Welcome to the October 2023 edition of AppleVis Unlimited, your monthly digest of the latest and most notable content on the AppleVis website. This edition features a curated selection of community-submitted updates, including new app entries, updates, news, and podcasts.
New and Noteworthy App Entries
Ableton Note (iOS/iPadOS, US$5.99)
Start new musical ideas with a curated selection of sounds and effects. Play beats and melodic parts, sample your world, and continue your tracks in Ableton Live.
Note is a place to form ideas, experiment with sounds and find direction. Get your ideas out or play until inspiration hits using a selection of Ableton Live’s drum kits, synths and melodic instruments. Or create your own sound palette by recording the sounds around you into Note’s sampler instruments using your phone’s microphone.
If you want to take your ideas further, use Ableton Cloud to send your projects to Live (version 11.2.5 or later) without leaving the app. Open your project from Live’s browser, then keep working – you can edit all your MIDI notes, and all your samples and sounds from Note are exactly the same.
Current Version: 1.0.13 (September 26, 2023)
GIFwrapped (iOS/iPadOS, Free With In-App Purchases)
Collect your GIFs. Share them. Love them! If you're a GIF connoisseur, then you need an app that's as serious about them as you are. That's where GIFwrapped comes in.
- Use iCloud or Dropbox to add new GIFs and sync your collection. Keep your GIFs on multiple devices and have a backup in the cloud. The digital cloud. No one keeps GIFs in real clouds anymore, everything gets too wet.
- Use the bundled Messages app to share GIFs from your Library with your friends in seconds. No muss, no fuss.
- Drag and drop GIFs en mass to and from GIFwrapped. Drag them all! Drag them good!
- Find new GIFs using Giphy powered search! Just bang in a phrase like "cat" or "lumpy space princess" and be prepared for pure awesome to rain down on you from the heavens.
- Import GIFs, Bursts, and Live Photos from your Photo Library. Save them back to Photos, too, if that's your jam.
- Use an extension to quickly save images to your library! It's not sexy or anything, but it is super easy and probably fun by someone's standards!
- Preview GIFs in standard or retina quality. It all depends on whether you like pixels or not.
Current Version: 2023.2 (May 18, 2023)
Poplin: Got Laundry? Allow us. (iOS/iPadOS, Free)
Poplin is a life hack for laundry, available in over 500 cities nationwide.
Our Laundry Pros will tame even your most unruly, rumpled piles into pristine stacks of perfectly folded laundry. All that’s left for you to do is get dressed.
Poplin’s state-of-the-art app makes it possible to have your laundry done with the touch of a button. You can arrange pick-ups, leave instructions, track progress, send messages, and rate your experience.
Current Version: 3.32.1 (October 19, 2023)
All recent app entries posted to AppleVis can be found at:
Notable App Updates
Dice World® Play with Friends (iOS/iPadOS, Free With In-App Purchases)
Roll, Compete, and Conquer in Dice World!
Get ready to immerse yourself in six addicting dice games that you can enjoy online or offline. Now with full VoiceOver support for unmatched accessibility, Dice World is the #1 choice for fun and inclusive gaming.
Whether you're a fan of fast-paced Farkle, strategic Yatzy, or unpredictable Pig, Dice World has something for everyone.
Current Version: 22.08 (October 27, 2023)
Changes in Version 22.03
- Faster, More Reliable Notifications: Stay in the loop like never before with our revamped notification system. Get updates in real-time without missing a beat!
- Revolutionized Social Framework: We've overhauled our social features to be more accessible and future-proof. Connect, compete, and converse more easily than ever.
- Performance Boosts: Enjoy smoother gameplay and quicker load times thanks to our latest efficiency upgrades.
- Enhanced Moderation: Say goodbye to spam and disruptive behavior with our upgraded moderation features. A safer, more enjoyable community awaits!
Envision AI (iOS/iPadOS, Free)
Envision is the fastest, most reliable and award-winning OCR app that speaks out the visual world, helping blind and visually impaired users to lead more independent lives.
Envision is developed for and together with the visually impaired community. The app is simple, gets things done and brings the best assistive experience to blind and low vision users.
