Talking iPod Shuffle
There's a new iPod Shuffle available from Apple. Like the newest iPod Nano it can read out information such as song titles and playlist names. Unlike the iPod Nano, the VoiceOver feature is enabled by default and is part of their standard advertising, which makes sense as the device has no screen.
The web page for the iPod Shuffle's VoiceOver feature states that the device obtains its speech from the system while synchronising with iTunes, and also lists these languages as supported:
- Chinese (Mandarin)
There is no fine print I can see stating that the non-English voices must be purchased separately. If this is actually the case, does it imply that OS X's speech may become multi-lingual "out of the box" in the near future? That would be fantastic news for the assistive technology communities in primarily non-English speaking countries! [ETA: Lioncourt.com have confirmed that third party voices aren't required for non-English languages to be generated on this new iPod Shuffle.]
The new iPod Shuffle also has no built-in controls, but is controlled by Apple-branded earbuds with a tiny remote control attached. The controls function using a combination of multiple clicks to move between tracks, and click-and-hold to move between playlists and hear the current song and artist name. I think this should mean that switch-adapting the controls would be a matter of adding a pass-through switch in line with the earbuds, with an added control box for switch users who need to have some switch click/hold combinations generated via scanning or another method. This is only conjecture - I'm no switch expert! But it seems like good news for switch users who'd like to have independent iPod access.
We'll have to wait until somebody can get hands-on with a device to confirm these things, but it certainly seems exciting at this point.
To go with the new shuffle, a new version of iTunes has been released which sports some VoiceOver accessibility improvements of its own. Lioncourt.com has published an article about iTunes 8.1 and A Closer Look At Accessibility which is worth reading.
- Ricky Buchanan