Google Pixel Buds trials emergency sound detection mode

Experimental Google Pixel Buds update will lower the sound of playing music if it detects signs of ’emergency’ such as a barking dog, crying babies or ambulance sirens

  • Attention Alerts detects signs of an emergency using AI and turns down music
  • The new update to Google’s touch-controlled £179 headphones is available now 
  • Google has also rolled out sharing detection and transcribe mode for Pixel Buds

Google is trialling an emergency sound detection mode for its Pixel Buds ear phones that alerts users to what’s going on around them.

The new feature, called Attention Alerts, detects signs of an emergency such as a barking dog, a crying baby or ambulance sirens with the help of AI.

The new mode – which is being trialled for now – then lowers the audio volume of the Pixel Buds momentarily to let the user clearly hear what’s going on around them. 

Pixel Buds users can enable this ‘experimental mode’ on a Pixel phone with Android 10, but Google warned that it may shorten the battery life of the earbuds.

Google has also introduced other permanent updates to Pixel Buds, including bass boost, sharing detection and transcribe mode. 

The company released the £179 second generation, touch controlled, Google Assistant-powered Pixel Buds in April this year. 

Attention Alerts is an experimental feature on Pixel Buds using AI technology that makes users aware of important sounds

‘When Pixel Buds launched earlier this year, we heard people wanted more control and customisation over their audio experience,’ said Google in a blog post.

‘When you have headphones on, you might miss important things happening around you. 


 On a Pixel phone with Android 10+: 

1. Go to your phone’s Settings > Connected devices > Pixel Bud’s settings, indicated by the round cog.

(On other Android devices running Android 6.0 or newer, open the Google Pixel Buds app Pixel Buds.)

2. Tap Sound.

3. Scroll down to the Experimental section to expand Attention Alerts and tap the toggle button next to the sound you want to turn alerts off or on for. 

Note: Enabling this feature may shorten the battery life of your earbuds. 

‘Attention Alerts is an experimental feature on Pixel Buds using AI technology that aims to detect a few important sounds and makes you aware of when they happen. 

‘The detection will happen locally on your device and data is not collected by Google.’

The sounds of babies crying, dog barking and vehicle sirens are not just examples of emergency noises, but specific noises that the AI has been trained to detect. 

For it to work, users need to activate the mode in settings and be listening to audio with both earbuds in.  

When the earbuds detect one of the supported sounds, audio volume will lower for a moment and a chime will play. 

After a few seconds to give the user time to identify the sound and determine whether they need to take their buds out of their ears, the volume will return to normal. 

Attention Alerts will not re-trigger within one minute of the same sound, Google said, to spare the users from constant interruption. 

Also revealed by Google today is a new feature called ‘sharing detection’, which automatically detects when a user is sharing one of their buds with someone.  

When Pixel Buds users give one of their earbuds to another person to listen to content together, each of them can control the volume individually by swiping on their respective bud.   

The experimental feature alerts users to what’s going on around them even when they have their Pixel Buds in 

‘Whether you’re listening to music or watching a movie with a friend, you can seamlessly share your Pixel Buds,’ Google said. 

The firm has also introduced transcribe mode, which lets users hear spoken foreign languages translated in their ear accompanied with a transcript on their phone.

This feature, which requires the Google Translate app and Google Assistant, helps people find their way around foreign countries and easily connect with multilingual family and friends, Google said. 

The company’s voice-controlled virtual assistant, the unimaginatively titled Google Assistant, is also becoming more helpful for Pixel Buds wearers, Google claimed.

Users can turn the touch controls on and off, so users don’t have to worry about accidentally triggering them when scratching their ear, for example.

Attention Alerts and other new features for Pixel Buds lets users ‘customise their sound experience’, Google said

Users can turn touch controls on and off in the Pixel Buds settings on their phone or by asking Google Assistant.

Users can also now ask Google Assistant to help check battery life by saying ‘Hey Google, what’s the battery on my earbuds?’ 

Lastly, bass boost, which can be activated with a device running Android 6.0 or newer, will add ‘more oomph to your audio’, Google said.     

Google unveiled its Pixel Buds 2, its next generation of its wireless earphones after the original Pixel Buds from 2017, late last year. 

Pixel Buds being unveiled last year. The first generation of the Pixel Buds were launched on October 4, 2017. The next generation buds boast better long-range Bluetooth

At the time, the company called the next-gen buds like ‘floating computers in your ears’. 

The biggest improvements for the headphones is long-range Bluetooth which allows users to stay connected to their phones from up to a football field away.   

Pixel Buds have five hours of battery life on a single charge and come with microphones in each, directed toward the wearer’s mouth to help capture sound and shut out ambient noise. 

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