Apple yesterday announced it will be launching a slew of software-based updates to iOS and iPadOS focused on people with disabilities.
These updates include third-party eye tracking device support for iPad, detailed VoiceOver image descriptions, support for bi-directional hearing aids as a part of its MFi program, support for recognizing audiograms, a new background sounds feature, and new Memoji that better represent oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear.
Among these updates was an impressive, rather mind-blowing feature update Apple promised is coming to watchOS later this year: Assistive Touch for the Apple Watch.
If you’ve used Assistive Touch on the iPhone, you might already have a decent idea of what the feature brings. It enables disabled people to use their iPhones easily. However, until now, Apple did not launch any sort of Assistive Touch-adjacent feature for the Apple Watch. Users with disabilities had no option but to interact with the Apple Watch’s screen regularly.
Now that it has been finally announced, how it’s implemented is simply mind-blowing.
Assistive Touch on the Apple Watch works completely on gestures. Clenching your wrist will confirm whatever action you want to perform on the Apple Watch; it’s sort of the equivalent of a tap. Pinching, on the other hand, is for selecting and highlighting elements you want to interact with on the watch.
For instance, when you’re receiving a call on the Apple Watch, you will be able to simply stench your wrist to accept it. That’s an amazing gesture.
However, what’s even more amazing is the cursor. Yes, the Apple Watch now has a cursor. But that’s not what’s amazing about it. It’s the fact that the cursor can be controlled entirely using your wrist’s gestures. It seems quite futuristic, almost as if controlling the Apple Watch with your brain like Magneto from the X-Men franchise. You will simply be able to carefully hover your wrist in the air to control what Apple calls the “Motion Pointer” on your Apple Watch’s screen.
Here’s Apple’s video demonstrating the new Assistive Touch features on the Apple Watch:
It’s unclear as of now what the features Assistive Touch might bring along on watchOS.
It will definitely be interesting to play around with this feature seeing if it works as accurately as Apple’s video suggests. As of now, it seems that all Apple Watch models that might be capable of updating to watchOS 8 will support the feature.
Along with Assistive Touch, it’s unclear when Apple will release these new accessibility features. Speculation suggests it will be alongside iOS 15. Other than that, there’s no definitive information or “hint” as to when exactly Apple plans to launch these features to the public.
Another speculation that is making rounds with the announcement of these accessibility features is that iOS 15 will be a huge update. The reasoning behind this speculation is that since Apple had to announce these features beforehand, there must already be too much to talk about at the upcoming WWDC 2021 keynote. However, as with any speculation goes, it’s just… speculation.
Stay Tuned to The 8-Bit to see if these speculations carry weight during WWDC.