references, and this stands for "Look and Sign." This feature sounds similar to Look and Talk, which is currently available on the Nest Hub Max, and the two might function in a comparable way. Look and Talk can detect when someone is looking at and speaking to a Nest Hub Max, taking advantage of the device's built-in camera. It can simplify things and cut "Hey Google" out of the process.

Look and Sign was discovered in version 15.15 of the Google Search app, which is still in beta. In the update, 9to5Google reports that some in-app references to Look and Talk now point to Look and Sign. While the Look and Talk feature isn't available on Pixel Tablet just yet, it has been reportedly in development since October 2023, which is why it appears in the Google Search app. 

Notably, Google decided to redact certain parts of pages related to Look and Sign. Even for an unreleased feature that needs to be force-enabled, this is rare to see. Take a look below: 

A screenshot showing Look and Sign on the Pixel Tablet.

(Image credit: 9to5Google)

Google is clearly keeping the exact method of activating Look and Sign under wraps. It could be taken literally to mean that Pixel Tablet will be able to detect someone using sign language. This wouldn't be outlandish, but it is somewhat of a lofty goal that would take advanced machine learning to process. That processing would all have to happen on-device for privacy and speed considerations, too. Another route Google could take with Look and Sign is gesture detection, which is kind of like how a thumbs-up can trigger an on-screen effect in certain video calling apps.

Since this feature is clearly in the early stages — and the similar Look and Talk feature hasn't been publicly released for Pixel Tablet after months of internal testing — there's no way to know when Look and Sign might debut. However, we're likely going to learn a lot from the Google I/O 2024 event, which is slated for next month. That might give us some insight into when Look and Sign will roll out. 

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.