Post-WWDC Pontifications

Steven and Timothy return to discuss all things WWDC, including Voice Control, pointer support, and more.



Episode Transcript

Steven Aquino: Hi everyone, welcome to this episode of Accessible. I am your host, Steven Aquino, and with me as always is my friend and co-host Timothy Buck. How are you, Timothy? 

Timothy Buck: Hey, Steven. I'm doing well. It's a nice day outside. Excited to be recording with you though. 

Steven Aquino: Yeah same here. So it's been a few weeks, about three weeks since we had our last episode. That was our WWDC episode where I was in San Jose for the event and I interviewed, as I did last year, Apple's Senior Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger. I haven't gotten a response from that show have you? I haven't heard anything, you know, either way if it's good or bad or not.

Timothy Buck: Yeah, I've heard a little bit. Like last year, it's one of our most listened to  episodes. We got linked on several different sites and stuff. I know this year, unlike last year, Apple sent out many of their people to podcasts. I think last year it was kind of just like us and Gruber were the only two podcasts who had anybody from Apple on them and this year a whole list of them including you know, Rene Richie's I think had two different ones. Mac Power Users had some there was like a whole list and so a couple different sites put together lists of all those episodes and we were of course on those. I know like MacStories had a list. I think I feel like iMore did, or I could be wrong, but there were a couple places that listed us and that and said some nice things, but apart from a few people who DM'd me. I haven't heard that much about it.

Steven Aquino: You know. I've had stuff happening here at home. So I kind of forgot about the episode after it went out, and I, you know, haven't heard anything from anybody so. 

You know, I think just to take a second here I think doing these shows are a good PR strategy on Apple's part, you know, they clearly know that people listen to podcasts and you know. It's just cool to see them put all these executives, you know higher up people, on you know our show and then on other shows so, you know, it's smart. It's cool. 

So we wanted to kind of... Now that it's been about 3 weeks since the conference, we wanted to come back and talk about some of the announcements that were made and ,ow they involve accessibility. I was in the room for the keynote, and I was there for like three days doing stuff, talking to people, and having briefings, and all that stuff.  And I think on a high level this year was a huge year for you know accessibilty. 

Probably the most... Well, I shouldn't say most important, but it was the biggest year that I can recall in the five years I've been covering it. And yeah, there's a lot to it. So I'm going off of sheer memory here. But I you know that it was a huge thrill to the people I sat with at the event when Craig Federighi talked about voice control and in Mac OS Catalina, and I think we should probably start there because that's the huge thing. If you care about this stuff. 

So voice control is not the old voice control that you might remember from iOS. I don't know 3, I think it was when or two or three when you could hold down the home button and then you could talk to you your phone and you could do bare-bones things. like I don't know ask it the time or ask it like. What song is on our stuff like that. The voice control feature that I'm talking about is the feature on Mac OS and on iOS where you can literally talk to you your phone. I mean, sorry, you can talk to your computer. You can send email. You can send a text. You can surf the Internet. I mean. Pretty much anything you  can do with your laptop or iPad or iPhone you can do with just the sound of your voice and the huge thing is just like having the ability to talk to your to your iMac or your iPad and and then have it do stuff. You know, there's a certain little bit of it now with Siri but this voice control feature takes it to a whole new level and from what I've seen, it's I mean if you're somebody who you know has to talk to your you know stuff because you know, you can't touch the screen or something like this is gonna be huge. 

Timothy Buck: Yep. Definitely. I think it's interesting that you called out the like the really early stage tool that I think they had the same name if I'm remembering correctly. 

Steven Aquino: Yep.

Timothy Buck: But it's, this is this is not that. That was before Siri and it was really not that powerful. Whereas I'll try to find the video they played at WWDC and link it but it's really really impressive what you can do and one of the things that stood out as particularly interesting is the phone being able to tell if you are basically looking at it and so in the video they show this man talking to his iMac and getting it to you know, like zoom in on stuff and reply to things and search things and like just navigating entirely by voice and even like writing out sentences and going back and changing a single word.

