Apple Watch is getting a brand new AssistiveTouch feature that will allow users to control their smartwatch without ever having to actually touch it. With the built-in motion sensors, heart rate monitor, and on-device machine learning, Apple Watch can detect muscle movement and tendon activity. This means users can navigate their Apple Watch with subtle hand gestures, including pinch or a clench.
Through simple gestures, users can answer calls or access the control center. Apple says the idea behind the Assistive Touch feature for Apple Watch is to make make it easier for users with upper body limb differences to use their smartwatch. A feature like the AssistiveTouch for Apple Watch is designed for people with mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive disabilities. This feature is planned to come to the Apple Watch “later this year.”
Another feature also coming later this year is support for third-party eye-tracking devices to iPad, allowing users to control the tablet with their eyes. When Apple rolls out the update, compatible MFi devices will track where a user is looking on the screen and the pointer will then follow their gaze.
Voiceover, a screen reader for blind and low vision users, is also coming. The accessibility tool provides about the people, text, table data, and other objects within images. The feature, for example, can even describe a person or object’s position in the image. Apple is also adding support for new bi-directional hearing aids to its MFi hearing devices programme. There’s also support for recognizing audiograms that are coming to Headphone Accommodations.
Meanwhile, a new Background Sounds feature is designed for people who find it difficult to focus or stay calm. In a press note, Apple explained: “Balanced, bright, or dark noise, as well as ocean, rain, or stream sounds continuously play in the background to mask unwanted environmental or external noise, and the sounds mix into or duck under other audio and system sounds. In addition, new Memoji customisations will correctly represent users with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear.
Although Apple hardly discusses new features early on, the preview of these power accessibility tools shows how Cupertino deeply cares about people with disabilities and special needs. The new accessibility features will be rolled out in the coming months, and hopefully, Apple will preview them at this year’s WWDC in June when it announces iOS 15.