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Apple Previews Eye Tracking and Other Accessibility Tools

Apple iPhone accessibility

Imagine being able to control your iPhone not with your hand, but with your eyes.

Apple says that scenario could soon be a reality, part of a series of tools for users with physical disabilities announced Wednesday (May 15).

“Each year, we break new ground when it comes to accessibility,” Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of global accessibility policy and initiatives, said in a news release.

“These new features will make an impact in the lives of a wide range of users, providing new ways to communicate, control their devices, and move through the world.”

Among the new features is the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Eye Tracking, which lets users navigate their iPads and/or iPhones using just their eyes.

“Designed for users with physical disabilities, Eye Tracking uses the front-facing camera to set up and calibrate in seconds, and with on-device machine learning, all data used to set up and control this feature is kept securely on device, and isn’t shared with Apple,” the company said.

Apple also featured a new feature called Music Haptics, designed to let users who are deaf or hard of hearing to enjoy music on iPhone.

“With this accessibility feature turned on, the Taptic Engine in iPhone plays taps, textures, and refined vibrations to the audio of the music. Music Haptics works across millions of songs in the Apple Music catalog, and will be available as an API for developers to make music more accessible in their apps,” the release said.

PYMNTS earlier this month explored the more measured — but still optimistic — strategy Apple is taking with AI as fellow tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and OpenAI accelerate their efforts with the technology.

“The iPhone maker, known for its meticulous approach to product development, is carefully assessing the AI landscape before making significant moves,” that report said.

During a recent earnings call, CEO Tim Cook expressed excitement about Apple’s upcoming generative AI (GenAI) offerings, stressing the company’s belief in AI’s transformative power and promise, and stating that the company is making major investments in the technology.

“We believe in the transformative power and promise of AI, and we believe we have advantages that will differentiate us in this new era, including Apple’s unique combination of seamless hardware, software, and services integration; groundbreaking Apple silicon with our industry-leading neural engine; and our unwavering focus on privacy,” Cook said.

And while rivals like Google and Microsoft have been making headlines with their GenAI tools, Apple has stayed relatively quiet about its specific AI plans. Nevertheless, the company is deeply invested in AI research and development, focusing on natural language processing, computer vision, and machine learning.