Apple has unveiled a set of new software features combined with the hardware capabilities on some of its high-end devices to help users with specific physical disabilities. These features include Door Detection on the iPhone and the iPad, live captions on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and more. These features, Apple said, will be available later this year through software updates on Apple devices.
The iPhone has had some of the best feature sets that tech companies can think of for specially-abled people. Year after year, the tech giant has unveiled new software features, which, when combined with the hardware capabilities on some of its high-end devices, help users with specific physical disabilities.
People with low or no visibility, in particular, have been at the focus of these accessibility developments. One such recent development is Door Detection, a new feature that informs blind people or people with low visibility about the attributes of a door and how to operate it.
What is Door Detection?
One of the biggest challenges that people with low visibility face in a new environment is negotiating with doors. This feature can help users, who are blind or have low vision, locate a door upon arriving at a new destination, understand how far they are from it, and describe door attributes — including if it is open or closed and when it’s shut, whether it can be opened by pushing, turning a knob, or pulling a handle. It can even read out signs and symbols on the door. This makes exploring an unknown area much easier for a visibly challenged person.
How does Door Detection work?
Apple’s door detection works using an array of cameras and sensors present in the latest generation of the higher-end models of the iPhone. It mainly uses the LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging sensor to gauge just how far an object, in this case, a door, is from the user. In conjunction with the LiDAR sensor, it also uses the cameras and the phone’s onboard machine learning to read and reinterpret a live scene.
How to use the Door Detection function?
Although the Door Detection function will be available later after a major update is released, the idea is that a visibly challenged person will pull out their LiDAR-enabled iPhone and scan the area in his immediate vicinity using an app or the camera itself. The device will then read a scene, analyze the different elements in the background, compute where and how far away they are located from the user, and then give out audio cues to the user, guiding him towards the door. If scanned correctly, it will also tell users how to open the door, whether they need to push or pull it, and many other attributes that will help negotiate with the door much more accessible. Keep in mind that users will need to enable accessibility mode on their respective iPhones for this to work.
Apple will also be releasing a couple of other features aimed at improving the accessibility features. For example, it will be adding a hoard of new features to the Apple Watch that will help users with disabilities to control their Apple watch better using their iPhones and vice versa. It will also be adding live captions to its accessibility features, which will allow people with hearing disabilities to follow audio-based content such as phone calls or FaceTime meetings using real-time captions.
These feature sets are currently being tested by Apple and will be available to general users after a major upcoming update.