Stuff that has been really kind of hard in the past, but then he looks down at his phone and he just starts talking to his phone and the computer stops listening to him and the phone does what he wants it to do and I think he's like iMessaging somebody or something which is huge. 

I think that like it's something that you or I might do with our hands very easily, go from like desktop and then look at her phone and do something there and giving that ability to somebody who needs to navigate their devices just by voice is that to me just like shows the level of effort and detail that they're putting into this and I haven't had a chance to test it. I have the beta on my phone and I haven't turned it on yet. I'll have to check that out, but based on like their video. This looks amazing and like something that's going to be incredibly valuable to to a lot of people out there. And yeah, I hope it says as good as it seems. 

Steven Aquino: Yeah. I got to talk to Apple after the event was over. We got something to eat and then we sat down and I was shown voice control and you know, it was a. We were in a loud environment. We were in the hallways of the you know of the convention center and people are all you know all around and talking and stuff and you know, It was hard at first because of all that noise, but I mean once the noise kind of settled down, you know, it was fluid it was.

I mean, it's really the sort of stuff that like science fiction stuff. Like, you know, I was told by Apple that it was a huge effort between the accessibility team and like the Siri team, you know. If you have a device that uses the true depth camera, it can tell when you're talking to it and it'll stop listening.

I don't know how that exactly works on an iMac since they don't have a FaceID. 

Timothy Buck: This is just me guessing but my assumption here is pretty much kind of how they do it with Siri that it doesn't necessarily always work, but if you're holding one device and talking at the other one.

They there's some sort of like of those two devices talk to each other and say like hey look at me. So I think if you look at the phone, it has true depth it can tell that you're looking at it. It will then say like hey iMac I'm going to handle this one and then kind of the same way the other way around if you're looking at the iMac the phone will say hey, this person's not looking at me. iMac you handle this.

I have no proof of that. It's just an assumption that I'm making 

Steven Aquino: That sounds right because I think it's similar to how Apple Watch unlock or something like somehow your your macBook knows that you have an Apple Watch on. I thought Craig talked to about that on a talk show like two years ago.

I could be wrong but I think as that's the similar technology.

So yeah voice controls a huge thing, you know, I have not had a chance to look through it at all. I mean aside from seeing it at. The reference I don't have iOS 13 or anything. I don't have a Mac OS Catalina on my laptop. So I can't say how it is or anything, but just from having been having been shown it for a short time and then, you know talking to Apple.

I think it's going to be a huge thing, and you know we talk about it on the MAc but it's you know, it's on iOS too so you can use on your iPad and your iPod touch and your iPhone because they all run iOS 13.

So the other big feature that I wanted to kind of talk about because it kind of caught me in a bit of hot water is the pointer feature in iOS.

So in our in our iPad in i-pad OS and I iOS 13 boy, that's hard to say when you've got iPad OS and iOS you can hook up a trackpad or a mouse or oh, gosh, I think even Apple told me a joystick to your iPhone or iPad and control the interface as if it were a mouse and a lot of people have latched onto it thinking that it's your  old schoo mouse that I have here. You know that I'm scrolling on my laptop at you know as I record the call and stuff and that's not it at all it. Well it it does function. I mean it does do that to an extent. I mean it does function like a mouse to a certain extent but there are people in the Apple community that have really latched onto his this thing as like it's a mouse and.

You know, oh my God, Apple's so stupid for hiding it in accessibility and I can't make the orb smaller and it you know, I got into some hot water on Twitter last week because I kind of. Because I kept seeing these people who I won't name like talk about how horrible it is that like.this feature isn't Assistive Touch it, you know, it's not a real Mouse and I don't understand why Apple doesn't just add it to the system and I got angry, you know and I just said like, you know, you stupid people like this feature is not built for you and apple told me it was precisely built for a certain subset of users and you have no right to harp on something that is not built for you, and I took it further than I intended to said some things that that I should have said. 

