Earlier this week, Apple marked 2022 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, held December 3 each year, with a video called “The Greatest” that showed how some users used the accessibility features, from door detection to audio alerts.
While Spinifex Gum’s “I Am the Greatest” (featuring the Marliya Choir) plays in the background, you’ll be presented with a few scenarios using accessibility features on iOS and macOS, such as Magnifier, Door Detection, and Image Descriptions on an iPhone, along with alternative pointer controls on Mac, such as tracking heads and facial expressions.
Admittedly, it’s an ad when it comes down to it – a bunch of featured features you can use on Apple’s devices. There’s no denying there’s something special here though, and it’s bearing on how far the software has come that almost anyone can use these devices as well as anyone else.
But with rumors of an Apple VR headset reportedly coming in 2023, I wonder how Apple’s accessibility features could go a step further when it comes to AR and VR.
Gone are the days when Accessibility was called an ‘Easter egg’
As you watch this two minute video (there is a audio-described version (opens in new tab), also), you notice how these seven users, not actors, live their lives with an iPhone, a Mac and an Apple Watch to help them with daily tasks. For example, you see a hearing-impaired mother who is alerted on her Apple Watch that her newborn is crying, so she goes to care for her. You can enable this by going to Settings > Accessibility > Sound Recognitionand then enable Sound Recognition to select specific alerts for some sounds.
Jazz pianist trained by Julliard in the meantime Matthew Whitaker (opens in new tab) caught my attention with how he used the sense feature in a scene where he uses an iPhone to help him read what’s written on the door. I was told that door detection works with any iPhone with a LIDAR scanner, so an iPhone 12 Pro and above, and that it works for distances up to 6 meters.
When I saw Detection Mode in the Magnifier app read the word “Stage” on the door, it struck me how this could be the start of something bigger. Imagine a headset that could automatically read out items in a menu wherever you point your eyes or other distance detection alerts.
For example, if you’re walking a dog, the headset can help you see more clearly on a foggy morning to pick up a stick the dog dropped next to you, or it can instruct you to Where the stick is, and how close it is.
All of these come back to accessibility and how it can enrich one’s lifestyle. For too long there has been content describing accessibility features as “Easter eggs” or “hidden features,” and it’s about time that changed. It’s videos like “The Greatest” that show how the sensing mode and voice control help users not only every day, but to thrive.
The rumored headset could take these features to the next level, and if it’s announced in 2023, the first question for me won’t be about how much it will cost, but what accessibility features will be included from day one.
The video is one of Apple’s best in recent years – now let’s see what else the category can do to better enrich other people’s lives.