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iA Cast iA UnboxCast

iA UnboxCast 16: MD-BT01 Bluetooth MIDI Adapter

On this episode of the iA UnboxCast, Jason and Aleeha unbox the MD-BT01 Bluetooth MIDI adapter that allows the iPad to work with a keyboard with a bluetooth midi adapter.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 48 – An Interview With Hooke Audio

The National Federation of the Blind convention brings people together to network and to discuss all new technologies. Though we have had the chance to unbox and review the Hooke Audio headphones, we have had the pleasure to sit down today with Anthony and Justin of Hooke Audio to talk more about the amazing 3D audio headphones.

We will be posting this podcast twice. We recorded this on the Yeti Pro, and on the Hooke Verse headphones to compare the audio in a podcast setting. This version of the podcast was done on the Yeti Pro, and the other version will be up soon.

We would like to thank everyone at Hooke Audio for letting us try the Hooke Verse headphones, and we urge all of our listeners to look at and possibly purchase these headphones. While there are limitations to the Hooke Verse, the possibilities are endless for future updates.

Hooke Audio Website

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iA Cast iA UnboxCast

iA UnboxCast 6 – Hooke Verse

On this episode of the UnboxCast, Aleeha, Michael, Jason, and T. J. Meloy unbox the Hooke Verse headphones. We also discuss setting up the headphones, and show how accessible the Hooke Verse app is.

Hooke Audio

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Hooke Audio – 3D Binaural Microphone for iOS

In the past, 3D audio recording has been something that many have not had access to. It seems that we are now seeing many different products on the market that can do 3D audio, and Hooke Audio is one company that provides such a solution. Thanks to the great folks at Hooke, the iAccessibility Management Team has had the opportunity to use the Hooke Verse headset and record several demos using the iOS app. We will soon have demos of the headset’s recordings on the iA Cast podcast, but I wanted to talk today about the Hooke Audio app and how amazingly accessible it is.

How The App Works

To explain how the app works, I must first explain more about the Hooke Verse headset. The Hooke Verse is a Bluetooth headset that can record in 3D, also known as Binaural, audio, which means that the sound can come from any angle instead of just left or right. The Hooke Verse headset appears to use specific APIs to communicate with an iOS device, like an iPhone, to send audio from itself to the device. From what I can tell, the Hooke Verse does not contain the same recording technology as many headphones, because it is not able to be used to make calls or use with TeamTalk or FaceTime on iOS. Once the user initiates recording in the Hooke Audio App, the headset will start recording in 3D audio. Recording in iOS does require the Hooke Audio app, but you can use the share button in the app to send the recordings to other apps.

Hooke Audio Accessibility

One of the big advantages of the Hooke Audio app is that it is fully accessible with VoiceOver. Hooke has worked very closely with the Blind community to make their app and device as accessible as possible.

When you enter the Hooke App for the first time, you will be guided through a tutorial on how to set up and use your headset. Please read through this tutorial as there are some interesting suggestions on how to properly use the headset.

Typically, we would explain where to find the buttons in an app in our reviews, but I think you will find a pleasant surprise when you open the Hooke app for the first time with VoiceOver on. I personally am a visual app user, but I found it very easy to learn the app with VoiceOver when I opened it and it showed me a dialog explaining how to use the app with VoiceOver.

Conclusion

Hooke Audio has created a great headset and companion app for recording 3D audio. I would like to see it have more features that worked with other apps like GarageBand and have AudioBus support, but I think that this is a great start to something that makes an iOS device into more than what it was designed for.

We will be reviewing the headset itself in great detail in a future article and in several podcast episodes.

Link to Hooke Audio

 

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Talking Typer by APH Now Available for iOS

Talking Typer by the American Printing House for the Blind has now been released for iOS. If you are familiar with the Windows version then you will find it easy to learn the keyboard with the mobile app. Talking Typer offers training for the on screen keyboard, a Bluetooth keyboard, and even for use with Braille displays.

