Apple introduces enhanced accessibility options spanning various sensory modalities, incorporating eye tracking technology for optimal user experience.

Three iPhones showcasing three distinct accessibility features: hover typing, music haptics, and novel voice shortcuts.

Apple’s latest accessibility innovations cater to the diverse needs of its user base. Photo credit: Apple

Apple continues to broaden its accessibility options, introducing new functionalities such as eye tracking, enhanced touch-based music listening, and tailored settings for individuals with unique speech patterns on their portable devices.

Unveiled during the Global Accessibility Awareness Day celebrations in May, these customizable features aim to empower users with physical disabilities to efficiently navigate and engage with their iPads and iPhones.

“These innovative features will significantly enhance the lives of a wide spectrum of users, offering novel methods for communication, device control, and mobility,” stated Sarah Herrlinger, Appleā€™s senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives.

Eye Tracking leverages machine learning

Apple’s cutting-edge eye tracking functionality relies on AI technology, utilizing the front camera of the device to monitor and interpret facial gestures. Through Eye Tracking, users can seamlessly interact with app elements using Dwell Control, enabling them to activate features like physical buttons, swipes, and gestures solely through eye movements.

While eye-tracking technology has long been established for computers, mobile devices are gradually incorporating this capability. Apple and other tech giants leveraging advanced AI technologies harness the internal machine learning integration to analyze facial expressions and seamlessly integrate this technology without requiring additional hardware or accessories.

Music Haptics enhances music experience

An overdue addition for the sophisticated Apple Music service, Music Haptics enables users who are deaf or hard of hearing to enjoy music through tactile feedback, transforming the iPhone’s Taptic Engine into a conduit for rhythm and vibrations. Once activated, this feature adds “taps, textures, and subtle vibrations” to the music playback.

Initially, this feature will only be accessible through Apple Music’s library of songs.

Vocal Shortcuts streamline everyday tasks

Catering to individuals with diverse speech abilities and non-traditional speech patterns, Vocal Shortcuts allow users to allocate actions to personalized vocal commands rather than specific phrases. Paired with the Listen for Atypical Speech feature, this tool utilizes on-device machine learning to decipher a user’s unique speech patterns, particularly beneficial for individuals affected by conditions such as cerebral palsy, ALS, or stroke, as explained by Apple.

Enhancements across VisionOS, CarPlay, and more

In addition to the aforementioned features, Apple has enhanced its suite of accessibility tools, introducing a Reader Mode for the Magnifier app, Hover Typing for individuals with visual impairments, a Virtual Trackpad for AssistiveTouch users with limited dexterity, and new customization options for VoiceOver and VoiceControl.

Moreover, Apple is set to introduce systemwide Live Captions on VisionOS along with features like Reduce Transparency, Smart Invert, and Dim Flashing Lights catering to users with visual impairments or sensitivity to bright lights and frequent flashes.

Furthermore, CarPlay users will now have access to Voice Control, Color Filters, and Sound Recognition, empowering individuals to operate controls through voice commands, view color-blind-friendly screens, and receive alerts for external sounds.

Evan Brooks

Evan is a seasoned reporter with an insatiable curiosity for the latest gadgets and breakthroughs in science and tech.

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