Keep Calm and Stay Smart
Apple gave a look at its latest accessibility and health updates during its annual WWDC on Monday, including new voice and and assistive tech features. Initially previewed for Global Accessibility Awareness Day in May, the WWDC announcement confirmed that the new features will launch with iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10 and macOS Sonoma.
For iOS users with cognitive disabilities, Apple's new Assistive Access features lets people customize apps with high contrast buttons and large text labels to meet their individual needs. Apple also added Live Speech and Personal Voice for people who are unable to speak, have trouble speaking or may lose their voice over time.
With Live Speech, you can type what you want to say and have it spoken out loud to others on a phone or FaceTime call or jot down commonly used phrases to select during conversation to avoid any delay that comes with typing out in the moment. Personal Voice creates a voice that sounds like you by recording 15 minutes of random phrases. As an example, Apple wrote in a May release that people with ALS or other conditions that impact speech can save their voice to their device to use with Live Speech and other assistive tech as their condition progresses.
Other new accessibility updates include a Point and Speak feature to read the text on household object aloud. This can be used by people who are blind or have low vision to identify text on objects in their surroundings, like buttons on a microwave.
New health features like it's daylight sensor and screen distance detection targeted at kids are intended to prevent vision problems like myopia. Spending time outside and keeping screens far enough from your eyes can lower the risk of developing nearsightedness, Apple said at WWDC. The new features target a younger audience because myopia usually starts in childhood. It will launch as a part of as a part of watchOS 10.
For Mac users, the macOS Sonoma update includes features mentioned above like Live Speech, and Mac-specific updates such as letting hearing devices made for iPhones connect to Mac products. macOS Sonoma also features phonetic suggestions while using Voice Control, the ability to pause animated images, customizable text size and VoiceOver support.
Speakers at WWDC emphasized using Apple products for their health features. On top of myopia-prevention, Apple announced new features focused on mental health.
The Health app, which will now be available on iPad, lets users track how they're feeling and see what external factors could be impacting their mood, like how much sleep they've gotten. Mental health features will also be available on the Apple Watch through the Mindfulness app.
Follow all of the news from Apple's WWDC 2023 right here.