Talking Typer is $4.99 in the iOS App Store, and we will have a review of Talking typer up on the next episode of the iA Cast

Talking Typer on the iOS App Store

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Product Review: Apple AirPods

When preorders went live for Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, I acted fast! I knew I wouldn’t miss the headphone jack, because removing it would pave the way for more advancements in technology. With this in mind, it is no surprise that I was also among the first to order Apple’s new AirPods! I received them on Monday, December 19 – 2 days before the original estimate! I excitedly unboxed them, and paired them. Now that I have had some time to test functionality, here is my impressions and review.

What’s in the box?

  • The AirPods in their Charging Case
  • Documentation
  • Lightning Cable

Note: The box is shrink wrapped, unlike some newer products from Apple. Also, the box has a tactile image of the AirPods, which is something I always enjoy.

Setup

As many other reviews point out, pairing the AirPods with an iPhone or iPad is quick, painless, and somewhat magical. Simply open the lid of the case while it’s near your device, and an interface similar to Control Center will appear, asking you to connect. Once paired, you can see the battery level of the case and the AirPods themselves. Now, not only are your AirPods paired with the device you’re using, but they are also paired with all other devices connected to your iCloud account. The only omission, at least for now, is the Apple TV. The reasoning for this is that the Apple TV is generally a shared device, so the AirPods must be paired like traditional bluetooth devices. Hopefully this will change soon!

Pairing with traditional bluetooth devices is made possible with a pairing button located on the back of the AirPods case. This button also allows you to reset the AirPods, if you need to start the pairing process over like I did.

Wait, it wasn’t a seamless experience?

Well, it would have been, had I not been on a phone call at the time of initial pairing. Sound quality seemed strange to me, and I could not get the AirPods to show up on other devices. Initially, I went to Settings > Bluetooth, and forgot “Yessie’s AirPods,” but the next time I tried to pair them, the panel said, “Not your AirPods.” I could have connected anyway, but I wanted to have the experience Apple intended. So, I reset the AirPods.

To complete a reset, open the case (with the AirPods inside) and hold down the pairing button for 15 seconds. Then, the interface I mentioned above should appear. From there, it’s smooth sailing.

Look and Feel

Apple is going wireless, and the AirPods show it off beautifully. If you are used to traditional Apple headphones, these will be an easy adjustment for you, as the AirPods are simply a pair of EarPods with the cables cut off. They look and feel almost exactly the same. Even if the EarPods fall out of your ears, these may not. As it turns out, one major reason EarPods fall out of people’s ears is because of the cables. Who knew? Personally, I never had issues with EarPods staying in my ears, and this remains true for the AirPods. I did, however, have a scary moment where one fell out of my ear while doing house work. I would advise extra caution around trash receptacles or anything with a drain, especially for us low vision and blind folks.

Connectivity

The AirPods link together using Apple’s new W1 chip, and maintain two simultaneous bluetooth connections to your device. They remain perfectly in sync, which is really magical. The AirPods are said to have bluetooth 4 with some “special sauce,” but all that matters is that it seems to work really well. They have improved range compared to other bluetooth devices, and they have less audio imperfections. This is great, because for them to be worthwhile, these need to rival the usefulness of traditional or lightning headphones. In my testing, I would compare the range of the AirPods to that of my wireless, not bluetooth, headset with a USB receiver. I am very impressed, and I have not experienced any disconnections, like with traditional bluetooth audio devices.

Functionality

The AirPods can be charged from 0% to 100% in just 30 minutes, and each AirPod can last 5 hours on a single charge, or 2 hours of talk time. The case provides 24 hours of charge, which means these should easily get you through any long commute, or multiple short commutes with no need for lightning cables. When the case does need to be charged, you can easily do so with the included lightning cable, or one of the many others you undoubtedly have lying around. If you ever find yourself in a hurry, a quick 15-minute charge in the case provides the AirPods with 3 hours of listening time, or 1 hour of talk time. You can quickly check the charge of the AirPods, as well as the case with the same interface that pops up when you open the lid. When both AirPods are in the case, they’re listed as “AirPods: X%.” When one is removed, however, they show up as their separate left and right channels respectively. Additionally, you can check the level of your AirPods while you’re using them in the Batteries Widget on your iPhone. It will even tell you if you are using the left or right AirPod, which is a nice touch.

