Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Imagining The Next Apple Event

Apple computer logo and accessibility logo
I watched today's Apple Event, which included a major overhaul of the Apple TV system. I may find the new Apple TV hard to resist, but I'm going to try.

The new Apple TV will apparently run stand-alone apps. This suggests the possibility of using Apple TV, with its new Bluetooth remote and Siri-based voice controls, to run a full slate of household appliances and devices. This could make it the most elegant and complete home automation unit ever ... a blast for tech nerds, and a major liberation for people with significant physical disabilities.

Imagine turning lights on and off, opening and closing doors and windows, turning heat or air conditioning up and down, controlling kitchen devices, or flushing a toilet through voice commands or the flick of a thumb. That's what I'm talking about. It's not far fetched at all. Lots of companies already sell control devices you can plug into any standard appliance, and control from a central unit like a smartphone. It's just that right now it's a rather confusing and very expensive field. Apple is great at making things easy to use, and, if not cheap, at least reasonably priced and easy to pay for. Apple seems like the perfect company to make environmental controls an everyday, common reality, including for disabled people.

The problem is, I still don't know and I can't seem to find out whether anything like this will be included in the new Apple TV, or any of Apple's other product lines. If anyone knows about new apps and systems that maybe just didn't make it into the event, please let me know.

The last Apple Event, back in March, did include a lengthy demonstration of Home Kit, a suite of home appliance devices controlled mainly through an iPhone. However, the presentation was a bit confusing and I don't recall Tim Cook mentioning how useful these controls could be for disabled people.

Here is what I hope to see, maybe at the next Apple Event:

- A smoothly operating, flexible, and simple home appliance control app that will work on any Apple device, including the Apple TV.

- A control app designed by Apple, included free with all Apple operating systems. Users would pay only for each device control unit they want or need for their own homes, purchased from third-party developers.

- I would love to see Tim Cook introduce a person with significant physical disabilities to explain and demonstrate the app at the Apple Event. It worked well when he had Christy Turlington introduce the Apple Watch's fitness features.

I don't mean to imply that the system is only for disabled people. It's just that disabled people can dramatically illustrate, in a unique and memorable way, how useful environmental controls could be for everyone.

Apple is already a leader in making its products accessible to disabled people. I am still waiting for the company to turn it's products into tools to make the whole world more accessible for everyone, especially disabled people.