Tag Archives: Apple watch

My thoughts about how as a VoiceOver user, Face ID although accessible is not very efficient

Posted on September 13, 2018
On January 9, 2007 Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, but I wasn’t sucked into his reality distortion field quite yet. My friend Nathan Klapoetke was ecstatic about it though and told me later that day when reinstalling Windows for me that he couldn’t wait to buy one; that was a very long 6 months for Nathan.

I, and much of the blind community were frustrated though, and felt left out. Some of us new that the touch screen, just a piece of glass for us then, would be the future and that soon no companies would make phones with number pads anymore. Then, at WWDC 2009, Steve Jobs introduced iOS 3 and mentioned VoiceOver during the keynote; the blind could use modern phones again. Those 2 years were hard though. Many of us in the blind community had Nokia phones, and some were playing with Windows phones, but they weren’t changing our lives anywhere near as much as the iPhone would later. This is how I feel current things are with the iPhone X models starting last year.

Apple is obsessed with Face ID and is making it their future, but I’m feeling a bit left out again.

Yes Face ID is accessible, I played some with an iPhone X last fall but as more people are recently realizing, accessible does not always mean efficient. I found it quite finicky when setting it up, and because I wear prosthetic eyes, when they’re out, I appear as a different person. There is an article written specifically for a blind person setting up Face ID, but note that they tell you to put your face in the frame, but don’t actually explain how to do it when unable to see the frame. Then there’s the trick of figuring out how far away to hold the phone from your face. I also have no idea how to move my face around in a circle while simultaneously staring at one spot. Ok, I understand the concept, but can’t physically do it. It took me about 15 minutes to get Face ID setup the first time. Another problem is how attention mode is disabled by default when VoiceOver is enabled. I understand that Face ID would work less with it on for blind people who are unable to visually focus, but that’s a potential security hole. A blind person could have their phone next to them on their desk and another person could quietly walk by pick up the phone pan it by the blind person’s face, and they’re in.

Beyond setting it up and all the problems of having eyes that don’t work, there is the inconveniences of work flow. My phone is often on my belt, and most people blind or sighted keep their phones in a pocket. If you’re blind, and have headphones, why would you ever want to  take your phone off your belt, or out of your pocket to use it? Taking your phone out just to authenticate gets annoying real fast, it also may require the person to stop what else they were doing. I’m rarely if ever looking at my phone when I use it, often my face is completely in a different direction.

I could go on a rant, oh wait I already am. I could be cynical, flame Apple, or just give up and switch to Android, and some might; but from my experience where although it took 2 years, Apple did bring VoiceOver to the iPhone in 2009. Here are some thoughts.

Things I could do today to unlock my phone, I have a long complicated password, I really don’t want to enter it every time. I could use the Bluetooth keyboard I already carry with me. I could plug in a series 4 Yubico key when I’m home or not around other people or in a situation where having something rigid plugged into the phone has a low probability of being bumped or damaged. These are only hacks though, I’m really hoping Apple can come up with an awesome solution again.

The iPhone can already unlock the Apple watch, and the watch can unlock my mack; I really hope that my Apple watch could unlock my iPhone too. Just having the phone unlock if my watch is on would definitely not be secure at all, but with the new Apple watch series 4 having some capacitance in the digital crown, having to touch the crown to unlock the phone could be a start. Putting Touch ID into a future model of the watch crown would be awesome.

I already wrote about how there are solutions that let me use my wired headphones even with no headphone jack, I know there are solutions for Touch ID equivalents that don’t include Face ID too. Whether Apple implements any of them is still a question, but I really hope they will realize how visual only options inconvenient a non-trivial segment of their market, and give us an alternative.

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How I combined multiple audio sources into one Bluetooth headset

Back in the day  i’d have to hold the phone up to my ear whenever I wanted to use GPS or anything with the screenreader, and if a bus went by, it was   a complete   fail.    then in early 2013  my friend Hai Nguyen Ly gave me a pair of the Aftershokz 1st generation bone conducting  headphones and my workflow in public was changed forever. I could use my iPhone  anywhere and besides being able to hear it in any situation quiet or loud it didn’t bother anyone around me either.

 

The problems above were very similar with talking watches which is why until the Apple watch I had always preferred braille watches. I’ve found a lot of cool uses for my Apple watch but the problem of its audio coming out the speaker in public still remained.

 

Aftershokz came out with their Trekz   Titanium model earlier this year, and among other things in their marketing speak was mentioned Bluetooth multipoint; that their new flagship model could pair with 2 Bluetooth devices. I was excited, if i could get the audio from both my iPhone and Apple watch into the same pair of bone conducting  headphones that would be huge, but alas pairing with 2 devices did not mean simultaneously.

 

Over a year  ago my friend @cajunluke

told me about the Belkin  audio splitter Rockstar, and I’d also remembered Allison Sheridan and Dave Hamilton  talking about the Amtech Bean Bluetooth receiver, but it could only receive, if there was a bluetooth transmitter? A plan began forming in my mind.

 

 an Amazon delivery later I had a Rockstar and 2 Anker audio bluetooth adaptors  , which can both transmit and receive, though not simultaneously, and a bunch of patch cords and was ready to go.

 

The Rockstar has been out for a while and using it to combine wired audio sources is widely understood, but I was trying to  combine both  Bluetooth and analog audio  sources and also put them altogether, out to a Bluetooth headset.

I wondered how to combine 2 Bluetooth devices together when neither had a keyboard nor a display, but the Aftershokz and the Anker Bluetooth adaptor pair nicely as long as you remember to get them both into pair mode simultaneously it works most times.

 

One adaptor is set to receive and is paired to the watch. The other adaptor is set to transmit and is paired to the Aftershokz.

I wear cargo pants so the large pockets are great for a bunch of cables plugged altogether, the shorter the patch cords the better.

 

the system works very well, the more devices plugged into the Rockstar the lower the volume is because of resistance but so far there’s still enough volume to go around for me. Having the audio from my watch in the headset makes it much more productive for me in public even if no one was around to be annoyed by the watch speaker. When I used Apple pay  VoiceOver lowers the volume  for security, i could still hear it and much better through the headset. 

I also do BrainPort testing for Wicab 

and the Rockstar has 5 audio jacks so I can  plugged that in also which greatly improves how I hear it especially in loud environments.  

 

I’m surprised that seemingly few know about the Rockstar, but also haven’t heard of anyone combining it with Bluetooth adaptors. I know it will be part of my workflow for some time.