However, I did get feedback from some people in the accessibility world that said that what I was trying to say was actually righ on. Which is to say that people have to realize that you know Apple knows that you're going to go and turn it on because your nerd and you want a mouse and you want, you know, all this stuff, but it's not built for you. It's not even built for the task that you think it is.

I'm kind of going on a right now. I'm sorry, but I think people are making this out to be they don't and to do stand it. 

Timothy Buck: Yeah, just to kind of try to rephrase what you're saying. Apple does say that their accessibility features are for everybody. Right. Like anybody can use an accessibility feature at any time for any reason but certain people out there who wish there was a traditional mouse on the iPad that is an okay thing to want but when they disparage this feature that was primarily built for people with accessibility needs. It can be frustrating because this is a really good feature that is going to help people who need it and they are right that this is not a regular mouse that you would see on a laptop or an iMac but it wasn't meant to be that and so there's a hard like there's a hard line to stay on there which is yes anybody can use this but no your criticisms of this feature are incorrect because that is not what they were trying to build here.

Right. There's a separate criticism that they have that is fine to have that maybe they want to have a mouse meant for every person to use every single day on their iPad. That's an argument you can make but that shouldn't apply to this feature because this feature is not meant to serve that need.

It's meant to provide accessibility to people who need it and that's a really really good thing and we should be glad that they did. 

Steven Aquino: How I said things on Twitter, you know In the Heat of the moment after seeing these tweets fly by you know, I got upset. I'm human. You know and I said some things that I should not have said and I said, I'm sorry, 

however, you know one high-profile person you know said to me that you know nothing is so perfect that it can't be criticized and I understand what he was trying to say, but like that kind of defeats my my argument which is what you had said Timothy like there's a final line here. There's a hard line here where I'm not saying that you know, there isn't anything wrong with it.

I mean, I'm sure that there are I haven't seen it, but like you can't it's really hard for me to to say because as a disabled person I know what I'm trying to say, but it's not coming out the right way. And I think I have set a lot of people when I said what I said, but what I said was like you can't. You can't really it's not it's not per you. I mean, yeah, I know 

Timothy Buck: I get what you're trying to say and I agree and what I think is really hard about this conversation over all is there is room to criticize whether or not the iPad should have a mouse support in general, right?

There's an argument there that can be had that's legitimate and we're not having that today. But the thing that makes this complicated is the cross-pollinating of that idea versus the accessibility feature and how people who want that are now denigrating this accessibility feature that is actually a good thing and according to like all the people who've been testing it that I've talked to actually does that well, so if it if for some reason it is not a good accessibility feature, then we should definitely speak out and say hey, this should be improved. 

That's one thing to say. I haven't heard anybody make that argument I think as far as I know it does what they're claiming it does really really well and I think that is where there's this disconnect between the arguments that's really hard to do on Twitter is.

One person is upset that there's not a general feature meant for all users to be able to use a mouse. And another person is saying hey this accessibility features really good at accessibility based on all accounts. And those are both things that can be true at the same time. But we get to this point where we're just kind of speaking past each other because they don't actually care that much about the accessibility feature their caring about this General feature that they want for their day-to-day life. And this is not that and so they're upset at this accessibility feature. And and at that point, I think it's really hard to have a productive conversation because we're really talking about two different things and there's two different arguments happening at the same time.

I don't actually care that much about whether the iPad has mouse support so I don't really want to get into that but I do want to say that this seems like a really really valuable feature to for people who who do need an accessibility feature to be able to use the iPad. I'm glad that it's there for for that reason in particular.

And if anybody out there is using it for that purpose and you're not, you know. If you're not satisfied with it, for some reason or you are satisfied with it, and you think it's doing that job really? Well definitely reach out because I would love to know I haven't had a chance to try it. I don't actually have an iPad to try it on and I'm not going to put the beta on my wife's iPad.

