This year’s accessibility feature preview from Apple, timed to get a one-day jump on the annual celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, c

Apple accessibility preview: More for Speech, CarPlay, and Vision Pro

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2024-05-15 23:00:04

This year’s accessibility feature preview from Apple, timed to get a one-day jump on the annual celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, continues last year’s expansion beyond the traditional sight, sound, and physical/motor categories. And without saying so explicitly, Apple seems to have teased the kinds of advances that AI and machine learning could bring to the company’s overall OS offerings. ​

Last year, Apple added speech as a major accessibility category, allowing someone to let their device speak on their behalf with Personal Voice and Live Speech. This year, new tools emphasize controlling the device itself with speech, even if speech is limited or difficult to understand.

Vocal Shortcuts will let you turn an utterance – it could be a word or phrase or even a saved vocalization – into a command that an iOS device will understand. Switch Control already recognizes utterances, like a “P” sound, an “F”, a “CH” or other letter or combination that speakers without fuller speech capability can make. With Switch Control, the sound is turned into a tap, a swipe, or other interface action. Vocal Shortcuts is intended to expand that metaphor to more specific tasks, including running a shortcut, opening a specific app, launching Control Center, and more. ​ Listen for Atypical Speech captures language that is recognizable as speech but might not be easy to understand. For years, Siri hasn’t done a great job at recognizing accented speech, and it’s worth speculating about how this focus on atypical speech could be applied to the wider voice recognition landscape in all of Apple’s OSes. ​ Personal Voice, an existing feature that people at risk of losing the ability to speak can use to create a synthetic version of their own voice, will expand to more languages, including Mandarin Chinese. ​

For the first time I can remember, Apple is bringing accessibility-specific features to CarPlay and naming them. The speech focus is apparent here, too, as CarPlay gets Voice Control – a step beyond using Siri to command CarPlay apps; Voice Control lets you speak interface actions, like “swipe” or “tap” while using CarPlay. ​ Sound Recognition for iOS flashes an alert when your phone hears a chosen noise, like a smoke alarm, a baby crying, or water running. That’s helpful if you can’t hear these sounds in your environment. The new CarPlay version of Sound Recognition will focus on traffic sounds, like emergency vehicles or vehicle horns, and get the driver’s attention via the car’s display. Then, there are visual enhancements, like color filters, to make the CarPlay interface easier to customize for your visual needs. ​ A new feature for passengers who are subject to motion sickness when using their phone in the car will place a set of dots onscreen. They form the equivalent of a horizon, so you can keep using the phone without feeling sick. ​

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