Yo, Human! Accessing Life with Adaptive Technology

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Voice in the Machine: A dialogue with my Mac, based on actual events from 2012-2013, circa Mavericks.

The blobby, glowing, white-on-black magnified letters are smudging together again. I blink several times, only now realizing I am squinting. I lean back from my MacBook Pro, a dull thudding beginning behind my eyes. It seems like it's getting to that point, my ability to read and write is rapidly disappearing. Gently rubbing my eyes, I decide to take a break.

Almost instinctively, my hand reaches forward and presses the listening key. "Computer?" I say directly to the screen. A soft thunk indicates that it's listening.

Thunk. "What."

"What time is it?" I ask while adjusting my sunglasses with my other hand.

Thunk. "It is approximately 4:20:38 AM." the soft voice responds promptly.

"Save this document." Thunk. "Document saved."

"Thank you." Thunk. "Hey, it was easy."

I am very gratified by the adaptations I started implementing over a year ago. Blending my own AppleScripts with the Speech Recognition and Dictation engines, I began designing my own speaking interface. By accessing the SpeechRecognitionServer and throwing in shortcut keys through SystemEvents, my Mac not only listens and performs my commands, but also responds verbally to me confirming what it just heard.

I pause a few minutes, sipping some hot, strong coffee and relaxing. All right, back to work.

"Computer." Thunk. "Human."

"Describe location." Thunk. "You are in the application 'TextEdit', looking at the 'Digital Memories' window."

"Thank you." Thunk. "Not a problem. I'll bill you later."

A soft chuckle escapes as I exhale. What would life be without a little humor? Over the past few years I've been losing my connections to the digital world. No longer able to see my own handwriting, and squinting at the screen becoming more and more difficult, I am determined to find another way.

"Computer." Thunk. "You rang?"

"VoiceOver Interface." Thunk. A slight pause as the screenreader loads.

"Yo Human, VoiceOver is on. TextEdit, Digital Memories, insertion point after the letter 'e', on the word 'adventure'." Yes, it certainly has been that.

Turning the screen brightness down to zero, I begin another practice session. It amazes me that one prominent solution to my growing situation has been imbedded in my Mac all along. This VoiceOver screenreader is beginning to give me back my own, "Voice in the Machine." I think I can conclude this article with three small words.

Thank you, Apple!

A descriptive reminder that all of our cool digital stuff that we work with, play with and enjoy, is all about "living". Live well!

Any curious souls who wish to explore the talking capabilities of their Mac, orchestrated through AppleScript, should have a look at MacScripter, Talkin' The Talk with Apple's Speech Tools: http://macscripter.net/viewtopic.php?id=24662.

Kind of an older resource, but the script still applies. For info about using AppleScript with the current implementation of Dictation, I may be writing more about this in the future.

Mac VO Morsel: Open VoiceOver Utility, ctrl-opt-fn-f8. (fn key may be optional).

Choose "General" from the Utility Categories table. In the "Speak the following greeting after login:" text box, Type the message that you want your VoiceOver to speak when you turn on or login to your computer.

I like to include the name of the current OS that I am booting. Example: "Yo Human! VoiceOver is on. Mac OS Sierra."

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Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team


Thank you for a thoughtful, entertaining and educational blog. I look forward to your future work.

Best wishes,


Submitted by Nicholas on Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by Morgan Watkins

Morgan, Thank you as well. Your own writings were a huge motivation. I thoroughly enjoy them!

Submitted by Ekaj on Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thanks for this post. I've had my MacBook Air for just under 3 years, and love it. I cannot thank Apple enough for VoiceOver. I just updated to OS Sierra right after it was rolled out to the masses. Yes yes, I'm one of those who has to have all the latest and greatest things. At least this has generally been the case. I must admit I've never really played around with the Mac's dictation feature, but I know it's there because I had a brief look at it awhile back. But I have used Siri a bit and it's pretty sweet. I'm wondering if these 2 features go hand in hand sometimes? Looking forward to more of your blog posts on here!

Submitted by Nicholas on Thursday, October 13, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by Ekaj

Hello Ekaj,
Thank you, I'm glad it was a good read. I too have to use the latest/greatest. From my own experience, the Dictation functions on both Mac and iOS are well worth a look. The best results I have received is when multiple interface functions are blended together, like AppleScript, Automator, VoiceOver and Dictation commands. And now we get SIRI as well, should be very interesting. I will be writing about this more soon.
I am glad you enjoyed the post. Take care.

Submitted by Maria on Friday, December 2, 2016

Hi. ell written post. I have been totally blind from birth, but love my mac and am very happy for the most part with all I can accomplish with technology. I look forward to hearing more about dictation, siri etc.