Improves VoiceOver support, adds two-factor iTunes authentication, more
In addition to iOS 9, Apple has updated its iTunes program for OS X to version 12.3 to support the new iOS release, tweak some aspects of the "love" rating, improve iTunes accessibility with VoiceOver, and add support for two-factor authentication for Apple IDs -- along with the usual "improvements to overall stability and performance." While any changes or fixes to the paid Apple Music service or its relationship to iTunes Match are not mentioned, fixes for Up Next and Recently Played are included.
American Foundation for the Blind honors 'game-changing' software
On Thursday night, the American Federation for the Blind (AFB) honored Apple with the Helen Keller Achievement Award for its various technologies that enable blind or low-sighted people to use iOS devices on par with what sighted people can achieve. Specifically, the AFB singled out VoiceOver, Apple's narrative software that describes the on-screen display as users pass over it, as "world-changing" and "transformative" for people with visual disabilities.
Company expands video tutorials on Apple Watch features in run-up to launch day
Yesterday, Apple posted four new videos to its site and YouTube channel showcasing additional tent-pole features of the Apple Watch, including handling phone calls, interacting with Siri, music playback, and Maps usage. Last week the company had posted a general overview tutorial video, along with shorter ones focusing on Digital Touch, messaging, and customizing the watch face. The videos reveal minor details of the various operations previously not publicized.
Apple Environmental VP Jackson adds accessibility software to role
Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a reply to a London Apple Store worker who asked about increased accessibility in the company's latest projects, reportedly said that Apple Environmental Vice President Lisa Jackson has been tasked with helping Apple increase its focus on accessibility. "In every product we do, we want it to be accessible for everyone," Cook said, adding that the Apple Watch will gain some accessibility features over time in addition to the ones it has now.
Pandora's iOS app receives redesign, new mini-player
Music discovery app Pandora has announced an update to its iOS app, featuring a new design and additional components. Pandora allows users to create personalized music stations that play their preferred music. The latest version (v5.7) offers a refreshed design that improves the ease of shaping a station, including a new Personalization icon for quick access to one's history, and being able to "un-thumb" a song previously marked "up" or "down" by re-tapping the Thumb icon.
Responsive text-to-speech software now available for Mac, Microsoft Office
Upward Spiral Software has released its text-to-speech software, TalkButton, for OS X. Capable of speaking text within Microsoft Word as well as in Pages, Preview, TextEdit, a web browser, and more, TalkButton reads text aloud for those interested in an audio interpretation due to vision impairment, learning disabilities, or multi-tasking. Users can control the speaking voice based on gender, accent and language, and the speech audio can be paused, repeated, accelerated, and recorded via iTunes. In addition, TalkButton can echo keyboard presses, meaning that a user can listen to each character, word or sentence as it is typed to ensure accuracy. Compatible with OS X 10.7 or later, TalkButton is priced at $30 with a free 30-day trial.
QuadStick video game controller for quadriplegic gamers succeeds Kickstarter goal
Complex mouth-based controller for quadriplegic console gamers, QuadStick, has succeeded in reaching and surpassing its Kickstarter goal of ten thousand dollars. Composed as a single joystick, four sip-and-puff sensors, a lip position sensor and a push switch, the controller outputs to both USB and Bluetooth, and then into gaming hardware. QuadStick will be compatible with PCs, Android devices and PS3s, and with the addition of an adapter, Xbox One and Xbox 360 as well. Controller configuration is available,with pre-arranged setups built in. Users can use its straws to shift between different control methods.
Datawind tablet aims to bridge 'digital divide' with lowest cost tablet
A provider of wireless web access products, Datawind, has announced the release of three new affordable Android tablets and 'phablets' -- the UbiSlate 7Ci, UbiSlate 7C+, and UbiSlate 3G7 -- starting at $38. The UbiSlate devices are powered by a Cortex A8 1GHz processor, theoretically of the same calibre as the original iPad from 2010. Containing 512MB of RAM (twice that of the original iPad), its 4GB flash storage can be supplemented up to 32GB through its microSD card slot.
Skype upgrades accessibility features, interface style
International communication platform Skype has updated its app for iPhone and iPad, following the recent launch of iOS 7. Version 4.13 showcases a revamped interface, reflecting a similar aesthetic to iOS 7; general bug fixes are also included. Accessibility features have been improved, such as touch-type support for the dialpad, and VoiceOver can now announce the sender's name when messaging, as well as provide improved accuracy during group chatting. Though optimized for iPhone 5, Skype 4.13 is compatible with all devices using iOS 5 or later, and can be downloaded from iTunes for free.
iOS DJ software adds content from major artists Snoop Dog and DJ Qbert
Creators of iOS DJ software Algoriddim have released djay 2 optimized for iOS 7. Featuring a fully-revamped user interface and new music library, users can now add an input track from their mixes directly into other participating audio apps for more creative opportunities using Inter-App Audio. Also included in the latest update, "Artist Packs" consists of a collection of 12 exclusive audio and vocal samples that can be loaded to the integrated drum pad sampler, allowing the user to trigger beats and vocal samples from their favourite artists' live performances. Snoop Dog and DJ Qbert are the first artists to have exclusive sound packs. Similarly, "Skratch Tools" is now an included feature, which is comprised of a collection of Qbert samples that users can use to 'scratch'. Djay 2 is available on the App Store for $2 for iPhone and $10 for iPad.
AirPlay connectivity added to iPlayer
The BBC's iPlayer (UK only) received an update on Tuesday, reaching Version 2.2. The app offers users the opportunity to download and stream BBC programming, and now provides the ability to watch downloaded programming on one's TV using AirPlay (on iOS 5 or later). Version 2.2 also includes an improved search function, providing one-tap access to previous searches, results grouped by series, and a dedicated search section on iPad with image-led results. Accessibility features have been improved as well, with better VoiceOver support added prior to and after favorites have been added to the Favorites screen. BBC iPlayer is available for download from iTunes, free of charge.
Will offer limited-vision smartphone from launch in July
A new carrier is attempting to be the first in the United States to cater towards the visually impaired. Odin Mobile, running on top of T-Mobile's network, will be offering mobile devices with accessibility features for those with limited vision, as well as providing customer service specifically with visually impaired customers in mind.
Backlit screens key to aiding, increasing reading speed
Research presented on Sunday at the 116th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology shows that backlit tablets, such as the iPad and Kindle e-reader, help patients who suffer from vision problems due to eye diseases regain the ability to read at a comfortable level. The discovery could aid millions of people who have lowered vision because of conditions such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. In the study, the iPad was found to score the biggest improvement in helping readers regain a high and comfortable reading level.