Apple does it again – full, fantastic, life-changing, voice control in iOS 13

Among the numerous (possibly hundreds of) new and eye-opening features for iOS 13 announced in yesterday’s keynote at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) was a startling new addition to the already extensive accessibility suite; full voice control. 

Apple does it again – extending inclusion to the max

For many years now, Apple has led the field with the extensive suite of accessibility features it offers in all its iDevices. From the versatile VoiceOver text to speech that I, as a blind person, use every waking hour of every day (that’s probably no exaggeration) to work and play, to the numerous options for those with dyslexia or colour-blindness to assist in reading and usability, to the large array of adjustments for users with a hearing or speech impairment, now comes the addition to the already comprehensive collection of customisations for those with a motor or dexterity condition; full voice control. (And I appreciate that you can’t add something to a collection that is already itself comprehensive – it’s just that sometimes alliteration trumps good English, ok?)

There are most definitely other new accessibility advances in iOS 13 to look forward to (all of which will be covered in sessions and press-releases during this week’s WWDC), but I want to focus solely on the awe-inspiring addition of comprehensive voice control here. Let’s watch Apple’s video to get the picture.

Wow! Amazing and, of course, available for anyone to use regardless of ability or impairment – and who wouldn’t want to work that way whenever the fancy took them? 
A superb optional productivity aid? Most certainly. Life-changing for people with a significant motor impairment? Undoubtedly.

Congratulations Apple – you’ve done it again

In last week’s post I outlined why I think that no organisation prioritises accessibility like Apple, and now we see the powerful products of that conviction evident in even more options coming in iOS 13, the public beta of which will be available to everyone in a month’s time.

Every effort has been taken to make this a pro-feature and not ‘accessibility as an afterthought’. It includes commands to perform every tap and gesture, every swipe and manipulation. It even includes the ability to chain together commands into a single utterance to speed up control. Even something super-sensible – such as attention awareness so that if the user turns to speak to someone, the device stops listening for commands – has not escaped the team’s eye for excellence.

Let’s look at the full feature set

We’ll finish off with the full break-down as provided by Apple. If you’ve read enough to be convinced that this stuff is both cool and life-changing, then you needn’t read on – instead just go and tell someone about it. And, of course, that someone doesn’t need to have an impairment  - but they do need to wait for iOS 13 coming to an iDevice near you very soon. Otherwise here’s the break-down.

Accessibility

Voice Control

Introducing a new way to control your iOS devices, entirely with your voice.

Accurate dictation

Voice Control uses the Siri speech recognition engine to give you the latest advances in machine learning for audio-to-text transcription.

Add custom words

Whether you’re writing a biology report, filling out a legal document, or emailing about a favorite topic, you can add custom words to ensure that Voice Control recognizes the words you commonly use.

On-device processing

All audio processing for Voice Control happens on your device, ensuring that your personal data is kept private.

Rich text editing

Thanks to rich text editing commands, you don’t have to rehearse before you speak. Making corrections is quick and easy. You can replace phrases by name. Try saying, “Replace I’m almost there with I just arrived.” Fine-grained editing also makes it simple to select text. Try saying, “Move up two lines. Select previous word. Capitalize that.”

Word and emoji suggestions

If you need to correct a word, simply ask and you’ll be presented with a list of suggested replacements.

Seamless transitions from dictation to commands

Voice Control understands contextual cues, so you can seamlessly transition between text dictation and commands. For example, say “Happy Birthday. Tap send.” in Messages, and Voice Control sends “Happy Birthday” — just as you intended. You can also say “Delete that,” and Voice Control knows to delete what you just typed.

Comprehensive navigation

You can rely entirely on your voice to navigate an app. Comprehensive navigation is provided by navigation commands, names of accessibility labels, numbers, grids, voice gestures, and recorded commands.

Navigation commands

Navigation commands give you quick ways to open apps, search the web, press the Home button, and more.

Names

You can easily navigate by telling Voice Control to select the name of an accessibility label for buttons, links, and more.

Numbers

Say “show numbers” to see numbers appear next to all clickable items onscreen. Use this to quickly navigate complex or unfamiliar apps. Numbers automatically appear in menus and whenever you need to disambiguate between items with same name. Just say a number to click it.

Grids

Saying “show grid” superimposes a grid on your screen and allows you to precisely do things like tap, zoom, drag, and more.

Gesture with your voice

Use your voice to perform gestures, such as tap, swipe, pinch, zoom, press the Home button, and more.

Recorded commands

You can record multistep gestures for apps on your iOS device. So if you love to send messages with fireworks, you can record the gestures to do this and use the recording to quickly send messages with fireworks.

Attention Awareness

With Attention Awareness, Voice Control goes to sleep when you turn your head away from the TrueDepth camera on an iPhone. It doesn’t activate until you look back at the screen — so you can talk to a friend nearby without affecting your device.

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