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Apple unveils ‘Personal Voice’ – plus Live Speech, Assistive Access, and more

Ahead of WWDC23 next month, Apple has unveiled a suite of new accessibility features for people with cognitive, vocal, and visual disabilities.

Live Speech gives voice to those who are unable to speak by allowing them to chime into conversation simply by typing. A synthesized voice will read their comments live during phone calls, FaceTime calls, and even in person. Users can predefine common phrases to have easily accessibly to speed up chats. That could be a life-changing feature for a non-verbal person.

There’s also a new feature called Personal Voice that can take 15-minutes of audio recordings from a person and digitally synthesize their voice for text-to-speech purposes. We’re sure there are a ton of use cases, but perhaps most strikingly, it means that somebody losing their ability to speak can continue to converse with loved ones using their own voice in Live Speech mode.

Apple has also redesigned some of its most popular apps – Calls, Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music – to make operating an iPhone or iPad more straightforward for those with cognitive disabilities. The new apps, found under Assistive Access, use high contrast design, large buttons and fonts, and a stripped back interface. They can also be customized by trusted supporters to ensure ease of use.

Those who are blind or have low vision also get a perk with serious improvements to the Magnifier app. A feature called Point and Speak uses machine learning in combination with the device camera to read aloud any text the user points toward. That could be invaluable for reading instructions, remote control buttons, signposts, and the like – though this functionality is limited to devices with a LiDAR scanner.

That’s four incredible new features, mostly set to arrive later this year with iOS 17, that could make iPhone and iPad usage a great deal easier for a great many people. That’s not all, though: Apple is doing plenty more to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. You can read about every last it’s doing, plus more details on those new features we talked about, right here.