Wednesday, August 02, 2017

How Apple Is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads—Literally | WIRED

A fascinating leading indicator

"“While our devices have been built to support hearing aids for years, we found that the experience of people trying to make a phone call was not always a good one,” says Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s director of global accessibility policy. “So we brought together a lot of people in different areas around the company to start investigating ways to make the process easier.” As she indicates, Apple’s accessibility team has been working for several years to support conventional hearing aids—an initiative whose results are made apparent by not only the dozens of hearing-related products in the App Store, but also a Hearing Aid Mode built into the iOS settings. It connects with hearing aids whose manufacturers have adopted the free Apple protocols, earning them a “Made for iPhone” approval. Apple also has developed a feature called Live Listen that lets hearing aid users employ the iPhone as a microphone—which comes in handy at meetings and restaurants.
Taking on the task of making iPhones with cochlear implants was harder. “Our goal was to get rid of all those extra things that need batteries and can get in the way, so when a phone call comes in you just hit the button to answer it and that sound is streaming into your hearing aids,” says Herrlinger. It wasn’t an easy process, because this solution required pushing the Bluetooth wireless technology farther than usual. To do this, Apple’s accessibility team—which spans the company’s entire product line—had to tap the talents of its engineering staff in wireless, battery consumption, and UI design. “It’s a different type of device, so we had to do more iteration,” says Eric Seymour, Apple director of accessibility engineering."
How Apple Is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads—Literally | WIRED
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