Introducing the 2nd generation HomePod provides yet another opportunity to recognize the accessibility of smart speakers for people with disabilities. In addition to ecosystem-centric facilities such as: hand overApple Numerous accessibility features in the device. Includes VoiceOver, Touch Accommodations, and more. As I have done in this space, this is an important distinction to point out. BeforeThis column is a forum for just that.
Frankly, most reviewers don’t, so it’s important to mention.
As lifelong stutterers who have always felt that digital assistants, and therefore smart speakers, are exclusive due to the voice-first interface paradigm, peers at the reviewer racket continually explore the real-world audio components of using these devices. It’s disappointing to see you underestimate. It is difficult, if not downright impossible, to consider a point of view that is completely incomprehensible.still there teeth The vast majority of journalists (and their readers) effortlessly yell into the ether, and Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant springs into action.
Take a look at the embargoed HomePod 2 reviews that dropped earlier this week ahead of the product’s general availability beginning Friday. All of them, whether in print or on YouTube, focus solely on sound quality. It makes perfect sense to do so, but seeing nobody say a word about accessibility features on speakers or how verbally accessible Siri is for people with delayed speech It’s scary. Again, expertise is hard, empathy is not. In other words, Apple’s new smart speaker has very real and very important characteristics that are largely ignored. That’s because it’s presumed that humans can communicate well with the object (although that’s true, given how language models are typically trained). The elephant in the room means there’s more to be said when it comes to the HomePod story.Counter-intuitive to most people, but it’s not all About sound quality, cleverness, computational audio, and the ecosystem.
Of course, the responsibility does not lie solely with the tech press. Smart speaker makers like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Sonos all have to do their part at a technical level to make using HomePod a more accessible experience for people with speech disabilities. Back in early October, report Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, in an initiative with the University of Illinois to make voice-centric products more accessible to people with speech disabilities, “in a way that makes Voltron blush.” cooperate. A project called Speech accessibility project, described as “a new research initiative to make speech recognition technology more useful for people with different speech patterns and disabilities.” The essential idea here is that current speech models prefer general speech. While this makes sense for the masses, it critically excludes those who speak using atypical speech patterns. It is imperative to make the technology as inclusive as possible by
“There are millions of Americans with language differences and disabilities. It may exist,” Clarion Mendez, a clinical professor of speech and hearing sciences and a speech-language pathologist, told me in an interview. Ahead of my report from October. “This initiative [the Speech Accessibility Project] Reduce the digital divide for individuals with disabilities. Increasing access and removing barriers means better quality of life and greater independence. In undertaking this project, the voices and needs of people in the disability community with whom we will share feedback will be paramount. ”
Astute readers will notice what Mendez ultimately expresses: empathy!
I should stress that the point of this article is not to throw my colleagues and friends under the bus and denigrate their work. The takeaway here is that as a stutterer, seeing, say, MKBHD hurling rapid-fire commands at Siri and such with no problem makes me feel very alienated and underappreciated. The category has long felt exclusive when it comes to audio issues alone. Just because his HomePod line from Apple sounds great and fits nicely with my HomeKit usage doesn’t make it any less worrying. These are issues that Apple (and its contemporaries) will have to consider long term in order to create the most balanced digital assistant experience possible.software tools like Siri Pause TimeA new feature in iOS 16 that allows users to tell Siri how long to stop speaking before responding, but its true effect is limited. The problem is avoiding the problem rather than fixing the problem at its source. It puts band-aids on those that need more complex treatments.
All in all, what the new HomePod review shows very well is that despite the big strides the tech media has made in recent years, it still has a long way to go to truly embrace accessibility as a central element of its daily coverage. The fact is that there is a way to go. You shouldn’t expect mainstream reviewers to suddenly become experts in assistive technology and ask you to rate them. It’s unreal.what teeth However, a very realistic expectation is that editors and writers will ask for knowledge you don’t have. It’s conceptually (and practically) no different than any other outlet investing in social justice coverage. For example, AAPI and black communities, which are especially important given recent events.
If reviewers can endlessly lament Siri’s perceived stupidity, it’s a no-brainer to admit that Siri borders on lack of grace in parsing atypical speech. . Additionally, asking the press to consider running nuanced interpretations of products on a regular basis shouldn’t be like pulling teeth. Alongside Something more general. The disability perspective is not difficult.that matterIt’s been a long time since disability inclusion (and disabled reporters) were prominent on tech desks in newsrooms around the world. Accessibility is also important.