But yeah, so once the full version comes out, I'll definitely try it out on her iPad and see how it works. But until then I don't really think I'll be able to experience it for myself. 

Steven Aquino: The last thing I'll add to this and you've been helpful Timothy trying to to kind of get out what I was trying to say that I did so horribly on Twitter.

Is that, when I talk to Apple about this at the conference? First thing I said was why are you building in a mouse? Because that's that's not just essentially what it is and they were very clear that this is not a mouse as you think it is. And it's there to suit a very specific segment of your user there and they went on to say there is no code in UIKit about pointers or anything else except for our code for the accessibility code. So yeah, I'll just I'll just leave it at that. 

So the other thing they came out with this year that I think is worth mentioning is something on the Mac called hover text. Which is when Apple showed it to me Ike I told them it reminded me of tooltips on Windows and they just kind of gave me the side eye, but what it is you turned it on under zoom. So it's a subset of zoom. So you go into settings on your map. You go to zoom under accessibility. And I think you do check hover text.

 And what it does is anywhere you hover your mouse the the text will show up as sort of a tooltip like captioned on top of the screen so like oh gosh let's see if you go to system preferences okay, and you go to I don't know Touch ID or right if you can't see the word touch ID if you have hovered text on it'll show up in a little caption thing saying Touch ID and it works all over you know this system and you can change the fonts. 

You can change the contrast you can change the text size. You can change the color. You can do all sorts of you know, you can. You can change it to be however you want it so you can see it and as someone who's been harping on for dynamic type on the Mac for five years or six years.

Hover text feels like Dynamic type built for the mac. And again, I haven't seen it. I mean, I mean, I have seen it but I haven't got a chance to actually use it for mum self.  But I did see it and it seems like it is. Dynamic type but so much more. What's the word I'm trying to say...

Timothy Buck: I would say, just to jump in, I think the way that I've been thinking about it is similar to how as Apple has been bringing a lot of Mac features to the iPad. They haven't just been doing them in the exact same way on the iPad in which they're done on the Mac like this idea of multiple windows.

You can have multiple windows of the same app now and iOS 13. That's a huge new thing. It's a very classic Mac idea, but they did it in an iPad specific way in a very touch and drag and drop e like way that is not just free floating windows on a screen and I feel like this is same thing but for a dynamic type like some Dynamic type of something you've been talking about for years now is something that Apple really needs to bring to the Mac which is true and what they've done is similar to how they brought multi window support to the iPad in an iPad specific way.

They've brought Dynamic type to the Mac but in a in a Mac-specific way in a way that makes sense in theiIn the context of a Mac. And again, I hope it works as well as it appears to work from the demos and the videos. I've seen I don't have debate as on any on my Mac because I just have one but again, it looks like this is a really really great feature and I'm excited to try it out and see if it is and if anybody out there just like I mentioned before like if anybody out there does have the beta on your Mac definitely check this out and let us know if it works well, and I'm sure like they this is a the type of thing and this is the time to submit bugs.

So if there are bugs in that let's find them and submit them so they get fixed before the. Or release definitely tweet at us or send us an email and we'll will reach out if if you've had any experience with any of these accessibility features, we're talking about 

Steven Aquino: I'm probably behind here in terms of like because I've only talked to Apple about this stuff. So I haven't actually got to see it for my self. Actually Hands-On time. So, you know, if you if anybody, you know has some of these says if you're out there and you have the beta somewhere iOS or the Mac, you know. We want to know how it works. The only thing I've heard about is of course what I just said was the pointer support in iOS because everyone is you know, showing their iPads hooked up to a mouse which is you know, but you know, that's the only thing I've heard about since the event.

So, let's see. Other than that there are like a bunch of smaller things. Like they're bringing the color blindness filters to the Mac. They have a new contrast option on iOS that you can differentiate with color now. So if you can't see shapes app developers can now differentiate state with you know like a change stayed in an app with color now. Oh, there is one that I think is flying under the radar. But um in iOS 13 and Mac OS I think voiceover is using ml to suggest labels.

