The next version of iPhone OS 3.0 is expected to have a voice recognition and synthesis feature, which would bring long-awaited voice dialing functionality as well as the ability to control the homescreen and launch applications via voice, according to Ars Technica.
Reportedly, software frameworks discovered in the iPhone 3.0 beta represent the possibility of being able to control an iPhone by voice, which would make it more accessible to the blind and visually impaired. Currently the iPhone and iPod Touch are virtually inaccessible for visually impaired users because multitouch screens don’t offer any tactile or verbal feedback. In fact, voice recognition in particular has been a heavily requested feature for the visually impaired, as well as non-disabled people who would relish being able to perform everyday tasks without having to look at the phone’s screen — say while driving or exercising.
The discovery may not be such a stretch. Already, the latest iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle include speech capabilities. In the Shuffle it’s also a necessity because the device has no screen. And the Mac OS has long had both proprietary speech recognition and synthesis features called VoiceOver. Apple has said it plans to release iPhone Software 3.0 sometime this summer as a free upgrade for all current iPhone owners. A distribution for iPod touch users will cost $10.
According to the article, Apple will still need to figure out a way to trigger the voice-recognition system. It may be controlled via the iPhone headset — button squeezes could be used to record short voice segments from the user, which the iPhone will then interpret. Voice synthesis can then be used to give the user a response, similar to the latest-generation iPod Shuffle, which can “read” playlists and track names — the difference being that the iPhone hardware itself could handle real-time voice synthesis.
Apple has not announced this software — reportedly code-named “Jibbler” — but it does indeed seem like a natural progression for Apple to use its technology for the ever-popular iPhone while making it more accessible to the blind and visually impaired.