The AirPods can be used independently as a mono headphone, or together as a stereo pair. Switching between mono and stereo audio works really well in my testing. Just take one out of the case, and put it in your ear. You’ll hear it connect, and you can immediately start playing audio. As soon as you remove the second AirPod from the case, it will begin playing audio and you can put it in your ear for a great stereo sound. Removing either one will pause the audio, and you can press play again to continue playing in mono, or put the other headphone in your ear to continue listening in stereo. I love this feature, as it makes it very easy to quickly hold a conversation with someone without the distraction of audio playing in your headphones. Note: You can change any of these behaviors in Bluetooth settings, and even rename the AirPods.

Seamless Switching

On a recent podcast, I mentioned how I love my Plantronics Voyager Edge for its ability to maintain a simultaneous connection to both my iPhone and Apple Watch, and to switch between them as needed. The AirPods are advertised to do the same, without the need to manually pair to each device. However, in my testing, this has been far from consistent.

The AirPods refused to appear as an audio option on my Apple Watch until I restarted. Once I did, the watch connected to them and VoiceOver’s audio came through the AirPods instead of the watch. However, once I switched back to my phone, and tried switching back to the watch, I was unable to get audio to go through the AirPods again. Attempts to connect through Control Center on the watch often failed, which is a huge disappointment.

Additionally, I noticed that with only VoiceOver running, the AirPods would lose connection to my phone when I set it down. I would have to go to Control Center and remind them that they were supposed to be connected. This is also disappointing.

Music Playback

Music playback with the iPhone works really well. It sounds great – slightly better than the EarPods. I can definitely see myself using these quite a bit for listening to music on the go. My only problem? Siri is not a good replacement for actual buttons. I would like volume controls, and a way to skip tracks. Right now, you can only play/pause, and activate Siri by tapping the AirPods. What’s worse is that you have to tap really hard for Siri to activate, and it’s hard to know exactly where to tap. I’m hoping this will get easier with time, but it would be nice if Apple would give us some additional controls for music playback.

VoiceOver Latency?

Admittedly, I am not the best judge of latency, seeing as how I don’t continuously use VoiceOver. However, I will say that when paired with an iPhone, the AirPods are very responsive. I don’t notice much lag at all when typing long messages, or using VoiceOver. Is it as good as wired headphones? I don’t think so, but each person will form their individual opinion about latency. I’ve heard everything from, there’s no latency, to VoiceOver is very sluggish. There are also many factors to keep in mind when testing latency – the device used for testing and the particular use case are two examples of this.

I would also like to point out that MacBooks before 2015 are not setup to support newer standards of bluetooth, so latency is much worse on those machines. Additionally, they do not support wide-band audio, so any calls will have very poor audio quality. This is not the fault of the AirPods.

Conclusion

Apple’s long-awaited AirPods are finally here, bringing with them the wireless future Apple promised! At $159, the price is cheaper than most comparable wireless earbuds, and the functionality is much improved. Of course, this is more true for those of us in the Apple ecosystem, and who interact with Apple devices on a daily basis. If you are an Android user, for example, there are probably better options available for purchase. If you don’t plan to use these with an iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Apple Watch, I would recommend looking elsewhere. I have had a few issues with AirPods when it comes to switching between devices and with losing connection when no audio is being streamed, which is disappointing. However, I feel most of this is caused by long-standing bugs with Bluetooth in iOS, which will hopefully receive more attention now and actually get fixed. As for the AirPods themselves, future updates may include additional functionality – I am hoping for more music controls. With all this said, I believe the AirPods are a great first-generation product. There is room for improvement, but software updates should do the trick! I recommend these to any iOS user who is searching for well-integrated truly wireless earbuds. Embrace the wireless future with me, won’t you?