Simply use your phone camera to scan any piece of text, your surroundings, objects, people or products and everything will be read out to you thanks to Envision’s smart artificial intelligence (AI) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
Current Version: 3.2.5 (October 25, 2023)
Changes in Version 3.2.5
Introducing ‘Explore’: Navigate the world independently
We’re thrilled to announce a transformative new feature in the Envision App – ‘Explore’. Dive right into the app’s feature list to find it!
With ‘Explore’, your device’s camera becomes an intuitive guide. Think of it as an evolution of our ‘Find Object’ feature. While ‘Find Object’ zeroes in on a specific item, ‘Explore’ introduces you to every recognizable object in its view.
Discover your surroundings, embrace newfound independence, and confidently journey through the world.
Seeing AI (iOS/iPadOS, Free)
Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed with and for the blind and low vision community, this ongoing research project harnesses the power of AI to open up the visual world by describing nearby people, text and objects.
Seeing AI provides tools to assist with a variety of daily tasks:
- Short Text - Speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera.
- Documents - Provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognizes the text, along with its original formatting.
- Products - Scans barcodes, using audio beeps to guide you; hear the name, and package information when available.
- People - Saves people’s faces so you can recognize them, and get an estimate of their age, gender, and expression.
- Currency - Recognizes currency notes.
- Scenes - Hear an overall description of the scene captured. Explore the photo by moving your finger over the screen to hear the location of different objects.
- World - An Audio Augmented Reality experience to explore an unfamiliar environment, including hearing objects announced around you with Spatial Audio (requires a device with a LiDAR, and iOS 14+).
- Indoor Navigation - Available on the World Channel, enables you to create routes through a building, like "entrance to classroom", and navigate by following the sound (requires a device with an A9 or later processor, and iOS 14+).
- Colors - Identifies colors.
- Handwriting - Reads handwritten text like in greeting cards (available in a subset of languages).
- Light - Generates an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in the surroundings.
- Images in other apps - Just tap “Share” and “Recognize with Seeing AI” to describe images from Mail, Photos, Twitter, and more.
- Browse Photos - Hear descriptions of photos saved on your device.
Current Version: 5.2 (October 18, 2023)
Changes in Version 5.2
- Rich Image Descriptions: Seeing AI can now provide far more detail in image descriptions. Take a photo on the Scene channel, select an image in Browse Photos, or share a photo from another app - and then tap "More Info".
- Ask Questions About Documents: On the Document channel, after scanning a page, you can now ask Seeing AI questions about its contents. This can be much more efficient than listening to the document from beginning-to-end. For example, you could scan a menu, and ask for just the vegetarian options; scan a receipt, and find out how much a particular item cost; or scan a calendar, and ask when a particular event is.
- Multi-page document scanning: On the Document channel, you can now scan multiple pages into a single document for reading, or sharing.
- For easier access to image descriptions, the Scene channel has been moved to earlier in the channel switcher. You can customize the order of channels in Settings.
- Plus, various bug fixes under the hood.
Slack (iOS/iPadOS, Free)
Slack brings team communication and collaboration into one place so you can get more work done, whether you belong to a large enterprise or a small business. Check off your to-do list and move your projects forward by bringing the right people, conversations, tools, and information you need together. Slack is available on any device, so you can find and access your team and your work, whether you’re at your desk or on the go.
Use Slack to:
- Communicate with your team and organize your conversations by topics, projects, or anything else that matters to your work
- Message or call any person or group within your team
- Share and edit documents and collaborate with the right people all in Slack
- Integrate into your workflow, the tools and services you already use including Google Drive, Salesforce, Dropbox, Asana, Twitter, Zendesk, and more
- Easily search a central knowledge base that automatically indexes and archives your team’s past conversations and files
- Customize your notifications so you stay focused on what matters
Current Version: 23.10.40 (October 26, 2023)
Changes in Version 23.10.20
- Fixed: VoiceOver was not indicating when a channel section had unread messages, often leaving your unreads undiscovered. It turns out that “the thrill of the hunt” is not something that pairs well with project deadlines. We’re sorry for making you work to find your work.
