Scribble’s iPad update could be an accessibility game-changer

Apple today announced several new features for Scribble on iPad including a drawing assistance and handwriting-to-text tool. These features aren’t necessarily aimed at the disabled community, but I think they could be revolutionary.

Scribble’s being touted as a time-saver. In the demo during WWDC, Apple demonstrated how the feature works in any text field. If you’re working in Illustrator and decide you want to search for a reference picture, for example, you won’t have to put your Pencil down. You can use handwriting in any text field and Scribble will transcribe it.

This is useful in the Notes app where users often use a combination of drawings and text. What’s cool about Scribble is that it recognizes words and shapes. The demonstration showed someone drawing a squiggly, misshapen octagon and the software automatically snapped it to symmetry. Using the new tools, you can grab and move text and shapes, resize them, change colors, and several other new features.

As someone who struggles to use tablets because my hands are a bit too shaky for tap-to-type keyboards, I find these features intriguing. I’m a notepad kind of person – real physical notebooks, not the Windows app – but I can’t copy paste from my notebooks to an iPad.

The machine learning behind these features is understated, but powerful. Instead of performing a task for us, here AI is used to augment human ability. By myself, I can’t really type on an iPad. My disability often makes drawing straight lines and shapes an exercise in futility. But with help from Apple’s AI, it looks like I’ll be able to focus on creating, not formatting.

It might sound small, but Scribble looks like a Pencil feature that will work as well for me as for able-bodied people. That’s exciting. If I can draw straight lines, shapes that make sense, and forego using the tap-to-type keyboard, this will be a pretty big deal for me.

For more Apple news from WWDC 2020, check out our event page here.

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Published June 22, 2020 — 18:39 UTC



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