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Guides

Guide: Pairing with W1 Enabled Headphones

Apple this year removed the headphone Jack from the iPhone 7 which demanded a change in wireless technologies for bluetooth users. To help in this, Apple created the W1 Chip which currently is on the Beats headphones and will soon be on the Apple AirPods. One advantage is that W1 enabled headphones will pair with all of your Apple devices using iCloud. In this Guide we will look at the ways you can quickly pair these headphones with all of your devices.

Initial Pairing

To pair your W1 enabled device with an iPhone for first time use is simple. Just have the devices on and near your each other. The iPhone will prompt you to unlock the device with touch ID and then tap a button on the screen to pair it with the headphones. I did this process on my iPhone 7 Plus but it will work the same on any other iPhone or iPad.

Connecting to W1 device with iOS

If you have connected to your device from your watch, Mac, or with any other iOS device then you will need to tell your current device to reconnect to the bluetooth device with the W1 chip. Here is how this works.

  1. From your home screen open Settings.
  2. Find Bluetooth on the main settings screen.
  3. Tap on your headset and it should connect.

Connecting with Apple Watch

As we discussed previously, the W1 enabled devices will pair to all of your Apple devices, and this includes the Apple Watch. This is an easy way to connect an audio device that lets an Apple Watch user privately use VoiceOver. Here is how to connect your headset to Apple Watch.

  1. Slide up from the bottom of the screen with one finger, or swipe up with two fingers if you are running VoiceOver. You will need to be at your watch face to do this. If done correctly, you will have brought up Control Center.
  2. Find the AirPlay icon and tap or double tap on it.
  3. When asked, tap or double tap on the name of your headset. This will connect your headset to your watch and all sound from your watch will go through the headset.

Connecting with the Mac

Connecting to a W1 headset on the Mac allows you to use the headset on your Mac for all sound output. Here is how you connect the two.

  1. Find your Menu extras in the top right of the screen or by using VO+M+M
  2. Find the option for Bluetooth and expand the menu.
  3. Find your headset and bring up the sub-menu
  4. Select Connect to connect your headset to your computer.

Conclusion

Apple has really improved the use of Bluetooth technologies with this new W1 chip, which they plan to use in their upcoming AirPods. The addition of the W1 chip allows for users to easily pair and connect to all of their devices without a long process of pairing and impairing devices.

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iA Cast iA Cast Weekly

#iACast 12 – Digital Accessible Art!

Episode Notes

It has been since December since we recorded a new podcast, so here is what we have covered this week.

  • We discussed the updates that have been made here at iAccessibility concerning the podcast and our website.
  • Review of the new iPhone 6s battery case
  • Discuss the pros and cons of removing the iPhone headphone jack in the iPhone 7
  • Discuss error 53 and what it means. We also touch on the new iOS date bug.
  • We discuss the latest news about iOS 9.3 which will come out to everyone in March
  • Apple is rumored to release the iPhone 5se next month, and we talk about what features it should have and if people want a 4 inch iPhone
  • We discuss the New Apple TV and if people still use it
  • Facebook is a modern name in browsing the web, but do we really need the app on our devices to use their services?
  • We discuss the latest in entertainment news, which include movies, gaming and books
  • The Apple Pencil is a new way to draw on a tablet screen, and you can learn how to pair it and draw with it by listening to this episode

We will continue this podcast each week now and all episodes have been migrated over to this site. If you do not see episodes 11 and 12 in your podcast app of choice then please unsubscribe and re-subscribe to our podcast and you should see the new episodes there.

iAccessibility is on slack at iaccessibildtyslack.slack.com We encourage everyone who wants to communicate on what we discuss to contact us and we can add you to the accessibility Slack community.

Slack is accessible and it will work with all modern screen readers on any platform.

Please email Michael Doise if you have any questions or suggestions for this podcast. You may also find us online at the social links below these show notes.

We hope you have enjoyed this podcast and will listen next week.