Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#iPhone4S, #Siri & #iOS5 - #a11y #accessibility #assistivetech #spedchat

iPhone 4S

Earlier today, Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S at their "Let's Talk iPhone" event.  While this new model is not much different than the iPhone 4 on the outside, its inside has been completely overhauled.  The iPhone 4S features the A5 dual-core chip as well as a better camera (8MP, 1080p).

Pricing:  $199 (16GB), $299 (32GB), & $399 (64GB).  
Pre-ordering for iPhone 4S begins online on October 7 and in-store purchasing on October 14.


The most revolutionary component of the iPhone 4S with regards to accessibility would have to be the "intelligent agent", Siri.  Siri not only performs speech-to-text translation but also recognizes complex voice commands!

  • Siri understands what you say.  Have a conversation with your iPhone as you would another person!
  • Siri knows what you mean.  It is proactive and will ask you questions until it finds the information you are looking for.
  • Siri can help you easily accomplish a variety of daily tasks, such as set reminders, schedule appointments, find directions, find locations near by, perform web searches, and much more!
  • Siri can read & dictate notes, text messages, or e-mails.  Dictation also works with third-party apps.  Anywhere you see the keyboard, you'll see a microphone too!

This breakthrough software upgrade makes the iPhone more accessible for individuals with special needs, who benefit from the ability to interact with their smartphones using natural voice.  The potential benefits of an "intelligent agent" like Siri for students who have special needs are mind-blowing!  Let's think about a simple daily task like maintaining a planner.  How cool would it be if a student (or teacher) could easily setup reminders for assignments by simply speaking into the student's device?  There are many more possible uses of Siri for students with special needs.  I will write another post soon to share the ideas I have.

Unfortunately, Siri will only be available on the iPhone 4S. The reason for this limitation being that the voice activation features are processor intensive (requiring the A5 chip).  Additionally, Siri relies on the integration of Apple's new iCloud service, as voice commands are processed on a remote server.  To activate Siri on the iPhone 4S, just hold down the HOME button for a few seconds.

Siri will be a beta for the time being, as it only supports English, German, and French voice input.  There are more language add-ons and tweaks to come.  Furthermore, there has not yet been any mention on whether or not Siri will be available for the iPad 2, which also sports an A5 processor, or Mac laptop and desktop computers.

iOS 5

Apple also announced iOS 5 will be released to the public and available as a FREE download via iTunes next Wednesday (10/12).  iOS 5 will be compatible with iPhone 4S/4/3GS, iPad 2/1, and iPod Touch 3rd/4th generation.  Accessibility features of iOS 5 include flashing LED alerts, custom-vibration alerts for phone and SMS messages, an interested split keyboard interface, multi-touch gestures, and voiceover “element labeling” to enhance the screen reader user’s experience.

I can't wait to hear what everyone in the field of special education has to say about the new accessibility features of iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S, especially Siri!

-  Jeremy

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