Timothy Buck: Can you explain that a little bit more? I don't know if I'm following. 

Steven Aquino: So.  I don't quite have all the details on this so I know I can't speak to it to definitively but I was  told that voiceover will use machine learning to ID some stuff in apps. So apparently if you are an app developer and you have custom UI that you are having a hard time trying to label for voiceover, I think voice over will use machine learning to try and analyze your label and then name it something.  Does that make sense? 

Timothy Buck: Yes, it does. It's cool. 

Steven Aquino: Yeah, so I think that. I think that's right if I'm wrong if you're from Apple and I'm wrong tell me but that's the gist of it. But other than that. Oh, the other thing there is one other thing. Accessibility is on the front page of settings on iOS.

Timothy Buck: Yeah, that was cool. I was really happy to see that and I think Sara mentioned that actually in your interview as like a really cool change that she's really happy about to so, 

Steven Aquino: Yeah, and I've talked about this a lot. Like I think it's a huge thing not only to find stuff faster because you don't have to tap tap tap.

Just having it on the front page with all the others system stuff is a huge deal and you know, it says a lot about how Apple feels about accessibility and and it's really putting us on the front lines as it were and it's cool. So I think that's about all that there was for accessibility in terms of features. I can tell you that the time that I was there at the at stripped of it was just one thing after another, you know.  I went from  this thing to that thing and then I got to stop to eat lunch and then after lunch we went to this thing and that thing and this thing and that thing and it was just really jam packed with  stuff and as I said at the start like this year felt more involved more faster, you know like then any of the year. And hopefully, you know people see these things and get to look at them and enjoy them. Did you have anything you wanted to add about WWDC? 

Timothy Buck: No, I don't. I don't think so. I'm happy to see that they made accessibility something that they talked about on stage again this year and I'm also glad that Sarah made the rounds on a bunch of different podcasts. 

She came on ours obviously, but she was on a few others as well that I think are their LinkedIn the MacStories list and a TidBITS list that I'll put in the show notes that have like every episode that Apple sent somebody, of podcasts that Apple sent people to. So she had she had several different conversations and I'm glad to see that as well.

It was a jam-packed year with a whole bunch of stuff going on and a lot of it having to do with accessibility as well. And I don't think I fully processed it all as you were saying, but I'm I'm glad that I'm glad for the things. I don't know how to say this but. The things I have been able to process so far have all been really positive and I'm excited to see them and just to see what the impact of these features ends up being.

Steven Aquino: Yeah, and I mean I haven't even talked about like we've been talking about the the accessibility stuff.  That's for you know accessibility but I haven't even  gotten into like the UI stuff in iOS 13. There's a whole bunch of like UI kind of changes Apple introduced a new font family called SF symbols that I think look really good.

You know.  There's iOS 13 like UI stuff. There's iPad OS. How accessible are the new drag and drop gestures. Not drag and drop. The text selection stuff. What else watch OS 6 has the hearing thing. I mean we could have ten shows on all the stuff and we probably still wouldn't get done 

Timothy Buck: Agreed but we're approaching time on this one.

Steven Aquino: Yeah, we are about done. If you want to follow us online you can do so, I'm on Twitter @stephen_aquino, and Timothy is at @TimothyBuckSF.

He also is host of his own show the sister show of Accessible, UNCO, and that show if you haven't heard it lately, it's been super good. Timothy has a new series on about the future of Voice First. Is that what it is? 

Timothy Buck: Yep, that's it. 

Steven Aquino: Because I heard you interview Cathy Pearl. 

Timothy Buck: Yep

Steven Aquino: Yeah Cathy Pearl from Google, she was on. That was cool. What else, so I'm on Twitter. Timothy's on Twitter. If we had a sponsor I would be thanking them here. Hopefully we will see you again in a fortnight. Thanks for everybody who listens you can go to to find the show. We are @_accessiblefm on Twitter and we'll see you again.

Thank you, Timothy.  Bye.