Soundscape (iOS/iPadOS, Free)
Soundscape- a 3D audio navigation app for the blind and visually-impaired, helping them to navigate complex environments with greater confidence and in greater safety
Soundscape uses 3D audio technology to help users with visual impairment build a fuller and more complete awareness of urban environments, giving them a richer understanding of where they are and what is around them. This in turn helps them to navigate with greater confidence and more independence. It allows users to search for destinations and store markers and route information that they can use to help guide them on their way to the places they need to reach.
Current Version: 1.2.0 (October 25, 2023)
Changes in Version 1.2.0
- Launch external navigation apps from location details page implemented (Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze)
- Changes to branding and colour scheme
- Fixed an issue when using search function if Motion and Fitness tracking permission not granted
VoiceVista (iOS/iPadOS, Free)
VoiceVista is a critical application for the blind and low vision users' community. It is built upon Microsoft's discontinued and open-source project Soundscape (https://aka.ms/ossblog) and is licensed under the MIT License (https://github.com/microsoft/soundscape/blob/main/LICENSE.txt).
The app leverages advanced iOS audio technology and precise location services to empower individuals in developing a heightened sense of their environment. It offers reassurance in unfamiliar settings, assisting users in forming mental maps and confidently navigating their desired routes.
Current Version: 1.2.0 (October 27, 2023)
Changes in October
- Drop breadcrumb markers using the button on headphones
- Callouts for the next intersection along the road
- Adaptive callout frequency for distance to beacon
- Customizable units of measure
- Exploration of upcoming intersections
- Adjust speaking rates for pedestrians and vehicle occupants separately
- Option to deactivate turn-by-turn navigation
- Option to deactivate the shake-to-repeat function
- Enhanced turn-by-turn navigation
- A new Siri command: 'Start Route'
- Callout for distance and direction to points of interest
- Callout for directions of surroundings
- Filter out auto-generated waypoints when not in route mode
- Route Breadcrumb marker mode
- Execute more Voiceover actions without opening detail pages
- New relative and clock styles for beacon direction
- Report beacon summary from the assistant tab
- Update route to circular by appending reverse waypoints
- Addition of a same marker multiple times to a route's waypoints
Recent News and Views
Why Not Just Move to Windows? One Perspective
By Paul Martz | October 24, 2023
In 2008, despite my failing eyesight, my Windows laptop with ZoomText empowered me to operate my own software development business. I had partnered with Bob, a Mac user. We both had prior Unix experience. With Windows, Mac, and Unix covered, we were a cross-platform development powerhouse.
At a customer site, while Bob was doing a presentation on cache optimization, I mistakenly dumped a binary file in a console window, and my system speaker beeped for every unprintable character. At maximum volume. For thousands of characters. To silence the ensuing cacophony, I put the laptop to sleep by closing the lid.
“Get a Mac,” Bob said, eliciting a few chuckles from our clients.
I laughed along too. After all, the comment was intended as humor.
But there was a lot buried in those three words. Bob asserted that the Mac was a Utopian computing environment that solved everyone’s problems, and he presumed that moving from Windows to Mac would be easy.
I didn’t switch to Mac until years later. But recent discussion on AppleVis has prompted me to recall the story and share my memories. Here it is. Categorize it in the “for what it’s worth” bin.
We Deserve Better from Apple: Why I Can No Longer Recommend a Mac to Fellow Blind Computer Users
By David Goodwin | October 8, 2023
As many of you will know from personal experience, there is a longstanding issue with VoiceOver on Mac where Safari may become unresponsive with VoiceOver repeatedly announcing the message “Safari not responding.” When this issue occurs, the user's Mac may become unusable for up to several minutes at a time. Sometimes it can be resolved by switching away from Safari. Sometimes restarting VoiceOver can resolve the issue. However, far too often, the user is unable to switch away from Safari or turn VoiceOver off, instead having to simply wait for their Mac to become responsive again.
This “Safari not responding” behaviour when using VoiceOver dramatically impacts productivity and overall usability of Macs for blind and low vision users. Furthermore, it appears that the issue extends beyond just Safari - many other common applications that utilise Apple's WebKit browser engine can also be affected by the “not responding” problem.
