A few new accessibility features will be coming to Apple devices soon. This includes a way to control your Apple Watch just with hand gestures, eye-tracking support for iPadOS and more. These are meant for people with mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive disabilities, but can be used by everyone.
The tech primarily takes advantage of the gyroscope and accelerometer in the Apple Watch. It couples this information with the optical heart rate sensor to figure out small differences in musle movement and tendon activity.
As shown in the video below, hand gestures such as a pinch or a clench let users perform certain functions. There’s also an optional tiny cursor on the watch’s display for more delicate tasks. Users can answer incoming calls, access notfications, the control center and more, all without touching the display. Apple says the tech is aided by on-device machine learning.
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As one Redditor put it “This will significantly reduce those awkward – do I control the watch with my nose or what – moments when say on bike”. Another use might be for those that use their nose to shut up the alarm in the morning or pick up a call! We imagine this can also be useful for those that are working with their hands or want to interact with the device with their gloves on.
Those using iPadOS will be able to control the tablet just with their eyes. New features introduce clever eye-tracking technology which is able to figure out where you are looking on the screen. The idea is that the pointer moves to follow your gaze. Extended eye contact performs an action such as a tap.
New features for VoiceOver (screen reader for the blind), come in the form of functionality allowing users to explore images. There are also updates for bi-directional hearing aids, new background sounds to help minimize distracitons and more.
The features will land later this year via a software update. Most likely this will come as part of watchOS 8. This is expected to be previewed at WWDC next month with a public release in September along with Apple Watch Series 7.
Something like the Apple Watch can be difficult to control. Particularly for those with disabilities. The Assistive Touch feature should make this easier.
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