Apple has announced the next step in it’s accessibility programs, the “Spoken Interface.”
Those of you who had Macs way back when like me will remember the speech recognition of the Classic Mac OS, which, it seemed, worked best when it was first introduced. You could speak the name of any menu, then the menu item, without the need for scripting. Then when AppleScript came along, they removed all that functionality and in order to do anything, you had to write scripts. Well, sorry, but I don’t write no scripts, ok? Perhaps the saddest thing about Apple’s voice recognition is that fact that they never publicized it. It worked very well, required no training, and it was free. It still exists today in Mac OS X, but I doubt that many people realize that their Mac can be controlled by voice. Check out the Speech control panel sometime.
Anyway, I digress. This new Spoken Interface is not a method of controlling the computer. It’s designed to read the screen to the user:
It reads aloud the contents of documents like Web pages, Mail messages, and word processing files; provides a comprehensive audible description of your workspace and all the activities taking place on your computer; and includes a rich set of keyboard commands that allow you to navigate the Mac OS X interface and interact with application and system controls.
Items are spoken as you navigate the interface and you can inspect the details of any item simply by pressing a key. Function keys F1 through F4 are preprogrammed as orientation keys, providing you quick and easy access to descriptions about where you are and what you’re doing. Online help is also provided, and spoken so you can solve problems on your own, and learn new features at your own pace. There’s even a contextual spoken interface menu systems that provides a list of available commands that change depending on what’s selected so you always know what’s available to you.
Apple’s spoken interface technology is currently in development and scheduled for delivery in the next major release of Mac OS X.