My Crystal Ball Repaired

In a recent SeroTalk Extra I joined Mike Matt, hope and Derick for a roundtable discussion of smart watches, home automation and the future of the PC. I learned my lesson – BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING! Including Mike to interrupt the flow of thoughts & Jo to put me on the spot and ask for predictions… I failed miserably, but in an effort to redeem myself…

Wearables

According to a forecast published by Grand View Research the primary market for the smart watches is, and will continue to be, the health & fitness market. I don’t think this really comes as a surprise to anyone. The variety of sensors built into the watch have yet to prove their worth/ability, but in our ever health/exercise minded culture I think the smart watch manufactures have found a niche market, that has already proven its spending power. A CNet review covers the Watch in detail, and points out the major weakness is definitely the battery life. I however would not be surprised to see the Apple Watch revolutionise the world of health & fitness, much like the IPhone revolutionized the Smart Phone market in 2007. One thing we did not discuss in the recording was wearable accessibility. A few web searches have yielded nothing of value, for me, as it relates to accessibility of other devices. I’ve been able to locate information about how the app for the smart phone is accessible with the devices accessibility features, but nothing on the devices actual accessibility. That is, except for when looking at the Apple Watch. Since just before the release on April 10th, and since, there have been a few reviews on Apple Watch Accessibility. One of my favorites is “Apple Watch and Accessibility: First Look and More” by Steven Aquino.

Life or Death of the PC

Much like the Apple Watch, Pebble and other smart wearables are accessories to the smart phone, I think that the smart phone/tablet are, and will remain, accessories to the PC in the near future. While most high school students I have spoken to recently believe that the computer is dead, they reluctantly admit that there are still things they have to do on the computer because it is just easier. They write drafts of papers on their smart phone or tablet, but they need to, or prefer to, use the computer to put the finishing touches on it. If you’re looking for a wearable device that would replace your computer, tablet, smart phone and smart watch consider checking out the Neptue Suite Hub project on Indiegogo.

Life or Death of Access Technology

It seems as though it is impossible to have a discussion regarding the life or death of the PC without also having one on the life or death of access technology these days. Everywhere we turn mainstream companies are building access technologies into their devices. This is great! However, it is important to keep in mind that to mainstream companies we are, at best, 15% of their market base, and that access to a device is different than the usability or learn ability of the device and its access features. A 2013 report by Gartner Inc. encourages companies to integrate assistive technology into development. The report explains how features, once considered assistive technology for people with disabilities (PWD), are now being used by non-disabled people to solve situational/environmental disabilities, which expands the access, or assistive, technology use to a larger market.

The access technologies that have been built in, in many cases, have been designed for the casual alternative access user, not the every day user who accesses the devices with alternative strategies and tools. People without disabilities use things like Siri differently than someone who cannot use his/her hands or eyes to interact with a device. Siri is a great solution for speech-to-text for a able bodied person driving a car, but not for a quadriplegic. The text-to-speech feature of Siri is great for a sighted driver, who needs/wants quick text-to-speech response from his/her device but is not the same as VoiceOver, and gaining access to the device for someone who is blind. Don’t get me wrong, I love VoiceOver on my IOS device, and it gets the every day job done, but there is still much to be desired, in my opinion.

While Mike and Matt rightly point out that mainstream companies are moving to a system in which 3rd party access technologies are being cut out, like the Apple ecosystem, I don’t think that the day of 3rd party access is over. Do these mainstream companies get it? Do they really understand how people with disabilities access their devices? I don’t think they quite get it yet. One of two things needs to happen, in my opinion; either access technology companies need to quit complaining and start innovating to keep up with the trends, or they need to start applying for management positions within the mainstream companies and start building teams of engineers who do get it, and can work from the inside to build access solutions that do not just give access to the devices, but deliver true usability with an easy learning curve.

Home Automation

I’ve clearly had some more time to think on this topic. However, I have nothing new to add to my thoughts in the recording. Home automation is not even on my technology radar. Maybe it should be, but our environment, and experiences, shape our interests, and I trust the little old lady across the street far more than I trust tech. If I forget to turn the crock pot on before leaving for work, and I call her to run over and turn it on, not only will I get dinner but she’ll probably bake cornbread or cookies or something to add to the meal. Lets see your home automation system do that! :)

About Laine Amoureux

Laine is an assistive technology specialist in Idaho, with an emphasis in environmental accommodation and training professionals working with children and adults who experience vision loss or blindness. As a part of the culminating project in her masters program in assistive technology and human services Laine worked with class mates to create the Google Web App instructional materials at www.googleax.com and is working on developing new content for the site.
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