It is also important to point out this issue occurs regardless of the specification level of the Mac - it has been widely experienced on the latest Apple silicon-equipped Macs with 16GB or more of RAM, so even owners of top-tier new Mac hardware still face this crippling VoiceOver bug.
This critical problem has persisted for years across multiple MacOS versions without a permanent fix from Apple. Given the longevity and level of disruption caused by this bug across Safari and other applications, I can unfortunately no longer in good faith recommend Macs to anyone who relies on using VoiceOver unless they have a specific use case that only a Mac can satisfy. The impact of this bug when performing routine, and often critical, tasks in Safari and other applications simply makes macOS an unreliable and frustrating platform.
It deeply saddens me to feel compelled to say I can no longer recommend Macs to fellow blind computer users and that we deserve better from Apple. Macs have traditionally been popular within the blind community, and they offer some great accessibility features. I have proudly used a Mac as my primary computer for over a decade. However, frankly, Apple should be utterly ashamed that they have let this issue persist for so long without a permanent fix. It's a failing that raises serious questions about the company's frequently stated commitment to accessibility. There can be no doubt that if sighted users were to experience something similar, that it would receive significant media coverage and an urgent fix from Apple.
- Apple Releases iOS 17.1 and iPadOS 17.1 With Many Fixes for VoiceOver Users
- Apple Releases macOS Sonoma 14.1, watchOS 10.1, and tvOS 17.1
- Apple Releases iOS 17.0.3 and iPadOS 17.0.3 with iPhone overheating and security fixes
This Month in Podcasts
AppleVis Unleashed October 2023: Let's Do the Monster Mash
In this month's edition of AppleVis Unleashed, Thomas Domville, Mike Malarsie, and John Gassman discuss recent Apple news and other topics of interest. Topics featured in this episode include:
- Let's Talk about the new iPhone 15
- The Good, Bad, and Ugly of iOS 17
- Double Tap Fizzle for the Apple Watch Series 9
- Time Moves Fast. Scary Fast, you could Say
- Farewell iTunes! Well, Sort Of...
- Get Out of Here, How Much is Google Paying Apple?
- Apple is Stomping Down on the Gas Pedal for GPT
- Be My AI goes Public
A demonstration and Walkthrough of Safari Web Apps on macOS
In this episode, Tyler demonstrates how to create and use Safari website shortcuts or "Web apps" on macOS.
This feature allows you to create shortcuts to websites on your dock that when opened, behave as if the website was its own app. This may be useful for VoiceOver users, as web apps are included when pressing Command-Tab to cycle through open apps, making them easy to switch to and from. In addition, these web apps can be mapped to commands in Keyboard Commander so they can be accessed with a single keystroke.
Widget Baby: Interactive Virtual Baby Fun
In this episode, Ida gives us an in-depth look at the iOS app Widget Baby.
In Widget Baby you can adopt and take care of a cute digital companion. The app allows you to track the widget baby's health stats, provide food, sleep, soothing, and diaper changes as needed. You can play mini-games together with your widget baby and climb leaderboards. The widget baby will grow over time and have new stories and adventures to share. You can customize the widget baby's home and collect supplies to keep them healthy. Additional subscription features include capturing augmented reality memories, linking with friends to care for the same widget baby, and sending the widget baby on unique escapes. Widget Baby aims to be a fun, interactive app for users who enjoy virtual baby games.
Logic Pro X Tutorial Series
Podcasts by Thomas Domville
- iPhone 15 Pro: How to Configure and Use the New Action Button
- Cleaning Up Your Digital Space: Auto-Delete Verification Codes in iOS
Hot AppleVis Content
Here are some of the most talked-about posts from the past month:
- Open letter to Apple regarding the significant issues with accessibility...
- A thought on iOS 17's double tap issue
- Blind novelists... Do not buy a Mac...
- I hate myself... Just ordered another Mac...
- If someone asked you to show me why mac is amazing, what would you do/show them?
- Seeing AI has got more AI
- The Future of VoiceOver: Unveiling the Potential of Artificial Assistive Intelligence (AAI)
- Now possible! IOS 17 can play haptic signals and vibrations from special .AHAP (apple haptic) files straight in files app.
- Introducing a couple of free Mac apps I've created
- New Game New Eden out for Evaluation
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